“Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’… 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.” (Isaiah 58:8-11)All of us want to abide in this place of abundance with God, and it is God’s desire to bring us into this place of blessing. Jesus came that we might experience abundant life and it is this abundant life to which we have been destined. “The LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground… The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand… The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath.” (Deuteronomy 28:11-13)
While God desires to bless us, some of His promises are conditional; they are dependent upon our response to His grace in our life. Our attitudes, beliefs, and actions can actually keep the blessings of God from coming our way. After Israel’s captivity in Babylon, God restored them to their land. Over time, however, they became more and more self-centered. Each one looked to the repairs of their own house while the house of the Lord remained in ruins. To get their attention, God withdrew His blessings from them and challenged them, “‘You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,’ says the Lord.” (Haggai 1:6-8) Their life of selfish pursuits limited the blessings of God. In this passage in Isaiah, God counsels the Israelites to do three things:
“Remove the yoke from your midst” (vs. 9): The yoke speaks of oppression. Sometimes oppression is overt, for example, the use of verbal and physical abuse as a means to control others. Other times, however, oppression is more subtle, it is more implied than direct, for example, we can place a yolk on one another by our unreasonable expectations of each other. I have seen this in the case of pastors where members of the church hold them in bondage to their unreasonable expectations of how perfect they believe he should be. Pastors are not gods, they are just men like us. They are not perfect but rather they share in our imperfections and weaknesses. We need to release people from our expectations of them. We need to let them grow to be the people God has called them to be, not the people we want them to be.
“Remove the pointing of the finger and the speaking of wickedness” (vs. 9): This scripture refers to our judgment of others. God has not called us to be our brother’s judge. It is not our job to bring accusations against our brothers and sisters. There is one who accuses, but he is not on God’s side. “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Revelation 12:10) When we stand to accuse our brother, we are engaging in the work of the devil, we are partnering with him for the destruction of the kingdom. May it never be that we should partner with the devil in our words and actions. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“Give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted” (vs. 10): This scripture speaks to our self-centeredness. It is so easy to become wrapped up in our own problems and circumstances that we loose sight of everyone else around us. We can become so self-absorbed and so focused on our self that we do not see the suffering of others. In speaking of the Body of Christ, Paul says, “But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:24-25) From the original Greek, this scripture could be translated to say that we should have the “same distraction” for one another. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to distract us from ourselves that we may see the needs of others. A funny thing happens when we begin to minister to other people, our problems seem to grow smaller. When we focus on our problems, our problems are magnified in our eyes. When we focus on others, the Lord becomes magnified in our eyes.
This scripture in Isaiah begins with a wonderful word, “Then.” If we give ourselves to the kingdom of God, if we set our hearts to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, then God will truly open a window in heaven and pour out a blessing that we will not be able to contain.