And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
(Ephesians 5: 11-13)
You may have noticed in the last few lessons that in order to appreciate what God promises, He asks us to come face to face with our willful and sinful nature that desires to do things our own way. Darkness bombards us from the media, politics, popular music, corrupt laws, false education, and modern philosophy, which are all designed to embolden our resistance to God and glorify rebellion. As always, God gives us a choice to trust Him or to lean on our own understanding. Who do we listen to? Do we want to fit in with what is acceptable to the world around us or submit to what the Word of God says? God promised to restore us, but not without repentance. God promised to guide, but not without agreeing with Him in truth and righteousness. God does not force His promises on us, He offers them to us. In today’s lesson, God promises light, but we’ll have to relinquish the darkness. God is not fooled by our religious actions or our self-serving justifications. We even fool ourselves, at times, into thinking that our excuses are sincere, yet God sees them correctly, they are completely contrary to God’s Word. God continually calls us toward him with amazing love and with the certainty of promises that He alone can keep.
In a few chapters ahead of our lesson, Isaiah speaks of keeping judgment and doing justice. As Isaiah speaks to the nation of Israel, He spells out the transgressions that will cause them to go into captivity. They have kept up the appearance of being close to God, but their daily lives tell a different story. Their sinful actions show that their hearts are far from Him. They have adopted idols and religious traditions from their neighbors. They persecute the poor and pervert justice as if they are not seen by God. They are confident in their standing with God because of the Temple - considering it a safety net against God’s judgment. Had they believed their scripture at the time, they would have realized that after the dedication of the temple, God also said:
But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations. And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus unto this land, and unto this house? And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them. (2 Chronicles 7:19-22)
Israel had hardened their hearts to God’s Word. To summarize, Isaiah says the watchmen are blind, greedy, and never have enough. They are likened to shepherds that don’t really care about the sheep, they only care for what benefits them. Drunkenness, sorcery, Idol worshippers, liars, and on and on, Isaiah uncovers what the nation is doing, not just what they are saying. Let us ever be careful not just to read the Word of God but also to apply the Word of God to our lives. Are we renewing our minds daily to think like Christ? Do we surround ourselves with darkness by neglect, pride, or rebellion? Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1). Do we create our own misery with lack of faith or failure to trust and believe? Father God, protect us from ourselves.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
This verse reminds us of the publican and the sinner in the New Testament.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (Luke 18:11-12).
Religious activity can make us very proud of ourselves - but where is the heart? They went without food as a public statement of their holiness before God but they would not obey His word. The phrase we use for this in modern culture is virtue signaling. Isaiah is reminding the nation of Israel that though they may like the sacrificial, self-denying, religious things they do in God’s name, they are not doing it with the right heart.
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11) .
It is never about how good we are, it is always about the goodness of God toward all of us. Religiously denying ourselves is not a license to do or to think higher of ourselves than we ought to think. It is absolutely never to take away praise from God and to bring praise upon ourselves.
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (Matthew 6:1-7)
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
The fast, or the self-denial God wanted, was for them to love those who lived around them. To help them without shaming them. To take what they possessed, for what they really were, blessings they were stewarding for God. Therefore they were going to give an account of how they managed them. Where should our hearts be in service to the Lord? Giving to the needy, feeding the hungry, easing burdens, lifting up hands that are feeble; am I my brother’s keeper? The answer is always yes. We each individually are responsible for our own actions, good or bad. We must own those actions. God requires it of us.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:9-10)
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
When we give, not to show our goodness, and never in a way that embarrasses or demeans the receiver, the love of God overpowers our lives. It is the greatest blessing you’ll ever receive to be used of the Lord for His purpose. We are never perfect, but we should be led by the Holy Spirit, then His light will shine, and God will be glorified. We have to get ourselves out of the way so others can see the magnificence of God. God hears. God will answer. If we remove the unnecessary burdens and restraints we put on others, if we refuse to point out flaws in everyone, if we refuse to whisper and sow discord among our brethren, if we show grace and mercy, long-suffering, patience, kindness, and helpfulness to those around us, then God promises Light. He removes the darkness.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!