Tonight I read Isaiah 58. God is talking to Israel. Here’s part of what He says:
“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet the act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to hear my laws. You would almost think this was a righteous nation that would never abandon its God. They love to make a show of coming to me and asking me to take action on their behalf. ‘We have fasted before you!’ the say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have done much penance, and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why! It’s because you are living for yourselves even while you are fasting. You keep right on oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind. You dress in sackcloth and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you ca fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your feed with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”
“If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect your from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply” (Isaiah 58: 1-9a)
How much of my spiritual activity or spiritual disciplines is done to impress God? How much am I focused on myself? Spiritual formation and the disciplines required for spiritual maturity, but when we use them to focus on ourselves, we’ve completely defeated the purpose. Do I read Scripture to show God how pious I am or do I read it to really learn more about and know God?
I’ve had some real headache issues in the last five days. I’ve noticed that pain makes me focus inward – everything I do is to try to lessen the pain or help me get through it. This makes sense. However, while I should treat the headaches, I also need to spend more of my time and energy on the needs of others. I may not be able to provide for someone materially or even be emotionally available at that time, but I can always pray. This gets my eyes off me and my pain and back on to God where they belong.
What thoughts do you have? How can we fight the American consumeristic culture and learn to really love God and love others?
P.S. I won’t be posting again until Sunday afternoon/evening because I’m going on a Women’s Retreat. Yes, you read that correctly, I’m going to be gone from Thursday through Sunday morning, hanging out with my mother-in-law and other women from our church, listening to a great speaker, and just enjoying God’s creation in the Northwoods!