God’s message through Isaiah re-stated (see Isa 58:1-6, 8-14):
“Shout this at the top of your lungs, and don’t hold back: Heads up, people! You’re living in rebellion against Me. You think you know who I am, but you keep proving that you don’t.
“To all appearances, you’re eager to know My ways, but that’s all they are — appearances. You keep asking Me to do the right thing — the right thing according to you, you mean. You want to keep Me close only because You think I’m an insurance policy you pay for in small weekly installments. When you ‘humble’ yourselves before Me, you think of it as tit for tat: “We did our bit; now You do Yours.” When you don’t get what you expected, you accuse me of letting you down. Do you even begin to comprehend the irony?
“Oh, you go through the motions all right. You’ve got the rituals down pat. It’s the righteousness that’s missing, the desire to please Me instead of yourselves. You sacrifice the highest good for your own self-interest. You can’t keep doing that and expect any contribution from Me. No, you don’t need any help at all in the self-service department!
“Going to church once a week and bowing your heads doesn’t make you virtuous. Do you think that’s what living for Me is about — limited exposure to superficial rituals? Well, I’m going to set you straight. Real humility, real worship, is to live for Me 24/7. It’s showing that because of Me, you’re rejecting injustice, and doing what you can to help oppressed people — people who need the basics, people who need your love and forgiveness. That’s the worship I value. That’s the worship that is of real value to you.
“Start doing these things, and it will dawn on you that this involves a whole new way of life, and your sores of self-interest will start to heal. I already know you inside-out; it’s when you start to know me as I really am that things get turned around. Then, we can have a real relationship, and I’ll be right there with you, always ready to talk.
“I’m going to say it again, because those self-serving sores are only dormant and can flare up at any moment: Don’t take advantage of people, don’t blame others for your mistakes, don’t spread vicious lies. Try spending yourself along with your cash to help vulnerable people. Then the darkness of “What’s in it for me?” will dissipate and you’ll find yourself walking in full Son-light, and I’ll make sure you see your way clearly.
“Honor Me on the Sabbath and keep it holy. You’ll find that when your focus is on pleasing Me instead of yourself, you’ll discover what joy really is, and where it comes from.”
Centuries later, Paul discovered the truth of what God said through Isaiah. He had been oppressing Christians, accusing and persecuting them, thinking he was serving God. It was only when he was blinded by the Sonlight that he began to see that:
. . . whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Phil 3:7-8)
God keeps telling us we can’t have it both ways. He says it bluntly because we seem to have such a hard time taking it in: Discipleship is not a part-time position, and it surely is not a self-service occupation. You can’t dabble at it; you’re either following Him or you’re on the wrong road.
Both are service roads. The question is, serving whom?