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Refreshment in Refuge

    by Gina Burgess

Your prayers won't get off the ground
Date Posted: January 12, 2020

1"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!

2They're busy, busy, busy at worship,

and love studying all about me.

To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people--

law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, "What's the right thing to do?'

and love having me on their side.

3But 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?'

"Well, here's why:

"The bottom line on your "fast days' is profit.

You drive your employees much too hard.

4You 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.

5Do 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?

We are going to talk about Worship. What exactly was God’s beef with Judah that He would speak through Isaiah like this?

There is a lot of speculation among scholars about exactly who this passage is directed to. Some think that this is toward a specific group of Jews during the time of Isaiah’s prophesying. I have a little bit of a problem with that because Uzziah, Jotham and Hezekiah were kings that did right in the eyes of the Lord and turned the people back to worshipping Him in the right and proper way. Ahaz did evil in God’s eyes because he turned the people away from God even going so far as to offer his own son in the fire of Molech.

Others believe that this is directed to those who were captives in Babylon who would know no peace (referred to in 57:21) but if we look at the beginning of that chapter we see Isaiah is talking to those who commit idolatry, offerings to the demons of other countries. Comparing that to Isaiah 58, these people are to all outward appearances, godly people.

So what were they doing wrong? They looked good on the outside but were like whitewashed graves, which indeed appear beautiful outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27) Some scholars believe that Isaiah’s vision is about the Jews of Jesus’ day when he proclaims the “Woe to you”. Matthew Henry says it is directed to all hypocrites of all ages. I believe he is correct. For further clarification, let’s look at Matthew 23.

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to the disciples and in verse 3He tells them “do as they say, but not as they do, for they say and do not.” 4For they bind heavy and hard to bear burdens, and lay them on the shoulders of men, but they do not desire to move them with their finger.

This is an extremely good parallel to the first part of Isaiah 58.

2 Yet they seek Me day by day, and desire knowledge of My ways. As a nation that has done right, and not forsaking the judgment of their God, they ask Me about judgments of righteousness; they desire to draw near to God.

Isaiah 58:3 … Behold, on the day of your fast you find pleasure; and you drive all your laborers hard. (The employees never find a day of rest.)

Matthew 23:5 And they do all their works to be seen by men. And they make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their robes.

In other words, the appearance of godliness, but the heart intent is not there. You fast, but you bicker and fight. You fast but you act mean.

So, again, what were they doing wrong? I believe what Isaiah is saying here correlates with Jesus’ cursing of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. Only Jesus says it much stronger:

Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and you have left undone the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith. You ought to have done these and not to leave the other undone.

Matthew 23:24 Blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Matthew 23:25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of extortion and excess.

Matthew 23:26 Blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of them may be clean also.

Matthew 23:27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

Matthew 23:28 Even so you also appear righteous to men outwardly, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Matthew 23:29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets, and decorate the tombs of the righteous,

Matthew 23:30 and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

Matthew 23:31 Therefore you are witnesses to yourselves, that you are the sons of those who killed the prophets;

Matthew 23:32 and you fill up the measure of your fathers.

Matthew 23:33 Serpents! Offspring of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

Matthew 23:34 Therefore, behold, I send prophets and wise men and scribes to you. And you will kill and crucify some of them. And some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city;

Matthew 23:35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Berachiah, whom you killed between the temple and the altar.

Matthew 23:36 Truly I say to you, All these things shall come on this generation.

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to her, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not!

Matthew 23:38 Behold, your house is left to you desolate.

Matthew 23:39 For I say to you, You shall not see Me from now on until you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."

Okay, so why are we correlating Fast Day with Worship and Sabbath? Because in verse 13 we see God correlating it: Isaiah 58:13 If you turn your foot because of the Sabbath, from doing what you please on My holy days, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of Jehovah, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,

There are 5 Hebrew words that are translated – Worship, we’ll look at two.

  1. Shachah – (shaw-khaw) to bow down in homage, prostrate oneself before God or false gods or angels.
  2. ‘abad – (aw-bad’) to serve, to work, to labor or be enticed to serve.

There are 11Greek words that are translated – Worship, we’ll look at one.

  1. Proskuneo – (pros – koo – neh – oh) to kiss the hand to/towards one in token of reverence; to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence; kneeling or prostration in homage. From a word that loosely means to kiss like a dog licking his master’s hand.

I was a member of a Lay Renewal team back when I was an older teen. We called it Worship Service back then. I really liked that term. When we would have our "debriefing sessions"...some of us would say, "The Holy Spirit was really working in this!" And others would say, "You really think so? I couldn't see it!" And yes, we were at the same church on the same weekend... I have been to the exact same service as someone else and received such a deep blessing while the person beside me had to cover yawns and fight to keep awake – I’m mentioning no names!

So we can see illustrated here that working with the Holy Spirit is a two-way street. If we work with Him and prepare our hearts for Him then we have a completely different experience than if we just go through the motions and our heart is not in it. And if you don’t believe me, in the next few minutes, I’ll prove it.

Today we call our singing service before the preaching, Praise and Worship. We just spent a Wonder-Full half hour singing praises to my beloved Lord. However, I suggest to you that Worship is far more than singing, raising hands, praying, preaching and anything else we do in our Sunday Morning Worship services.

As I studied this Worship thing, it seems that God was teaching the Israelites in the OT that worshiping was different than anything else mentioned along with it. Uncountable times it reads, “Bow down and worship” or “Sing praises and worshipped.”

Starting with Abraham in Genesis through Revelation, Worship or some form of it is mentioned 385 times in Scripture.

When my girls were young, about 3,4 years old, my Mom was so excited at Christmas because they were old enough to actually understand the Christmas story. She gathered them up in her lap and read the story to them from the Bible. When she got through, she said, “Now, that was the story of the very first Christmas almost 2000 years ago and why every year we remember Jesus’ birth at this time.” My older daughter, Lauri Anne looked up at her with her eyes wide and such a look on her face, we thought for sure she was going to say something profound or really sweet about the baby Jesus, when she said, “You’re not going to tell us all the other 2000 Christmas stories are you?”

So, no, we’re not going to explore all 385 times worship or a word like it is mentioned. I’ve whittled it down to several verses, though. So hang on to your hats girls.

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Biography Information:
Gina Burgess has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training for almost three decades. (Don't tell her that makes her old.) She earned her Master's in Communication in 2013.

She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.

If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection

Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and
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