Repositioning for Growth 2: -Our Exposition
Two weeks ago we began looking at three passages in the Bible which I believe God wants to inspire us with in moving this Church to a better position to grow.
We have seen the blessing of god to us as a people, but there remains in us a conviction that it is NOT all it could be or should be
We rejoice in our freedom to worship, the care expressed among us, the healing that God brings to us,
But everyone here knows that these are but glimpses of what God can do and I believe wants to do among us.
So two weeks ago we looked together at Psalm 133- and from it drew some very important conclusions. Conclusions that might not occur on a first reading.
It is the connection between verse 1 & verse 3 that had me so excited.
That the extent of our dwelling in Unity with one another, has a direct connection to the blessing that God will poor upon us.
Such a unity clearly has everything to do with relationship and little if anything to do with duty.
This look at how God will bless in our inward disposition- How we are within the Church, is complemented today in a word that looks at how we are in relation to the world around us. The expression of Church to the world. Our Ex position
What we will see is a connection again with God’s favour His blessing and yes as He told us last week His hand upon us.
1. Is this the kind of fasting?
Read Isaiah 58 1-13
Such a passage is hard for us to hear and mainly because of the first five verses, but if the cap fits we must be prepared to wear it.
For the Church my own conviction that the heart of God’s word can be found in verses 6-12
But we must recognise that there are always dangers of taking a passage out of context and particularly in a case where a promised blessing comes out of a call to changed behaviour, to that end we will dwell for a moment in verses 1-5 and spend a little time later putting verse 13 into the frame.
So in verses 1-5 we have God saying
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen?
It is a challenge- God is saying
For heaven’s sake don’t do all this religious stuff it makes me sick and has absolutely no meaning.
I am not in the slightest bit interested in hearing you cry out to me with special festivals and days
I cannot bear it when you go through all that pretence of faith, whilst you go on behaving so badly towards those in need, whilst you ignore the desperate situations staring you in the face every day.
Ok – now the only way to respond to such a charge is to examine ourselves with integrity, and yes, if there is cause to deal with it.
So as we have explored with Gospel series, that I have so rudely interrupted, we need to be prepared to repent. But whilst repentance is a genuine turning around and going in the opposite direction, it should also not be a prolonged affair.
Even in this passage God is rejecting the sackcloth and ashes approach to repentance. He has a Kingdom to build and desires from us mature action not self pitying reaction. Let any apology be meaningful and then move positively to remedy the issue. Such a positive response will always be the best validation of any repentance. God puts it this way
3. Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen?
And then goes on to describe the expression of faith that represents a life of ‘fasting’
Verses 6-12 are a glorious summary of the picture painted of the Bride of Christ in the New testament , both by Jesus and in the letters.
In these verses we see reflected the Sermon on the Mount, we see Paul and James showing that our faith is demonstrated by our actions- and more importantly by our relationships with those in the world around us.
Let’s look at the beautiful way in which God uses the prophet to emphasise the points he wants to make, he almost repeats himself like so many of the psalms, but not quite there are subtle and important principles to draw from each verse.
Verses 6-7 If you do it this way then
Verse 8-9a This will happen
Then He says it again
Verse 9a-10a If you also do it this way then
Verse 10b-11 Yes this will happen.
Now in applying this word to 2010, we need to see that God is calling us to continue with all we are doing, and to do so sacrificially and from a right motivation.
- Providing practically for the poor overseas and through our work in this area
- Feeding the Hungry
- Housing the homeless
- Clothing the naked
- Getting involved to challenge injustice and unrighteousness.
In this lets not judge the oppressors but rather free the oppressed.
Alcohol, Drugs, Abuse, Depression,
Turning back to Isaiah 58 Do you see how God speaks of His response as a sovereign act . You will call and I will answer. It has the ring of Psalm 133 v3 about it
The Lord will command the blessing.
In all of these verses I hope you have seen the echo of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. In Small groups perhaps you could look at Matthew chapter 5 -6 and see the connections together.
4. The Godly Identity Parade.
Lets turn now to the verse this has all been pointing to.
Isa 58:12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
It is here that we have an identity parade for the people of God.
You can imagine the angels sitting someone down and asking them.
So how would you describe these Christians then –These people of God?
They would not say well they had brown hair and big smiles and carried a bible.
They would say
- They were the builders
- They put the foundations right
- They repaired the broken walls
- They restored the streets with dwellings
What we pray is that those angels will leave the interview room with that description and they will walk up to you and say ‘Gotcha’
I hope you are all still with me because I would like to unpack verse 12 a little more. So far in verse 6-11 the call is to acts of mercy that connect with the blessing of God in the same way that we saw that our dwelling in Unity did in Psalm 133.
In verse 12 we see that both in their acts of mercy and in the voice of righteousness they bring into society, the people of god are given this amazing description.
On Thursday 28 January Question Time came from Basildon and one of the questions was
Is our society broken?
The panel took 5 minutes of debate and disagreement to come to the ridiculous conclusion that in general NO society was not really broken, well maybe a bit.
But by far the most powerful voice in this came from a man in the audience who cut across all that had been said challenging the broken values of society. He reminded everyone that it was not true to say that Society had once been good.
He also stressed the need for values to look beyond the rights of the individual and towards the responsibilities we have in building better community.
“Its more than just me, Its more than just us”
In Isaiah 58 The city is not only broken but so are its foundations.
But look how the ruins are described they are not new they are not even old- They are Ancient. Ancient ruins the foundations of our society were broken not by post war baby boomers or the failed experiments of facism or communism,
The foundations of our society were broken in a garden when a man & woman disobeyed God.
It is so important to remind ourselves that the fabric of our society will not stand on foundations that are broken- We cannot rebuild the ancient ruins on broken foundations.
At the end of Jesus’ keynote speech on earth to all the crowds gathered around him on the shores of Galilee, He said this.
Mt 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Mt 7:25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Peter too in his first letter echoed Christ’s words with a reference back to Isaiah 28
Isa 28:16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;”
Jesus is the only foundation on which our world will ever know security, we as god’s people are called to demonstrate that truth.
And what of these broken walls.
In some versions of Isaiah 58 it describes us as ‘Repairer of the Breach’
There’s a hole in the wall- Not a little dutch boy hole with our finger in it
NO it’s a breach in the wall that the enemy has come through In Shakespear’s
Henry V , Henry cries Once more into the breach dear friends.
That is what the enemy cries to the demons around him.
We have seen the fear that has laid waste to our own society and nations across the world that leads men to literally and metaphorically wall themselves in isolate themselves.
In this town we can see the fear that leads to isolation and loneliness we can watch and wring our hands or reach out those