How to Please God – Isaiah 58

Is it hard to please God?  What does it take?  Is it even possible for us to do so, given that we each have so many weaknesses, failures, and imperfections? 

The Bible tells us that it is not too hard to do.  God even tells us how to do it.

First, in Christ, we are given the gift of righteousness – that certainly pleases God.  The Lord imparts His goodness and purity into us through our faith in the death and resurrection power of Jesus Christ.  That brings a pleasing sacrificial aroma before the Father.

Going a step further, what thoughts, attitudes and actions on our part will bring Him pleasure? 

To clear up some possible misconceptions, there are some things that people do that will not bring pleasure to God: 

He is not looking for us to put ourselves down or belittle ourselves.  Of course, He does want us to humbly remember that He is above us, and that we are not above the other people around us.  But it does not bring the Lord delight when we look down on ourselves or regard ourselves as having a low worth.  He paid the highest price possible for our redemption – Christ’s death on the cross. He loves us deeply and treasures us as having a great value.

How about the self-torture or self-punishment we sometimes see others performing as a penance for their misdeeds?  No, Christ took all the penalty for our sins, and would not gain any pleasure or joy from that.  It suggests that His sacrifice on the cross was not enough.

What if we deny ourselves the enjoyments of life or healthy pleasures, would that type of thing be pleasing to Him?  No, He created the earth for us to enjoy in His presence, and for us not to do so would be disrespectful to the Creator.  We are to receive and enjoy all the good gifts He gives with prayer and thanksgiving.

What about fasting – denying ourselves food, drink, or other pleasures or conveniences for a brief season to focus more on Him and His goodness?  There may be a time or a place to fast as the Spirit leads us, but through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord has given us an exact prescription for a type of fast that will definitely bring Him pleasure.

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’  Isaiah 58:6-9a NKJV

Fasting is sometimes done to show God that we are serious about Him, and here through Isaiah He lays out a different type of fast that we can do in His Name.

  • Loose the bonds of wickedness that are holding people down and keeping them in a yoke of oppression.

That is a tall order!  There are so many types of bondage that people suffer from: drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling addictions, sex addiction, poverty, injustice, prejudice, lack of clean water, lack of education, abuse, violence, depression, loneliness, anxiety, human trafficking, thoughts of suicide – the list goes on and on.

How can we possibly do anything about any of it?  Especially when so much of it has a demonic spiritual dimension and has gone far beyond simple human will power to overcome.  We need the power of God to break these chains and yokes of despair.

What can I do about it?  First and foremost, pray.  Be a listening ear.  Call on God to provide power, direction, and hope in each situation.  Share our recovery stories.  Give a ride.  Lend a hand.  Show support and love.  Pray some more.

God asks us to do this.  It pleases Him when we do it.  And it releases His divine, creative power to reach into someone’s life to turn it around from the disastrous direction that they are headed.

  • Share our food with the poor and hungry.  Help people to get proper shelter and clothing.  Be generous and loving with our own families, as well.

When Jesus encountered a naked homeless man raging and terrorizing the countryside and living among the tombs, the first thing He did was to drive the demons out of him.  Jesus began with spiritual healing.  Soon afterwards, the man was found clothed and in his right mind, sitting at Jesus’ feet.

When the spiritual problem is solved, the rest will fall into place.  A hopeless alcoholic or drug addict first needs to be freed of their spiritual bondage before the rest of their mental and physical problems can be solved.  When we call upon God to help us to address these issues, He is pleased.  When we do our part in faith, we trust that He will do His part, and we can leave the ultimate results up to Him.

When we take such an approach, Isaiah tells us the things that God will do for us.  He will light up our life like a morning sunrise.  He will speed up our healing.  He will guide us on the road before us and defend us from enemies behind.  He will hear our prayers and answer us directly, telling us, “I am here!”

This is a very good deal He is offering us.  Lord, help us to do it, and to live out the kind of fast that brings You pleasure.  May it help save a soul or two or two hundred from destruction along the way, as well.

Reflection

What can I do to help live out God’s prescribed fast in my life?

God, teach us to do the things for others that please You.  What more could we want than to bring joy to the Creator of the universe and to bless those in desperate need that You have placed in our path?  Show us what to do and give us the power to do it.  We totally lean upon You and Your strength to help us succeed. May You be glorified.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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