“If you never come back, if you don’t do anything else, remember these words and live your life by them…” our host dad commissioned us as he began his send-off proceeding by reading Isaiah 58.
“Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?
‘Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
‘Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
‘Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
‘And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday…’”
These words resound in my head several years later, I am transported back to a small East Asian apartment living room, surrounded by an incredible group of people who had become like family in such a short amount of time. People whom I had learned from and shared so much. None of us knew what the future would hold, or how this mission trip would affect the course of our lives, but that night was a defining moment for me.
I did not return to East Asia as I thought I might — God had other plans for me. But the words from Isaiah 58 have greatly impacted how I have lived out my life mission since that short, but life-changing trip. I love to recite the eloquence of this passage. I love to envision the imagery of chains breaking and light breaking forth like the dawn.
And what is more, the passage is laden with promises from the Lord. As you spend yourself on behalf of those around you, He will fill you up. He will not only give you what you need, but He will make you flourish, as He writes in verses 11-12;
- The LORD will continually guide you
- [He will] satisfy your desire in scorched places
- [He will] give strength to your bones
- You will be like a watered garden…a spring of water whose waters do not fail
- You will rebuild the ancient ruins
- You will raise up the age-old foundations
- You will be called repairer of the breach
- [You will be called] the restorer of the streets in which to dwell
I long to live up to the name, “repairer of the breach” (verse 12). Unfortunately, too often I fall so very, very short. During this season of Lent, I feel the Lord tugging at my heart to meditate on the fast that He chooses and to evaluate what I am doing in my life to let the oppressed go free (verse 6), and give myself to the hungry (verse 10).
No, God has not asked me to go back to East Asia. He has, however, surrounded me with friends who are hungry in more ways than one. He has blessed me with the resources to give generously to those who are afflicted. So, wherever I go, whatever I am doing, I can live out this true fast. I will spend the next 40 days to reflect and pray about what God is calling me to do in these next weeks, months, year. What is He asking me to do in my city, in this country and in the world?
I want to encourage you to spend some time reflecting on this passage as well. What can you do to feed the hungry, to let the oppressed go free?
It may be serving your next-door neighbor or even people thousands of miles away in a foreign land who do not even speak the same language as you. It may be mentoring a teenager in your church, or it may be anonymously mailing a grocery store gift card to your co-worker who you know is struggling financially right now. It may be praying for a new country every day or it may be giving generously to a great, Christ-centered organization. The possibilities are endless!
Please feel free to comment on this post and share your ideas! You have 40-days to mediate, pray, reflect, and make a plan!
See You In The Round!