Expounding the Word, Yet Missing God’s Heart

Expounding the word

In Isaiah 58:10 God tells His people to give themselves to the hungry and oppressed, but what does this  mean? Does it simply mean  giving sleeping bags to the homeless and making sure that they don’t starve from malnourishment, or did God have something more in mind for His people?

This is a question that we need to take seriously, for most would agree that to “give oneself” suggests more than just handouts that cost us little time or effort.  In this regard, we are told that on the day of judgment, Jesus will say to the people on his right that, “I was a stranger and you took Me in …”  Matt. 25:31-46.  This seems to suggest a bit more than hamburgers and sleeping bags for the homeless poor on cold winter nights.

In Isaiah 58 and 59 we are told that God is more interested in His people doing something to help the poor and alleviate their suffering than in accumulating possessions, attending church and learning to expound Greek and Hebrew words.  In fact, He tells His people quite plainly that He wants them to share their bread with the hungry and “take the homeless poor into the house” — and that this is more important to Him than fasting and festivals. 

Even God’s promise with regard to tithing in Malachi 3:10 tells us that the “food” that people gave was for God’s house: which should include food for the poor.  And a few verses later, in Malachi 3:18 we see this as well: i.e. that God is more interested in His people getting involved in service to Him and His people. 

What else would God need food for?

The following illustrations shed more light  on the failure of the church to provide for the needs of their own members and of the disadvantaged poor.

Several years ago, I met a woman who had received a miraculous healing from the Lord — and the prayers of at least two of His servants — only three days after her first time in church.  I later learned from her that not once in nine years of attending that church, had she been asked to share her testimony of her miraculous healing from Huntington’s disease: a supposedly incurable illness.  I also discovered that (in a church of about 3,000 people) there was nobody whom she knew of who could give her rides to the bank, or job interviews, or to pick up her kids from school when they needed a ride.  So because I had become her friend, I filled in the gap and was blessed for doing so; but at the same time, I became more aware that this church was not meeting the needs of its own people.  This can be said of many other American churches as well — where people who have extra cars, and/or extra time to drive them, or extra bedrooms in their houses, and lots of space for couches, spiritual gifts with which they could be serving the body of Christ, are not being asked to use them: nor are they opening up their houses for fellowship and breaking of bread, except for “church” approved, weekly, (specifically timed) meetings. 

Could this be because pastors are NOT encouraging them to do so, nor leading the way?

Another example came to me by a homeless man who receives free food via daily meals provided by Christians.  This is a good thing; however, what this man said to me opened my eyes as to how little we think about “giving ourselves” to the needs of the hungry, oppressed, and homeless.  He said:

   “It sure would be nice if somebody would bring us a cup of coffee in the morning.”

Ezekiel 34 tells us that God is not happy with shepherds who “feed themselves” while overlooking the flock.  In fact, at some point He will command them to STOP feeding (His) sheep, and in verses 3-6 we find out why: i.e. because the shepherds were not sharing their food with the poor nor seeking the oppressed, but using the fat (rich) sheep to become fat (or rich) themselves. 

When Jesus comes back we are told that He will “gather the lame and the outcasts … and make them a strong nation.” Mic. 4:6-7

In this regard, the prophet Isaiah was told to “Cry loudly, and NOT to hold back,” (but to) raise his voice like a trumpet, and confront God’s people regarding the hypocrisy of pretending to love God and to seek His face, yet to (at the same time) abuse and misuse the poor with hard work, heavy yokes, while believing that they are doing God’s will.

“Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness, and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.  They as Me for just decisions, and delight in the nearness of God … “

In other words, they talk about God, attend church (or synagogue) and Bible study and (perhaps) even learn to expound Greek and Hebrew and attend other “church” related gatherings, and give money to support  church work and the pastor’s salary, while complaining that God doesn’t seem very close to them, nor (appear to) listen to their prayers, nor (to notice) their devotion to church (attendance) and church-work, nor even when they fast and pray: and they say so to the rabbi / shepherd / priest. 

So God lets them know that He heard their complaints and answers them through His spokesman, Isaiah, starting in verse 3 with the following:

“Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers (i.e. with heavy work-loads and few breaks).

“Behold you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.

“Is it a fast like this that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it for bowing one’s head … and spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?  … (Do you think that this is what I want from you, or what pleases Me) …?

“Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, and undo the bands of the yoke (of slavery), And to let that oppressed go free, And break every yoke?

“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; (And) when you see the naked, to cover him (with clean clothes and or blankets) … And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

“Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; (And) The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

“Then you will call, that the LORD will answer;  You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’  If you remove the yoke (i.e. of slavery, oppression, and treating the poor as if they were less important to God than you, or as if they were animals) from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking evil,

“And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday.

“And the LORD will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones;  “And you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

“And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

And … “If … you (cease doing) your own (thing) on (God’s holy sabbath) day (i.e. your day off from work, and instead go about doing God’s work on that day and speaking on His behalf) …

“Then you will take delight in the LORD, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 

Isaiah 58:3-14 
Expounding the Word, Yet Missing God’s Heart
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