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Isaiah 58.1-12 “Repair the Streets” JUMC 20140209

watching road repairsShout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 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 live in. [NRSV]

Intro
It strikes me as funny in this teaching by God through the prophet, Isaiah, to envision the people of God as restorers of the streets. You know the jokes and wise cracks about how many DOT workers does it take to dig a hole? Answer: one, but it takes a half dozen or more to watch them do it.

In a nutshell, the prophet is saying that our society as people of faith is so broken that we can’t afford to stand by and watch because there are too many pot-holes for people to fall into as it is.

In this passage we hear God’s steaming temper and over-whelming frustration. God has fired up and has Isaiah on full alert:

The Kitchen Sink Too!
God says to the prophet, Isaiah, Don’t hold back anything. Blast out the news like a trumpet.
Describe in every detail my people’s rebellion and sins.

This makes for a good story. There is a lot of drama and passion in this story. And its good to hear God all fired up at those delinquents way back then in stead of talking about us.. am I right?

The Message Bearer
The prophet has the task of telling the truth, the whole truth.

Isaiah is part of a long tradition of those who are charged with telling folks what is generally bad news. Imagine interviewing for that job! Argg. This time God is calling on Isaiah to let it all hang out! Give them the whole dose of medicine, even if it is bitter and vial.. it would only be compared to their sin.

God’s Frustration is not an absence of Love
If God didn’t care, God would not have prophets to warn and instruct.
God would just blow us away like dust in the desert and start over.

Hear are God’s lines in the sand:
1. They ask for my help in prayers; they study my ways, BUT, they think knowing ABOUT their God replaces a relationship WITH God.

2. The Role of Spiritual Disciplines
they ask of me righteous judgments, they want me close by in times of trouble,
But they ask, “Why do we fast?” Why do we have to go to church? Why do have to give? Serve? Witness?
Why do we humble ourselves?

Fasting as a Spiritual Practice
At the core it is the denial of a basic physical necessity to make time and awareness for the necessity of basic spiritual food.

It is a practice not a contract. We are not due because what we have done. Take care of me because I built your place of worship! No, instead it is the activity of giving up what I want physically for what I need spiritually.

Calling a Sin, a Sin.
Isaiah is not so much teaching about Fasting but what’s going on in the presence of religious practice.
• You talk a good game in the worship house, but you treat people with disrespect.
• You bend the rules to suit your own pleasures and justification.
• You fight with fist and tongue, while you are worshiping and serving.

What Does God Require?
• Do you think I need people to bow down before me like the grass
• Do you think I need to see ashes on your head or your Sunday best?
• Who let you decided what is acceptable to the Lord?

Here what I want to see PRONTO
• Seek what is fair; Change systems and structures that keep people down.
• Free people of to be independent, God created us as free, individuals.
• Set people free to who are addicted, entrapped, alone, afraid, oppressed.
• Break the attitudes that manipulate people.
• Feed the hungry,
• Open your home to the homeless
• Clothe the naked,
• Encourage God’s people instead of cutting them down or holding them back.

How to Get God’s Attention?
Do the Right things and God will reward your righteousness.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Benefits of Righteousness
The LORD will guide you continually,
• satisfy your needs in parched places,
• make your bones strong;
• you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
• 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 live in.

Matthew 5: 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

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