Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Do you want your prayers to be heard?

God telling Isaiah what to tell His people. He is not happy with their worship, though outwardly they look like they are doing and saying the right things.

Is. 58:1
"Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily-this is good-
and delight to know my ways,-this is good-
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;- if these things were true it would be good.
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.- can this be bad?

God is not happy with their worship, even though outwardly they seem to be obeying what He has commanded, and even though they seem to be doing it all with the right motives and posture. So why is He not happy with them? They respond in the next section.

3 'Why have we fasted, and you see it not?- fasting is good-
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'- humility is good-

Rebuttal from on high.

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,- selfish-
and oppress all your workers.-tyrants
4Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight- grumpy
and to hit with a wicked fist.-angry

Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.-He is going to tell us where we went wrong.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?

It would certainly seem that these are the qualities, attitudes and actions that would make God accept a fast, but He says this is not enough; He requires more and different fasting. He gives the requirements of an acceptable fast; one that He listens to the cry of the worshipper.

6"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

So maybe what God is saying to them, and us, is that on Sunday they were fasting and taking all the right attitudes and postures required for a fast that is acceptable to Him, but they negate all of it on Monday-Saturday by lording it over all who are under their care, including their families. Maybe they fasted on Sunday but then feasted through out the rest of the week while their employees starved the entire week. Maybe they were in sack cloth and ashes on Sunday, but their employees could afford clothes at all. Their attitudes were right and their actions would have been acceptable to God, if only they had continued them the entire week.

The promises from my last post are connected to an acceptable fast; to acceptable worship. God is serious about how we treat others, especially those who have not been blessed in abundance as we have been. We are commanded to fast, yet that is something we seldom, if ever, do. We should be fasting for God's direction in our lives, for the salvation of our families and friends, for the holiness of Christ's Bride, for unity, for love for the lost. There are so many things that we should be fasting and praying for, bending our heads low so He will answer. But He will not accept our fasting and prayer if we turn right back around and oppress those who have less than we do.

So, how can we change this in our own lives? Look around you and actually see the needs that others have. Be quick to bless others in your abundance. The Macedonians, 2 Cor. 8:1-2, gave in their extreme poverty, but it was their joy to give to others and God blessed them for it. He not only accepted their fast and giving, but preserved their actions for us to read about even 2000 years later. This is what acceptable worship looks like- care for those in need, everyday of the week, not just on Sunday when everyone can see you.

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