I live with teenagers. (I pause here for you to lift a prayer of supplication on my behalf.) For those of you who have not recently had close encounters with this subset of our species, let me remind you that developmentally, teenagers can be a bit self-centered. They leave dirty dishes stacked in random places around the house and then ask for money for new shoes. They roll their eyes and respond with sass, but then want gas for the car.
Because we tend to read scripture through the lens of our current
circumstances and stations in life, I imagine God’s tone in this text
as similar to that of a parent speaking to an unappreciative teen,
saying, “I love you, but I’m not very happy with you right now.”
The problem is that God’s people are acting like spiritual adoles-
cents. They can’t see past themselves. They are doing what the letter
of the law requires—they are fasting—but they are making it all about
themselves. God recognizes that their fasting is all for show because
in other areas they exhibit a complete disregard for others.
Isaiah reminds them that God expects more than just empty
ritual. God expects them to confront injustice, provide food, clothes,
and shelter for those in need, and to stop speaking maliciously of
There is nothing inherently wrong with our rituals. But this text
reminds us to examine the sincerity of them. Do they spur us on
towards being repairers and restorers full of light, healing, and joy?
Or are we behaving like spiritual adolescents, caught up in ourselves
and neglecting the work of the better way that God expects of us?
God calls us to turn our eyes outward as well as inward. Find one or two small ways that you can repair and restore God’s world today. Do them. And then find two more tomorrow.
Forgive us, Lord, when we are self-centered. Make our worship pleasing to you. Show us opportunities to care for whatever brokenness we encounter today. Amen.