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Then You Shall Take Delight in the LORD

17 February • Saturday after Ash Wednesday


Isaiah 58:9-14

9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst,the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

11 And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water,whose waters do not fail.

12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.

13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day,

and call the Sabbath a delightand the holy day of the LORD honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;

14 then you shall take delight in the LORD,and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Meditation

 

In the Psalms, God's people are urged: "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart" (37:4). In Isaiah 58, they are instructed on the kind of delight God requires. This prophetic passage is particularly appropriate for Lenten meditation, as it deals with genuine prayer and fasting, and their false counterparts. It teaches how Sabbath, God's "holy day", is to be truly observed.


To begin with, there is God's call to repentance, so that our prayers can be answered. It is pointless, and indeed hypocritical, to seek God's blessing when we practise or tolerate enslavement of others, point fingers to blame others, and speak evil. As a later prophet, John the Baptist, proclaimed, "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Mt 3:8). Such fruit is described by Isaiah as "to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke, ... to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house" and to help those who are suffering (Is 58:6-7, 10). As our Lord Jesus pointed out, the second greatest commandment ("love your neighbour as yourself") is inextricably linked to the first ("love God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind") (Mt 22:37-39).


Second, note the necessary conditions to God's promised blessings. "If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted ... if you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable..." (Is 58:9-10, 13). The spiritual and social demands and conditions are again interwoven, like the commandments of the Decalogue.


Jesus taught the true intent and goal of Sabbath- observance, which includes acts of compassion and healing, because He is "the Lord of the Sabbath" (Mt 12:8). Whether we observe one day as holy or all days as holy, Paul taught that such observance must always honour the Lord, who is also "Lord both of the dead and the living" (Rom 14:5-9). James warned against using our tongues to "bless our Lord and Father" and simultaneously "curse people who are made in the likeness of God". The antidote to hypocrisy is humility and heart-searching that leads to honouring the Lord, helping our needy neighbours, and healing the wounded. Sunday worship must produce week-long, life-long service!


Finally, there are blessed consequences to God's people of such humble service. "Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer ... then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong" (Is 58:9-11). The God-honouring community is described with arboreal and architectural metaphors. It is "like a watered garden...a spring of water whose waters do not fail", a rebuilder of ancient ruins, "the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in" (vv.11- 12). Answered prayers, shining witness, continual divine guidance and provision, renewed strength, repaired buildings and walls, and restored pathways—what wonderful blessings!


Yet grace is costly as well as free:"But we never can prove the delights of His love

Until all on the altar we lay;For the favour He shows, and the joy He bestows Are for them who will trust and obey.


Trust and obey, for there's no other wayTo be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." (John Henry Sammis)


Prayer

 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Ps 139:23-24). Cause me to delight in You and Your gracious Word, and so to worship in Spirit and in Truth, for Jesus' sake. Amen."


Action

 

As we celebrate Singapore's 58th Anniversary year, ask God to help us to apply Isaiah 58 to serving Him effectively in and through our churches and nation.


Dr Ernest Chew

Advisory Elder, Bethesda (Frankel Estate) Church

Vice-President, The Bible Society of Singapore

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