Friday, March 31, 2006

Isaiah 1 - The widows and the fatherless


This is my first post in a series of posts I will be making as I study through the Book of Isaiah.  I’ve only studied a few chapters of Isaiah closely, and not one of them has disappointed me, so I am looking forward to digging through the entire book.   I’d like to start talking about this chapter by describing the overall layout and then talking about some of the particulars that impressed me.


            v. 1-4 – preamble and address.  This revelation is for wayward Isreal.

            v. 5-9 – A gently toned call to repent.  Isreal is a mess, but there is hope.

            v. 10-15 – Your religious observances aren’t helping because of your wickedness

            v. 16-20 – Everything will be better if you take care of the poor, oppressed, widows, and fatherless. 

            v. 21-24 – Signs of Isreal’s corruption, condemnation of the leadership, and a warning.

            v. 25-27 – Zion will be created through a purging process.

            v. 28-31 – The purging will be like burning tinder – wholesale and devastating.  The sin of Isreal is idolatry.


The first thing that impressed me about this passage is the gentle pleading near the beginning.  God is asking, “Why should ye be stricken any more?”  God honestly doesn’t want Isreal to have to suffer through this condition that he likens to open wounds, bruises, and putrifying sores.   God really does love us and wants us to be happy, hence the sharp rebukes and revelation on how to do better.


I try to pay close attention to messages to the church like this one.  This revelation is very clearly for Israel and not for the world, because the Lord tells Israel that the sacrifies, ceremonies, temple rites, prayers, and even solemn assemblies are “iniquity” unto him because their hands “are full of blood”, and Israel is full of “murderers”.  Now this is pretty stark language.  I imagine that it is figurative in that most of the Israelites weren’t actually committing physical murders, but the Lord is trying to get our attention and see things from his perspective.  The point I think I most need to stand up and pay attention to is that because of the ceremonies, prayers, and rites, the Israelites probably thought they were righteous.  It must have come as a shock to them to be called murderers!   I am a member of the Lord’s church and I pray and take part in ceremonies and rites on a regular basis.  What does the Lord think about my devotions? 


The key for understanding this, I believe is in 16-17.  The Lord says that Israel needs to become clean, and stop doing evil things.  And what does he tell them to do?


17 Learn to do well; seek judgment (justice), relieve the oppressed, judge (give justice to) the fatherless, plead for the widow.


Likening the scriptures to ourselves, I want to point out two things that happened recently in my congregation.  Two sisters were discussed by the ward leaders, one is an elderly widow, and the other is a single sister with children at home under her care.   I think one can consider both women widows and their children to be “fatherless”.   


The sister with children was up to her neck in debt, did not know how to get out of it, and was being harassed by Social Security to pay back money that they had given her.  She was desperate for help.  An ordinary member who has been looking after her (her home teacher) rolled up his sleeves, went through her finances with her, put her on a budget, and went with her to a government hearing to talk to officials about her Social Security.  He literally “plead” for this widow and not only absolved her of the social security debt, but reclaimed enough money for her to pay off her current debts and increased the amount of support she was receiving.  It was a remarkable. 


The other sister, was living in the “worst living conditions” the bishop in the ward has ever seen.   This poor sweet widow was in and out of the hospital and was living among animal feces, garbage, drug addicts, and children who are siphoning off of her support.  If ever a widow was in distress, this one was.  Again, the home teachers came in (along with help from the high priest’s quorum), secured her bank account, moved her out of the apartment, and all the while helped her with the hospital trips and visited her there. 


I think Isaiah is prodding us to look for situations like this and ask the hard questions of ourselves:  What can I do?  There is always something.  We may be weak, but in all of this, we must remember that the Lord is there to love us and support us in our good works, granting us his grace to fulfill His purposes.


18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:





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