James 1:27

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the
Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let
the world corrupt you.


Monday, June 4, 2012

isaiah chaper 1

So I decided today I want to start reading through Isaiah (I said this a long time ago in a different blog as well). I have read it Isaiah before and I love this book so much. I can't tell you how many times in sermons, bible studies, conversations etc, verses are quoted from Isaiah. This book has such profound love, compassion, mercy, and truth in it. It is also full of prophecies to God's people who had turned against Him. Many times it is not a comfortable read, as I examine my own life when reading what the prohet Isaiah has to say to the people of Israel and Judah. Bear with me here in this first part.

Chapter one begins with Isaiah bring a message of divine judgement against Israel and Judah.  They are called a rebellious nation. Isaiah brings the message from God in stating thing such as "ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their back on Him"...."why do you persist in your rebellion? Your whole head is injured and your whole heart afllicted"...
He talks about their sacrifices and outward acts of "religion", saying He has no pleasure in them. He says, "who asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me!..I cannot bear your evil assemblies...they have become a burden to me and I am weary of bearing them. When you spread our your hands in prayers, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen"!! The people were doing many of the outward acts the Lord required of them, but He saw their HEART behind it all and was displeased- disgusted even. This chapte is full of many strong words of judgement.

Yet, He is still a God filled with compassion and mercy. Isaiah then tells them that the Lord says, "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool..." He hates the evil he sees, the religious activites going on despite evil and deceitful hearts;  yet he longs to reach out and forgive, and to gather His flock back together in His arms.  It's amazing to me that in the midst of such evil and all that the prophet Isaiah was saying, interwoven into his message to the people is instant forgiveness and acceptance- if only they will repent. God doesn't say- do this, this, that, and that, and then this, and THEN MAYBE I will THINK about forgiving you. No, he is begging them to be reasonable, so that he CAN forgive them- INSTANTLY. Amazing to me.

But what struck me most about this chapter are the following verses:

vs 16-17 "Your hands are full of blood. Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! stop doing wrong, learn to do what is right! Seek justice, DEFEND THE CAUSE OF THE FATHERLESS, plead the case of the widow."

And

vs 23-24 "Your rules are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love brides and chase after gifts. THEY DO NOT DEFEND THE CAUS EOF THE FATHERLESS; the widow's case does not come before them. Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: Ah, I will get relief from my foes and avenge myself on my enemies."

The reason these verses struck me so hard is, well, obviously, first because God has given me a heart for the fatherless- so of course those words are like bold/underlined/italicized print jumping off the page right at me and into my heart! But beyond my own heart's bent towards orphans, it is one of ONLY THREE THINGS God says they are not doing. Seek justice, defend the casue of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow. That is just simply shocking to me. There are a thousand things that the Lord could have said they needed to do or not do. He didn't say things like where is your money/tithe/offerings?  Why aren't you telling people about me? Why aren't you being kind to one another? Why aren't you displaying the fruits of the spirit? Why don't you stop doing this or that? I am not implying that these things are not important! But, he could have said something like "keep doing all the things you are doing- keeping the sabbath, keeping the feasts, continuing to bring him sacrifices, keep doing the right things that are you are doing etc; but change your hearts! Obviously He wanted their hearts changed; but what did he imply would be an outward act of an inward heart renewal- three things, and one of them was taking care of orphans. Wow- that that is one of the three things that would show the Lord that they had repented and turned from their evil ways! If you really truly ponder that- that says a lot! They were an evil nation, full of things that the Lord hated- and he questions why they are not taking care of orphans and widows! To the Lord, that would prove a return to Him and a cause for his compassion and forgiveness. The Bible also states that pure and genuine religion is taking care of orphans and widows and keep oneself spotless in this world. Again, he could have said SO many other things that would prove that we loved him and that we were making him Lord in our life.

This tells me, once again, that the Lord's heart is completely for the orphans. I am not saying that everyone needs to adopt, but I am asking each of us to look at and examine our hearts- and ask him to show us ways that we CAN please him in the way we look after orphans and widows. We could be doing ten mission trips a year, tithing 50%, going on outreach after outreach etc etc...BUT- are we defending the cause of the fatherless? This chapter seems to imply that if we love and are serving the Lord, that is just a given, along with all of the other things that we know please the Lord.

So I just want to put out the question- what are you (and me) doing today to defend the cause of the orphan and widow? Are we giving to families that want to adopt? Are we open to adoption ourselves? Are we praying for orphans and widows? Are we really doing ANYTHING for them at all?

I don't feel at all as if this mandate from the Lord has been fulfilled in my life just because we have adopted. I feel it's only the beginning, the tip of the iceburg, of what the Lord wants us to do and to continue to do our throughout our entire lives. I don't think it's about one act for orphans and being able to wash my hands and say "I have done my part". I don't think my part should/will ever stop. That doesn't mean I know what it looks like, but it does mean I will seek the Lord on it and listen for his direction and voice telling me what it should look like; because, honestly, I don't know what it should look like. I just know I want to be a part of the things that are closest to his heart; and orphans are definitely one of them. It may be uncomfortable to really examine this and look at what we could be doing, but I think it's clear that if we are seeking the Lord, this should be a part of our prayers.

Reading Isaiah makes me even more thankful for Him. We still stand in awe, on year later, of what the Lord has done in bringing this precious life to be a part of our forever family. Next time I hope to blog about the fact that he is ONE, and post pictures!:)