June 3, 2021
"At that, when you call, the Lord will answer; when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke from those around you..."
“At that, when you call, the Lord will answer; when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke from those around you, the finger pointing and malicious speaking, and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.” Isaiah 58:9-10
Humility shows itself in a willingness to turn away from sin and toward God. This spirit is obviously lacking in the Southern Kingdom of Judah’s attitude to worship in Isaiah 58, a chapter that contrasts true and false worship.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
There are indications in today’s passage of formal religion, but it is a religion with which God is displeased. Both negative and positive aspects are highlighted. We learn that “formal religion” is not (in and of itself) “true religion.” When a transformed heart is absent from worship, good works are meaningless and void of proper Biblical motive and Spirit-leading. The evidence of Israel’s distortion of proper worship is “doing as one pleases” and is a hindrance to prayer.
True religion is a “heart religion,” and it leads to true joy and true happiness. The outworking of heart religion expresses itself within formal religion but places good works in proper perspective. Of course, we know this is a message that Jesus saw as important to teach us. The same yoke (burdensome religions ways) that Isaiah exposed as “false religion,” Jesus offers to relieve us of if we will repent from our sin and come under His “yoke” through a personal saving relationship with Him.
“Come to Me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place My yoke over your shoulders, and learn from Me because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Furthermore, James, Jesus’ half-brother, also felt it was important to point out the hypocrisy inherent in Israel’s worship and distinguish between false and true “religion” among people who professed to be believers.
“If anyone thinks that he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but instead deceives himself, his religion is worthless. A religion that is pure and stainless according to God the Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows who are suffering, and to keep oneself unstained by the World.” James 1:26-27
Perhaps you have spent much time in or around Church. But are you certain that you are truly following Jesus? Many have bought into “Jesus-themed” religion, clinging to a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Of such, Jesus will say, “Turn away, I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:22-23)