Will the True Church Reveal Itself?
God’s Appeal for Righteous Conduct – Isaiah 58:1-14
For many Christians, Isaiah 58 is simply known as the chapter which details God’s guidelines for fasting. However, placing Isaiah 58 in its historical context one finds that God’s concern with His people was not simply the issue of fasting. The words spoken by Isaiah revealed that God was calling His people to forsake their hypocrisy and embrace the righteousness that He called for. A study of this chapter reveals that the conduct of Judah in that day mirrors the conduct of some (or is it many?) churches and their membership today.
The opening verse of Isaiah 58 finds God’s command for His prophet to declare unto the people their rebellion and sinfulness. As the words of Isaiah rang out one finds that God is stating that He recognizes the hypocrisy of those who identify themselves as His children. The people’s conduct revealed that they were a nation that went about pleasing themselves and exploiting others. The people even questioned God as to why He had not rewarded them for their fasting and humility. However, God declared that their hypocrisy was readily apparent to Him for He saw their quarrels, strivings against others, and “sham” acts of piety.
Isaiah goes on to declare how God defines righteous conduct. He states that God is looking for His people to forsake the injustices occurring in the land and to undo the oppression that holds many in bondage. It is also noted that sharing food with the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, clothing the naked, and not neglecting the needs of one’s relatives are the pious acts that God desires to see.
Finally, Isaiah states that there are blessings and rewards for those who undertake those actions that God views as righteous. Such blessings and rewards include 1) healing, 2) the glory of God as one’s protection, 3) God’s response to one’s cry for assistance, 4) God’s guidance, 5) the provision of one’s needs during times of impoverishment, and 6) restoration of that which has been damaged or destroyed. In essence, God is declaring to His people that if they would forsake their self-pleasing ways and honor Him, they would find joy and triumphant living. Success is achieved by doing what God says.
There is a large number of churches with many members in our country today. But the question begs, is the church and its members visibly exhibiting righteous conduct to the society-at-large? It is simply not pleasing unto God for members of the church to attempt a portrayal of righteousness, while one’s true interest is a focus on self. Feigned pious conduct that is practiced in the face of ongoing injustices and neglect of those in need do not portray the church called forth by God. The light of the church should shine brightly in the practice of justice, the granting of freedom to the oppressed, the care of those in need, and reverence for God and His ways. The membership in the "true" church needs to stand up and be visible.