Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of the Streets….

I’ve been reading through the Major Prophets on my Bible App. As usual, I’m behind. I quit feeling guilty a long time ago, and just keep plodding along as I can. One of the many reasons I get behind…. because there is certainly more than one reason, is because I get stuck.

One word, one verse, one person. I’m curious by nature, so I have to dig deeper. I have to know why, what and where.

I vow to myself that I’m going to keep reading and not stop in order to get through the readings in a time, but inevitably something needs more attention and so I stop.

It seems fitting then, that today I got stuck on Isaiah 58, because it’s about fasting and this week we launch Lent on Ash Wednesday.

In recent years I’ve been spending more time developing my theology of fasting. I didn’t grow up in a church that spent much time discussing Ash Wednesday or Lent, so the concept was pretty foreign to me. It was in Seminary that I really began to process what Lent meant and why it was important. But often times I just spent my time hangry and irritable and not really understanding why I was fasting.

Isaiah 58 isn’t about Lent, but it is about fasting. It’s a chapter full of wisdom about fasting, why we fast, how we should fast and what happens when we fast. If you have your Bible handy, here’s where you should read Isaiah 58….if not, just follow along because it will still make sense.

The chapter opens and says this “Shout it out Loud, raise your voice like a trumpet.”

I don’t know about you, but when a chapter opens like this, I’m pretty sure I should pay attention. Other chapters start with “awake,” or “listen,” or “sing” but I don’t see any others that start with “shout and yell,” so I’m ready for something important from Isaiah on behalf of God, and he doesn’t fail.

I spent one of those mornings frantically flipping through my Bible and commentaries and having frequent “aha” moments. And as usual, I am reminded that I am so much like the Israelites….so prone to wander, so prone to distraction, so prone to fill my life with unnecessary diversions.

The Israelites are asking….haven’t we fasted Lord? Yet we still go unnoticed by you?

But here’s the response and the painful truth about their fasting practices….

You fast for your own selfish gains and wealth,

You exploit your employees,

You argue and strike each other while you fast,

You boast about fasting,

And you treat fasting as an empty ritual rather than spiritual nurturing.

Sure they were fasting, but they forgot their fasting was supposed to help them resemble the likeness of God and his goodness and his righteousness, not just to make them look good or feel better.

The Lord is pretty clear with the Israelites about what he wants them to stop doing and what he wants them to start doing. Things are really cut and dry in this chapter. No beating around the bush….

Here’s what they needed to stop doing:

1. Oppressing others

2. Treating people like animals (take off the yoke)

3. Speaking maliciously and pointing blame

The other day I was watching TV and a woman mentioned that we often times treat our animals better than people. I know we treat horses well. One only needs to ride around in my community here in Texas and see that horses are treated very well. Or dogs….have you seen the refrigerated sections in the dog food area? Need I say more? I think it would be safe to reword this to say “treat people better than you would animals.”

It grieves me to think there are so many people out there who would gladly take a barn stall over the terror and oppression they are living in.

What does God want from the Israelites (and us!)?

Here are two things the Lord says the Israelites need to start doing.

1. Satisfy the needs of the oppressed with more than just food. This means clothes and shelter and certainly not ignoring your own “flesh and blood.”

2. Spend yourself on behalf of the hungry.
I had to spend some time with the last one. Here are some samples of the different translations. “offer yourself,” “pour yourself,” “open your heart,” but the best translation of the Hebrew is “soul.” Soul in the Hebrew during this time would not be the immaterial soul we imagine today. It was not separate from the body….it basically meant your “whole being.”

So the last one could read….”give your soul on behalf of the hungry.” In other words….give your whole being to others and surrender your life and your comforts for them.

The important thing that God wants them to know, that Isaiah needs for them to hear loud and clear….

The people of God need to connect their fasting with their lives of righteousness and love, and then, only then, would God hear their prayers. They needed outward indication of a heart that sought after the righteousness of God. It was very much a heart issue not a legalistic ritual.

Here’s what God promises them if they respond to His ways.

Your light will shine in the darkness (58:10)

The Lord will guide you (58:11)

He will satisfy your needs (58:11)

He will call you “repairer of the breach and restorer of the streets.”

Stop right there.

Pause.

Think for a moment on these words. It pulls at my heart. It physically hurts me when I read these verses because how often friends, are we as Christians called “repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets?” How badly I want to be called these things! Yet I spend my days worried about my safety, my children’s well being, my beautiful home. How often in my own life am I willing to risk to become someone who binds the breach and restores those who are oppressed? What a glorious day it would be if Christians began to be referred to as “restorers,” or “repairers?” Instead we are known as selfish and judgmental and even to some as oppressive.

Friends, we can’t build a foundation on a superficial system. We have to plant our roots deep. We can’t expect to fast so we can receive more, we fast so we can give more, so we can be more like Christ, so we can notice the oppressed and hurting around us.

We recently sang a song in church that I’ve sung hundreds of times. But of course, this particular week it hit me hard, as if I had never sung it before. I was almost shocked by the words and I looked around the sanctuary at the 700 people around me wondering if they too felt the shock and the sting of the words on their hearts.

How often do we sing words we don’t mean? Probably too often. I had to stop. I couldn’t keep singing. I needed time to process what I was feeling. I needed time to examine my own life and know if I could really sing the words of this beautiful but risky song.

Read the words to this song if you dare…..

All to Jesus I surrender All to Him I freely give I will ever love and trust Him In His presence daily live

I surrender all, I surrender all All to Thee my blessed Savior I surrender all

All to Jesus I surrender At Thy feet I humbly bow Worldly pleasures all forsaken Take me, Jesus, take me now

I surrender all, I surrender all All to Thee my blessed Savior I surrender all

All to Jesus I surrender Lord, I give myself to Thee Fill me with Thy love and power Let Thy blessing fall on me

I surrender all, I surrender all All to Thee my blessed Savior I surrender all

“All” my friends, not “some” or “maybe” or “a little,” but “all.”

I surrender ALL.

Nothing held back.

I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure I’m there yet. There are so many things I choose selfishly. I like my house, I have an old mini-van but sometimes I covet my neighbors ride and debate putting way more money in to a car than I should. I don’t visibly see many oppressed around me often because I live in a nice neighborhood. Out of sight out of mind, sadly. As if I don’t see them I don’t need to help.

As I move into the season of Lent this week, my heart is heavy. I don’t want this season to be about me, but what can come out of me when I am focused on what God wants from me. Am I willing to surrender all, for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the ones people speak evil against, the ones we treat no better than animals? More than that, am I willing to put my needs aside for those who say terrible things about me or who want to hurt me?

Let’s spend some time during Lent to examine our hearts and pray for God to reveal where we have not surrendered all. Maybe it’s our safety, maybe it’s our wealth, maybe its approval….that one’s a big one for me. Or maybe it’s our children’s future (letting God direct them instead of us). Whatever it is…we know God promises that out of our right-ness with him His Kingdom will shine through us.

Lord, let my heart be in tune with yours, make me a “repairer of the breach and a restorer of the streets.” Amen


(By Jennifer Starr-Reivitt at hopeasmyanchorblog.wordpress.com)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s