by Brittney Chan
“Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?”
As I started preparing and praying for this week’s blog post, God took me on a quick trip down Memory Lane. Now, that can be pretty scary sometimes because I always end up seeing things differently when He’s my tour guide. For the last couple weeks of studying, I’ve been stuck in Isaiah chapter 58. There’s a lot of good stuff in that chapter! And I couldn’t get away from thinking that that’s what I should be writing about, but I was having an extremely difficult time getting anywhere past that. I’ve read over the chapter at least a dozen times, but today, these words stood out: “Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?”
Confused? You were expecting something inspirational and uplifting, weren’t you? Let’s backtrack a little so that we can all get on the same page. The chapter begins with God speaking to the prophet Isaiah and telling him his next mission. He’s to confront the children of Israel about what they’re doing that displeases God. And God tells Isaiah to “cry aloud” or to shout it from the rooftop! He says, “Don’t hold anything back! Let them know how this thing troubles Me.” So what was the big deal? If we read on, we find that God’s issue with His people was in the way they sacrificed themselves for His name’s sake. The Bible tells us that though they proclaimed to delight in the ways of the Lord and would take part in fasting and all things religious, they still wondered why they didn’t see God’s favor like they thought they should. This is where the above question comes into play - why have we fasted and You don’t even care to answer us?
God used Isaiah to call these church folks out on the motive behind their behaviors. In my own words, He said, “You guys fast, but you don’t give Me your full attention; you expect Me to answer your fasting on your terms; and even while you’re doing it, you still bicker and fight amongst yourselves! Is that how I told you to serve Me? By drawing attention to yourself and proudly proclaiming your humility? You think I delight in that?” While their specific sacrifice of fasting was being addressed in this scripture, I think this lesson can easily be applied to anything we do or give or say in our service to God. He then goes on to speak the true purpose behind a sacrificial life; but before I go any further, let me be painfully transparent. I think the reason those words I mentioned earlier stood out to me is because I saw myself in that question. I have been guilty of petitioning the Lord with that same attitude before. God, why do You bless everyone else but me? Why’d I get the last ticket in the long line of “Answers to Prayer”? Do You see how much I’ve fasted and prayed about this? Regretfully, the thoughts of my heart have, at times, mirrored those of the children of Israel. And the problem is that this kind of mindset is the birthplace of bitterness. As children of God, we have to realize that a demeanor like that is the biggest hindrance in God working His will in our lives.
So what is His will for you and I? The answer is told in the sixth verse of this chapter. I’m going to paraphrase again, okay? He says, “You should be fasting to rid yourself of sinful thoughts and desires, to be delivered of your burdens and to be freed from oppression. Instead of thinking about yourself, you should be looking for opportunities to serve others. Find the hungry. Find the poor. Find the needy. And provide what they lack.” I want to pay specific attention to the last clause in that verse. “And that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh.”
In other words: “Don’t pour out love and compassion for everyone else and skip over your own family, the very people I gave you to cherish!” We have a tendency to do that, don’t we?
The beautiful thing about this is that even though I felt God scold me harshly today, He didn’t leave me without hope. He never does that. The rest of the chapter is filled with promises that will come to pass if only we serve Him with the proper intentions. Verse 9 says, “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am.” Is there anything better than hearing God say, “Here I Am?” Or reading the assurance in verse eleven? “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought…” If we just get our hearts right, God will not leave us wanting. Does that mean He answers all of our prayers in the manner and time that we desire? Not necessarily. It’s the same principal seen in Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Choosing to delight yourself in God will have a direct impact on the desires of your heart.
What you long for will be regulated by your love for Him and your soul will be satisfied by the way He chooses to answer your prayers. Just because God is silent doesn’t mean that He can’t see you.
Even though others may not acknowledge your sacrifice of raising children to fear Him, of remaining unspotted from the world, of reaching out to the broken...the list could go on forever...but even though the people you want to may not recognize them, God takes pleasure in your offerings. He’s the only One that really matters and it’s our personal responsibilities to ensure that the things we do for His kingdom come from an unadulterated heart.
This is my prayer today...
Lord, I am so thankful that You love me through my times of selfishness. I’ve felt Your arms of Understanding and marveled at Your Mercy many times. I pray that You would help me guard my soul from bitter thoughts and wrongful attitudes. Let my service to You be from a pure heart and let me find joy in the things I don’t understand. I choose to trust Your infinite wisdom in guiding my life. Speak peace to a mind that has a habit of running from You. In Jesus’ name,