In my past work, I had to travel a great deal. Traveling in flight is not as glamorous as it looks. Those who travel for work by plane know that it is the same as riding a bus or taking the train. There will be unexpected delays, layovers, and stops in progress. You are not in control of your schedule. You are at the mercy of the airline industry along with the weather. You hurry and wait. There are times you might be actually sitting in your seat on the plane, ready to go, but can’t get off the ground because of “technical difficulties”. There is nothing to do but wait.
God tells Isaiah that sometimes our prayers don’t get off the ground! Wait, what?! As soon as Isaiah has our attention by shouting this truth, we realize what God is saying and that He is right. God is always right. God sees our hearts, knows our minds, and sees the emptiness of our souls when we pray. Sometimes we, too, have technical difficulties and our prayers have trouble getting off the ground. Sometimes our prayers are totally grounded because of a heart condition that must be dealt with before “take-off.”
Isaiah 58, The Message
Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground
1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
3-5 “Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?
6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places
9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so!
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
God gives us the diagnosis: Read, rinse and repeat. Read His Word while prayerfully reflecting on the condition of our hearts. Rinse off our ego, pride, arrogance, and greed by repenting of these sins in the Name of Jesus. God offers spiritual therapy to get those sharing and serving muscles working again. We repent of the sin of “showing off our humility” and He gives us steps to improve our “serve” in the world. Repeat. We pray again and do what God says. God will answer with His Presence in our lives. Spiritual health will return and thrive. Our prayers will finally get off the ground.
God gives us the steps to walk with specific guidance!
- Stop complaining. (Ouch)
- Seek justice.
- Show mercy. (Micah 6:8)
- Walk humbly with God without telling others how humble you are.
- Stop the gossip! (Gossip kills the progress of our spiritual health.)
- Stop bickering and fighting among the believers!
- Fast incognito—only between you and God.
- Exploit and manipulate no one.
God says, “What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
- sharing your food with the hungry
- inviting the homeless poor into your homes
- putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad
- be available to your own families
“Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.”
“Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.”
Thank you for waking us up this morning with a splash of cold water to our sluggish being, making us face our daily sins. I repent of all this and more. You know what I need most and you give it freely. Thank you for being a God who wants to see us grow strong and healthy while we walk with you in humbled adoration.
In Jesus Name, Amen
**Jesus will come later as Light in the darkness and repeat and explain this same diagnosis. See Matthew 5-7. His disciples and apostles will also repeat God’s words. (See Ephesians, Galatians, and Philippia