Isaiah 58-60, Psalm 119: 153-176
In Isaiah 58, the prophet addresses a topic that was near to the heart of Jesus, hypocrisy. The question is why do we do the things we do for God? Do we do it out of a pure heart to serve Him or to be recognized by others? In fact, Isaiah said when hypocrisy was revealed, if not confronted it creeps in, takes root and destroys what was once pure. This is true for an individual as well as a church. If those who seek recognition rather than a true relationship advance in authority, it leads to a lack of authenticity and destroys what was once beautiful.. Jesus was so clear about this as He pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapter 6, he addresses the motives underlying how we give, pray, and fast. Each time he tells His listeners that if their motives are pure, they will be rewarded by God. But if their motives were to be noticed or recognized by man, then they have already received their reward in the accolades of others. Jesus, in Matthew 23, also launches His harshest words on the hypocritical religious leaders, for He knew that they would lead the sheep astray.
Often, when people step out for God they are concerned that they are unnoticed and all alone. In 1 Kings 19:10, we read that Elijah felt this way at one point, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” But in 19:18, God reveals that there were 7000 in Israel who did not bow down to Baal, but worshiped the One True God. Many who serve Him faithfully, may not receive any recognition while on earth, but God notices everything. A very shortened version of a story involves an older missionary couple who served the Lord quietly in Africa their entire lives. When returning home on their boat to the U.S., President Teddy Roosevelt was also on the boat coming home to the accolades of the crowd after returning from a hunting trip. The husband of the couple was quiet and despondent that night reflecting on how the president was received, but no one noticed them after a lifetime of service. His wife then reminded her husband, that they were not home yet, meaning their rewards were not on this earth but were eternal.
In Isaiah 59, we see the problem of unconfessed sin. We read in Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from Your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” God is capable of everything, but He cannot reward those who separate themselves from Him by sin. Though we are all sinners, and continue to sin even after coming into a relationship with Him, we need to abide in Him so closely such that any unconfessed sin is felt by us. God is full of grace and mercy, but He is also just. There are many reasons that God chooses not to answer our prayers, an unrepentant heart is only one. As we read Job, Job’s friends thought this was the only reason, therefore they continually accused Job of sins that he was not guilty of. God’s ways are not our ways, but better. If we keep short accounts of sin with God, and our sins seem unnoticed, realize God knows us and loves us more than anyone, and He knows what we need. When things seem bad, and we have a repentant and contrite heart, remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for the good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: