Isaiah 58:6-12 Your Salvation Will Come Like the Dawn
Isaiah 58:6-12 NLTse “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. (7) Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. (8) “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. (9) Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! (10) Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. (11) The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. (12) Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
Luke 6:20-38 NLTse Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. (21) God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. (22) What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. (23) When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way. (24) “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. (25) What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow. (26) What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. (27) “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. (28) Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. (29) If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. (30) Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. (31) Do to others as you would like them to do to you. (32) “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! (33) And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! (34) And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. (35) “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. (36) You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (37) “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. (38) Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Okay, I can see your all thinking – if this prophecy about helping the poor and depressed, which is a major part of our commission was fulfilled or taught by Jesus on His sermon on the mountain, than why not use Matthew? Well Matthew is spread out over three chapters and we need to follow the general rule of Bible Study — the introductions and summations have to agree. As we can see, Isaiah sets the tone for the prophecy and Jesus explained details. I would suggest you read Isaiah 58 and Matthew’s detailed account together. This will give God’s Spirit the time He needs with you to explain more details than found in this study. And of course, the goal is to get you to a point of learning to work on your own with God’s Spirit to understand His Word.
I have to admit, I had a bit of trouble locating parallel chapters to this prophecy. Looking at the key words, the first word I used to search was oppressed. That didn’t lead to any parallel chapters with matching introductions and summations. I went onto the next choice, hungry, which led to a number of interesting chapters. Luke 6 was the best match when comparing the introduction and summation.
Isaiah introduces a concept not exactly new to the Bible. Moses told Israel a set of concepts to live by known as the Law of Moses. Maybe that’s why that list of common sense guides showing how to live peacefully in this world has always been difficult to follow. Man has never been known for following laws viewed more like suggestions. Before God gave Moses that set of laws, Israel was of course freed from bondage in Egypt. Now do you see why this sequence of studies follows a particular pattern? One thing Israel’s release from bondage represented is found in their attitude towards the law. Living in an environment where every moment of their lives, following rules and regulations, they left a bad taste in their mouths. The last thing any of those Israelites wanted was a new set of rules. Isaiah did nothing more than repeat those concepts of how to live together. Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Do any of those laws seem too difficult to live by?
Although those seem like simple guidelines to follow, this world has a difficult time living by them. Is it so hard to treat people with justice, lighten burdens of people who work for you, and share what you have with those in need? It must be a difficult thing to do because Moses laid down the law, Isaiah reminded them, and Jesus repeated it with details so plain no one had an excuse to ignore them. Jesus told us, God will bless those who follow His command and help others. Isaiah tells us a part of the blessing. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.” Why does Isaiah link helping others, treating them with justice and dignity with salvation? Doesn’t most of the world think all you have to do is claim Jesus’ sacrifice as your own to receive forgiveness for all your sins? If that’s true, than what about the learning process mentioned throughout the Bible? What about Jesus telling His disciples to take up their cross? Why did His disciples have to suffer and die for God’s Word if all they had to do was claim Jesus’ death to be saved? Let’s admit it, nothing but Jesus’ sacrifice can provide forgiveness for all the sins we committed. Without His sacrifice we would be lost. But as Paul tells us, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. (Romans 6:6 NLTse). Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. (Hebrews 10:26-27 NLTse).
Maybe this is why the world has so much trouble listening to God’s voice. Isaiah tells us if we follow God’s simple instructions, “Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.” What is the connection? Does the Bible explain the answer or is the explanation basically common sense like those laws Moses recorded?
The main theme in Isaiah’s prophecy, although explained in detail by Jesus, seems to escape many Christians. I remember years ago in a study class with about 30 adults capable of repeating every interpretation to their coveted future prophecies could not answer a simple question that came up in the preprinted class study guide. The question was, “how do you share the love of Jesus?” The teacher read and skipped over the question. I raised my hand and asked, “how do you share Jesus’ love?” The teacher answered, “you share the love of Jesus by teaching about Jesus.” I asked, “what do we teach about Jesus?” The teacher answered, “the love of Jesus.” I asked, “what are we supposed to teach about Jesus’ love?” Not one person in that class had an answer. None of them had any type of relationship with Jesus. They were like those Pharisees who thought they knew all the prophecies but didn’t know a thing. So they rejected any type of relationship with Jesus who stood in front of them. Since that time I’ve asked that same question in many churches when the opportunity came up. No one was able to answer the question. No one seems to have studied Isaiah 58 or any of the New Testament chapters adding more details on the subject of Jesus’ love or how we are supposed to act towards one another.
What kind of end time church are they in when they don’t know anything about Jesus’ love, but claim to be the chosen church based on their doctrine? Pride tells them they are the only church able to accurately interpret future prophecy. To them, those interpretations and doctrines out weight common sense, the ability to love, and the ability to communicate with Jesus.
Isaiah was pretty vague. What does it mean to lighten burdens, let the oppressed go free, and remove chains binding people? My guess is people’s minds become confused because they drift back into Isaiah’s time, then convince themselves we don’t have those problems any more. They relate Isaiah’s theme to slavery, and since not many Christians today are involved in slavery, consider this message obsolete. Well they’re wrong. Don’t you feel oppressed at work some times? Don’t you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again at work then suddenly one day you have an idea how to ease your burden? When you take your idea to management, what was the reply? If your a manager, do you allow pride to shoot down every idea from the people your in charge of? Do you think Satan stopped using oppression to distract people? What do you think Satan is trying to achieve with oppression? Are you hearing sermons with a shallow view on oppression, summing it up with a vague explanation? Let’s look at what Satan plans on accomplishing with oppression. For one the oppressor is drawn away from God by power, prestige, and wealth. What about people who are oppressed? It forces them to take a new look at God. Some people may draw closer to God while other people will question Him and His existence.
What about big business? They oppress just about everyone with high energy prices and other costs like health care. Then there’s taxes. The Bible tells us about high taxes Solomon imposed that were increased by his son. Taxes continued as kings collected more money from everyone, especially the poor. They collected taxes for all their projects. Solomon built houses for his wives, the women he was in bed with. Today we pay taxes to support businesses government officials are in bed with. Those kings claimed high taxes were necessary for a proper military. But when invading armies posed a threat, everyone important person was called into the city and those gates locked out the majority of people paying those high taxes. Has anything changed?
It’s one thing to identify oppression, quite another to learn how to alleviate it. How well would you score? Do you talk to people in line at the store and comfort them when God’s Spirit puts you in position to bless others? When the cashier just faced the customer from hell, do you pray to find a way to cheer her up and remind her the whole world is not like the customer no one can never please? What about the parking lot? Do you help the old woman load her bags into the car? Do you let rude drivers pass you so they can pester the next driver, or recognize your act as a blessing? How does helping one another work at home? Do you assign tasks then help? Do you plan little surprises for your spouse? Do you email or text them little messages during the day to let them know you care? When you hear someone request prayer, do you stop everything and pray for them so they can see love and concern in action? Most people only promise to pray. It’s been said so many times, the words, “I’ll pray for you,” have become only a cliché. How many chances do you have to change the world around you? How many of those chances do you let slip by? In a way neglecting those opportunities puts a burden upon you. Those missed opportunities are either softening your heart or hardened it. You know there is a reason people share bad news with you. Admit it, there is a reason you share your burdens with people. Now that you know these secrets, learn how to treat people the way you want to be treated.
There’s a reason Jesus reworded Isaiah the way He did. Jesus wanted to make it personal. God blesses those who are poor, hungry, and weep. How do you think God blesses them? Did you ever hear of God making money, food, or a tender word suddenly appear out of thin air to help people? Come on you know the answer. God uses His people to reach out and help those people. That’s the way the world is supposed to work. But too often people calling themselves Christians are too scared to leave their fox holes. They want to remain as secluded as they can. They are afraid to reach out to help people with the gifts and blessings God gave them to share. For a great reward awaits you in heaven.
Most Christians heard this line, but how many actually know what it means? “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” Why do most sermons stop at the first sentence but don’t dwell on the rest of what Jesus said? Is it because He provided the answer and preachers like to impress you with their stories? Is it because they don’t understand the answer? Or is it because they think those people listening to them aren’t ready to understand or accept the simple answer? “Do good to them.” Ask that question about how to love Jesus and see what answer you receive, if any. People aren’t sure how to do good. Why not? There are two types of love. One is from Heaven while the other is an earthly fabrication. You guessed it. Love from this world is a compromise. Loving like the world teaches is not showing your a child of Heaven.
Every once in a while I see people breaking up in what they call a love affair by posting updates on Facebook. They post all those worldly concepts about love, something like, “deceptions are easy but truth is hard to find. Trust is easily broken. Lies are soon revealed. You never know what you had until its gone.” You can see the pattern. People speak from emotions inherited from the world. None of those sayings will ever accomplish anything. Wisdom from this world will never show you what true love is. All it will do is provide a moment of comfort followed be a deeper need to seek real love. But few will ever find true love. They search with their eyes but they are blind. They listen with their ears but they’re deaf. “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Let’s face it, people get involved in relationships based on what they can get out of them. Relationships seeded in greed can only sprout thistles and thorns that will eventually sting. I’ve seen the effects. I think we’ve all seen the effects of those thorns. So where do we learn about the love that only comes from Heaven? The key word is learn. Did you miss it? Did it slip by? Here it is again. Now pay attention. “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.” “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.”
Now do you get it? Love doesn’t drop out of the sky when the right person comes along. Love has to be learned before it can be experienced. You have to learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide before you can do algebra or calculus which reveals the wonders of mathematics. You have to work on love like working out. Body building takes time. No one walks into a gym, does a few bench presses and walks out built like an athlete. Why would love be any different? You have to build up everything else in this world – your vocabulary, the ability to write, a knowledge of science, geography, stamina, muscles, everything. Why should love be any different? Our problem is we want to fall in love when everything else in the world has to be built up and conditioned. So we convince ourselves all we need to do is wait for the right person who we think will make us whole and for a while everything seems so much better. That’s the concept of love in this world. Like the toxic weeds Satan developed, that kind of love is like a drug. It’ll give you a great high for a while but coming down is a pain. Yep – love from this world is like a drug. It’ll cost you some money. It’s easy to take. Then it lets you down and leaves you looking for more of the same.
Now look at Jesus’ solution. He is saying your not ready until you’ve learned to love your enemies. Jesus doesn’t want to send you out into this cruel world until you’re ready. God is like a Father. He doesn’t want to see you hurt. His advise is to be ready. Work out your love until it is so muscle bound the world can’t help but take notice. Develop your intellect to a degree you are ready to solve any problem the world can throw at you. If that sounds impossible it is. You’ll never be prepared for every problem, but God is. Before your ready for love you have to first learn to love God who will show you how to love your enemies. Then you’ll be ready for the one love God has prepared for you. You don’t want God to send them a product half assembled? Think about it. Two lives with missing pieces will not make a whole. But that’s exactly what the world wants you to believe.
Sure there will be learning curves. Satan doesn’t want you learning how to leave this world behind. He feels safe when you rely on him. He feels threatened when he sees you going to God. Satan feels like he lost and he is a sore looser. But trials make us stronger. But watch out. Don’t dwell on set backs. As we’ve seen, oppression leads to distraction, which leads to wasting time, which leads to spending less time with God. If we dwell on set backs it delays our learning process. It’s the same with any relationship. If only one person dwells on negative aspects it will rob you of time together and what you can accomplish. When it comes to a relationship with God, He is never the one that dwells on problems. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Together these two chapters teach us about the love coming only from Heaven. Time to begin the lesson.
Isaiah 58:1-5 NLTse “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! (2) Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. (3) ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. (4) What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. (5) You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?
Isaiah’s introduction reminds me why I had to leave the organized church. All I saw was people bragging about what they knew. Everything was centered about their interpretations on future prophecies and those doctrines and traditions they coveted and defended so vehemently — as if their salvation depended on it. Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes– so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”
(Matthew 15:8-9, 13:15-17 NLTse). Isn’t it time to listen?
Preachers today have given up on love, substituting man made knowledge for one of the greatest gifts from Heaven. Piety has taken the place of God’s voice. Obedience is given to a stone church and its leaders – while it is being withheld from God our Creator. They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. Like the Pharisees, preachers today place knowledge of the law in place of knowing its Author. Generations separated Isaiah from Jesus but nothing separated that attitude from those religious leaders.
Luke 6:1-12 NLTse One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples broke off heads of grain, rubbed off the husks in their hands, and ate the grain. (2) But some Pharisees said, “Why are you breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?” (3) Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? (4) He went into the house of God and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests can eat. He also gave some to his companions.” (5) And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath.” (6) On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. (7) The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. (8) But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So the man came forward. (9) Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” (10) He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! (11) At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him. (12) One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
Jesus pointed those religious leaders back to David and of course scripture. We’ve already looked at this text in a number of studies. But general Bible Study rules tell us to look at texts and the chapter to see a far deeper lesson Jesus is pointing to.
1 Samuel 21:1-6 NLTse David went to the town of Nob to see Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he saw him. “Why are you alone?” he asked. “Why is no one with you?” (2) “The king has sent me on a private matter,” David said. “He told me not to tell anyone why I am here. I have told my men where to meet me later. (3) Now, what is there to eat? Give me five loaves of bread or anything else you have.” (4) “We don’t have any regular bread,” the priest replied. “But there is the holy bread, which you can have if your young men have not slept with any women recently.” (5) “Don’t worry,” David replied. “I never allow my men to be with women when they are on a campaign. And since they stay clean even on ordinary trips, how much more on this one!” (6) Since there was no other food available, the priest gave him the holy bread–the Bread of the Presence that was placed before the LORD in the Tabernacle. It had just been replaced that day with fresh bread.
Because the texts Jesus is pointing to is located in the introduction of a chapter, we also have to look at the summary and look for the related theme.
1 Samuel 21:10-15 NLTse (10) So David escaped from Saul and went to King Achish of Gath. (11) But the officers of Achish were unhappy about his being there. “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” they asked. “Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” (12) David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. (13) So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard. (14) Finally, King Achish said to his men, “Must you bring me a madman? (15) We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?”
Notice the theme? David lied to a priest than a king. See the spiritual lesson hidden in the texts? Why did David lie? David was running away from Saul who wanted to kill him. What’s your first reaction to a problem? You try to solve it yourself. In David’s case he resorted to lies in an instant. Jesus sent us back to scripture to gather more knowledge, so let’s take a look back to see how the author led into the story. At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the LORD’s name. The LORD is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town. (1 Samuel 20:42 NLTse). Notice the important point, “the LORD is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Now we look ahead to see what those events led to. So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. Then others began coming–men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented–until David was the captain of about 400 men. (1 Samuel 22:1-2 NLTse). See the connection and progression? David’s responsibility is growing. As a boy he only had to worry about his father’s flocks and a giant. Working for Saul, David was in command of a company of soldiers. God was teaching David lessons about leadership. Remember how lessons about love have to be learned? Here is an example containing lessons related to love and leadership. Jesus’ disciples had a problem with both those subjects. They wanted leadership roles before they learned how to love like Jesus. They didn’t see how love and leadership had to intertwine and grow together.
When we look ahead we see those events led to another serious point to consider. A point we would miss if we weren’t looking at the progression in the story and of course praying. One day the prophet Gad told David, “Leave the stronghold and return to the land of Judah.” So David went to the forest of Hereth. (1 Samuel 22:5 NLTse). See what happened? David was relying on himself so God sent a prophet. Why? David forgot to pray. Don’t you think David prayed before he ran off after a that lion or that bear? Don’t you think David prayed before he went after that giant? What about those battles he fought for Saul? When we look at David’s progression we see two things. His increased reliance on God and increased knowledge. The two are connected. David’s responsibilities increased parallel to his communication with God. That’s what people saw in David and trusted in. People trusted more in David’s relationship with God than they trusted in David the man. They believed David was God’s anointed king because they could see David’s relationship with God. Think about how that relates to the lesson on love.
David’s life teaches us positive aspects of following God, but like all of us, David had a history of drawing close to God then drifting away. When times look good we all have the tendency of making decisions on our own. Like children who only call their parents when they need help, we only pray from the heart when we’re in trouble. When David become comfortable, things changed. One time he sent his army out to fight without him. While the people he was supposed to be serving, protecting, and teaching were off fighting a war, David stayed behind to run the country. One night he looked across the street and saw a woman. David already had more wives than any of us care to count, but to David, this one was different. While his men were off fighting a battle, David pursued a conquest of his own. David knew the woman was married. Having drawn away from God and making his own decisions it didn’t seem to matter to David. He invited her over for a fling. After all, who would know? Once wasn’t enough for the king. After a while the woman gets pregnant, so David does what he got used to doing. David comes up with a new sure fire plan. After all, when he lied to a priest and king God still protected him?
David’s momentary lack of communication with God destroyed his common sense. David had that woman’s husband killed and married her. David made her the queen of Israel. God had enough. David refused to listen so God sent the prophet in. So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.” David was furious. “As surely as the LORD lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The LORD, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. (2 Samuel 12:1-10 NLTse).
You might ask why after so many sins, God still loved David and called him a man after His own heart. It’s because David repented after seeing his sins. David repented of his sins as well as his lack of communication with God. As soon as David saw how far he drifted away from God, he prayed to restore that connection. David fell to the ground and prayed for the child as well as the mother and himself. David re-connection with God was so deep, his advisers could not understand it. That’s another point David missed. He neglected to explain that connection to people, not even his closest friends. After the child died, David got up to eat. After talking with God and listening… David knew he had a son waiting for him in Heaven. David knew when we get there he would receive the little child and raise him in the perfect environment of Heaven. David also knew God was concerned about him and wanted him to take care of himself. So David got up to eat. There is one detail we have to learn from David’s prayers. David remained focused on the subject at hand. David’s Psalms are an example of prayer. Notice how he always concentrated on one subject?
Psalms 11:1-7 NLTse
(1) I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!
(2) The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right.
(3) The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”
(4) But the LORD is in his holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth.
(5) The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.
(6) He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds.
(7) For the righteous LORD loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.
David learned to pray in order. Many of his prayers share the same structure. David praised God, told God his problem, then let God know he had confidence God knew the right answer. The only thing we don’t see in David’s prayers is how God answered them. David’s prayers should be studied. David recorded some of his conversations with God when Saul was chasing after him. But let’s stick to the details at hand. David prayed on one subject at a time. You never see David praying like we see people pray today which consists of a list of items to drop in God’s lap like we expect God to solve all those problems without any further participation on our part. When God sent a prophet to David there was a major lesson to learn. Today we see little if any listening when we pray. We may as well write out a prayer list and E-mail or text it to God. “Here God this is what we want you to do today. Let me know when you finish.” Does the pot tell the potter what to do? Then why do we give God orders then hang up the phone? Prayer has become much like ordering a pizza and waiting for it to be delivered. When David laid on that stone floor for hours, he listened to God. When David prayed to God while on the run from Saul, David listened to God. The first time God answered through a prophet. As David honed his listening skills, God personally spoke to David.
My favorite Psalms are those where David praised God, presented his petition, then praised God at the end of his prayer by telling God he knew God would do the right thing. The main point is, David stuck to one point in his prayer and didn’t jump around from subject to subject like we do today. I’ve read a number of books on prayer. Not one of them teaches people how to listen. I’ve talked to many people about how they listen to God and I hear the same answer over and overt again. When they try listening to God their minds are filled with a hundred details and they can’t concentrate. We’ve been conditioned by the world to write a prayer list then run through the whole thing in one sitting. Is there one verse of Biblical proof showing that’s how we should pray? None that I can find. All the examples in Psalms show us to concentrate on one subject at a time. A prayer list is okay, but shooting it up to God like a shotgun blast doesn’t hit the target. How are we supposed to listen when we pass on a long list to God and sever the prayer connection? Prayer was never meant to be a one sided connection. Study those Psalms and look for a prayer pattern you like and use it. Try a couple of different styles. But remember to stick to one subject at a time and spend time listening to God’s reply which is infinitely more important than your list. By the way, God already knew what was on your prayer list long before you wrote it. That is one detail you may want to praise Him for when you begin praying. “LORD I thank you for knowing what is on my prayer list and I come to you today to discuss one matter. I really want to know what you want to do about this subject. Jesus cleanse me with your blood, remove all my sins, make me pure, and especially purge me of all those worldly thoughts and preconceived ideas about you and what you are capable of. Jesus place me at the foot of your Father’s throne and let me learn from His infinite wisdom.” Then sit quietly and listen to God’s answer on that one subject of prayer.
So what do prayer skills have to do with the introductions to Isaiah 58 and Luke 6? Everything! Look at the introduction to Isaiah 58. “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins!” How are you supposed to know what to shout if the message doesn’t come from God? Prayer is everything. It is communication with God. Read between the lines. “Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.” Those people didn’t listen to God so they drifted away. The only way to stay close to God is listen to Him. The trend continued past those religious leaders who questioned Jesus when His disciples ate grain on the Sabbath. “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.” And who would complain about healing a suffering man on the Sabbath? If they knew how to pray and listen to God, those religious leaders never would have questioned Jesus. Notice they watched Jesus, but we can see they didn’t listen to what He taught.
We all have trouble listening to God. David had his problems. One time the king of Tyre came to David. He wanted to learn about the God David served. But David didn’t think a Pagan king would have any interest in God. And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies was with him. Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. And David realized that the LORD had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Samuel 5:10-12 NLTse). We can see how David let the distractions of this world stop him from performing his duty to God. After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives, and they had more sons and daughters. (2 Samuel 5:13 NLTse). David fell victim to one of Satan’s greatest deceptions – success and power. Doesn’t that happen to all of us? Things are going well and we forget God or put our relationship with Him on the back shelf? No wonder Peter told us to welcome trials. Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad–for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14 NLTse).
What could have happened if David or Solomon witnessed to Hiram? He was the king of Tyre, the world trade center at the time. Hiram believed in staying out of religion to the extent of allowing every religion to freely practice within his kingdom. To Hiram it was the only way to increase trade through Tyre’s port, keep peace, and reduce the chance of an invasion. During his reign no one would dare attack Tyre because of its relationship with other kingdoms, both economical and religious. Having contact with all the worldly religions peaked Hiram’s search for the one true God. It’s strange to think the man anointed king and given the gifts, ability, and responsibility to tell the world about God missed the opportunity of a life time. If David had shared God with Hiram and told Hiram how God’s Spirit communicates with us, it would have opened streets and avenues within the world trade center no one could have imagined. Hiram could have reached people from all over the world from every religion. God doesn’t need more people hiding in fox holes. God needs people able to step out to face those giants, no matter what form they come in.
Keeping the gospel away from people goes way beyond David. When Jesus wanted to heal the man with that deformed hand in the synagogue those religious leaders used the Sabbath as an excuse to withhold one of God’s blessings. Don’t you think that giant David slew made an impression on the whole nation of Israel? Those religious leaders didn’t stop to think about how healing one man could have impressed all those people in the synagogue and beyond. Those religious leaders didn’t think of how one gift would glorify God. They were only thinking about themselves. “At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.” What was Jesus’ reaction? “One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.” Jesus didn’t rely on what He learned in the past or felt at the moment. Jesus went back to DAD to discuss the situation. Jesus didn’t know how to explain the Sabbath to those religious leaders who thought they knew everything. Jesus knew He had to be patient and wait for God’s Spirit to set up the right circumstances to reach those people. It’s amazing to see a part of that answer is in this chapter of Isaiah.
Isaiah 58:13-14 NLTse “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. (14) Then the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
Those religious leaders were concerned only about their own interests. They followed their own desires and idle talk. Now you can see how Jesus answered more than their initial question. When Jesus referred to Isaiah 58, He included scripture around that lesson about helping the poor and depressed. We see the same result when we study other texts Jesus quoted. Now we can see why Jesus prayed. Answers He received were for questions before anyone asked them. Imagine the impact this had on Jesus’ faith. It could have had the same effect on other people if they spent time to look back into God’s Word. Jesus also taught lessons using parables like He did in the summation for Luke 6.
Luke 6:43-49 NLTse “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. (44) A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thornbushes, nor grapes on bramble bushes. (45) A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. (46) “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? (47) I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. (48) It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. (49) But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Jesus presents a choice. Good and evil are the only choices. There is no middle ground. Those priests made a carrier out of middle ground. Their religion was based on sitting in the middle trying to work their way up to God’s grace. Anyone who didn’t agree with them was deemed to far away to be saved. Unless of course you got back in line with their doctrines which takes your eyes off God placing your faith in man made doctrines. We have the same circumstances today. Of course every religion claims they got it right this time. But what about their fruit. When they produce members condemning the rest of the world are they producing good fruit or brambles? If they preach isolation are they spreading good seeds or weeds? When they make salvation a one step process, are they showing their good fruit or is their tree bear?
“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.” There is a direct relationship between Isaiah 58 and Luke 6 when you compare the introduction of Isaiah with the summation in Luke 6. This may seem unusual, but God has a way of teaching through repetition. We have to be prepared to notice and contemplate. As long as we compare the same parallel chapters we know we are learning the same theme. I remember my dad would always say, “don’t complain unless you have a better idea.” I think that was the best advise a father could give a son. Jesus also gave that advise, in His own way. Jesus told us how to worship God. “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”
Let’s face it, it’s never easy to turn a large ship around in a storm. If your waiting for your local or national church to turn around, you’ve got a long wait ahead of you. With God change has always been and will always be an individual effort. Jesus fed masses but healed individuals. Are we feeding people or healing them? The answer is both, but face the facts. When Jesus fed people they carelessly left baskets of bread lying on the ground. You have to expect that when you begin your ministry feeding people. But healing is another matter. Like Jesus we can heal. Like Jesus we have to place people in the capable hands of God’s Spirit to let them work it out together. We really can’t expect to accomplish more than Jesus did even though He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12 NLTse).
Time for you to experience some of those greater works. Matthew 27 is another chapter explaining how Isaiah 58 was fulfilled. Take your time, highlight those repeated words, give time for God’s Spirit to work with you. Look up the Old Testament scripture Jesus quoted. Look back and look ahead. Hone the skills you are learning – the most important being – draw closer to God and learn more about His Son Jesus.
Matthew 27:32-43 NLTse Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (33) And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). (34) The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it. (35) After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. (36) Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. (37) A sign was fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (38) Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. (39) The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. (40) “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” (41) The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. (42) “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! (43) He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
Matthew 27:1-10 NLTse Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. (2) Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. (3) When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. (4) “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” (5) Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. (6) The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” (7) After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. (8) That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. (9) This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says, “They took the thirty pieces of silver– the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel, (10) and purchased the potter’s field, as the LORD directed.”
Matthew 27:61-66 NLTse Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching. (62) The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. (63) They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ (64) So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” (65) Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” (66) So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.