Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. – Isaiah 58:6-12
I am an avid gardener so in the winter time I move my gardening indoors and tend a covey of house plants, including three large banana plants that remind me of the tropics when the winds and snows of Michigan get too deep. This passage continues on a theme introduced yesterday about what we are to be doing while we are pursuing God. We are to be like well watered gardens producing abundant fruit from the water supply God is providing.
We clearly are not to lock ourselves up in a monastery or live isolated on an island somewhere. We are to share “food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them.” So our faith is supposed to create changes in our behavior. We are to feel a profound dissonance in our lives when we see hungry, poor, and naked people that drives us to respond.
The result of our responding to the needs of those around us is that our “light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” We are to take the lead while following God with the knowledge that God has our backs. We are to bring God’s light into dark places and make them different and brighter. God will guide us and carry us like a son or daughter when we grow too weary with our burden, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”
Then comes the amazing water reference “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail”. What does a well watered garden do? It produces good and abundant fruit to feed both those who tend it and all those around them who benefit from the careful tending. A spring that never fails gives life and can be relied upon when droughts or pounding waves buffet our lives and the lives of those around us. We are to actually be this perpetual spring, something that up to this point has been mainly God’s role. This passage is part of the new song that God is singing for the people of Israel and the new part they will be called to play in bringing about a new kind of kingdom for God and His people here on earth.
Prayer: God You are the light of the world. Help us to boldly carry Your light to those who need it and care for those who are hungry, poor, and naked along the way.