Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:4-7 KJ2000 – emphasis added)
In 1979 I was all about ministry “out there.” I was a “prophet” on the make and the kingdom of heaven was all about me and “my ministry.” During this time many elderly saints came to me with the same message, “Go home! Tend to your wife and children. They need you,” Then one day God got my attention with the above passage. These words of Isaiah are a rebuke to religious people who think that they can get God’s favor by fasting, all the while hiding their sins under a cloak of religiousness and “ministry.” God showed me that by my thinking that “ministry” was out there– always something to be done outside my home to be seen of men– that I was “hiding myself from my own flesh,” my own flesh and blood. My household was out of order and I had no business trying to “minister to” the saints of God until I took care of the first things first.
There seems to be two extremes that Christians fall into. One is that of thinking all service to the Kingdom of God is done outside our homes and that our kids and spouses will just have to be satisfied with the crumbs that fall from our table, thus neglecting our first God-given responsibility (see 1 Tim. 3:4-5). And the second extreme is becoming so taken up with Bible study and introspection (spiritual navel staring) that we never get out and mingle with people that really need help and a touch from the Lord through us. In a way, this also is “hiding from our own flesh”… those who are members of the body of Christ and people in general who need a personal touch from Jesus in us. Selfishness takes on many forms.
In the first chapter of John we read…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men… That was the true Light, that lights every man that comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14 KJ2000- emphasis added)
Here we read about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who dwelt with God and was used of God to make all creation. Christ could have continued to live at the right hand of the Father, but God had a plan to send His Son into a world that had gone bad from trying to live their lives without Him. Though Jesus thought it not robbery to be equal with God, He came down to earth and took on the form of an infant, born in a stable to a poverty stricken couple. Not only that, but He took on the form of a servant to all mankind, not a high and mighty king or even a temple high priest. Jesus did not cloister Himself away from humanity, but dwelt among them as a lowly servant. He was not a holy hermit out of touch with the sufferings and rejections of fallen man, but rather, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Not only that, but the Word of God was among us full of grace and truth! In Hebrews we read,
For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 KJ2000)
Jesus was full of grace and truth while He abode among mankind here on earth. How did that grace manifest itself? He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, cast out demons, and forgave sinners. Today He continues to be our fountain of grace at the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intersession for us. Jesus was not only Living Truth before all who saw Him here on earth, but He is still God’s word of truth. He speaks through His Spirit and continues to lead us into all truth just has He promised. The Word became flesh in human form and dwelt among us 2000 years ago and He still lives among us in Spirit form today if we will receive Him. He continues to serve those who are in need and He, the Word of God, continues to speak and lead us into all truth if we have ears to hear.
In Hebrews chapter two we read,
For verily he [Christ] took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the nature of Abraham. Therefore in all things he had to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:16-18 KJ2000)
As we find ourselves becoming over-comers as we abide in His grace and help, we should also be available as instruments so that His grace can flow through us to others who are in need. We who are Christ’s are members of His body here on earth. He wants to reach out through us to those who need His touch. This takes sensitivity to the prompting of His Spirit in us. On the one hand, He may be telling us to “go home” and not hide ourselves from the needs of our own flesh and blood, our spouses and our children. And on the other hand He might be telling us to mingle with the saints of God and be there for our neighbors and fellow workers on the job. We need to be aware of His divine opportunities that He gives us in our daily lives.
There is no such thing as a “holy hermit.” The love of God has always compelled Him to be in touch with His creation. The love of the Father in Christ has always compelled Him to be there for everyone in need. Yes, Jesus would go aside into the wilderness for a few days, but it was only so that He could be with His Father, pray, and hear His will as to what He wanted Him do. Jesus was above all a Servant and we as members of His body are called to be servants as well. He told the disciples, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and lay down His life for many.” Our lives IN Christ are not all about us, but rather about Him and His will for His creation.
Jesus was such a Servant that finally He offered up His own body and blood that we might be saved saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me… This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20 RSVA). Like the woman with the alabaster box of precious ointment, He was broken and poured out for us and the fragrance of His sacrifice is meant to fill His whole household with sacrificial love… YOU “do this in remembrance of Me!” His love compels us to be broken and poured out for the needs of others, whether they are members of our own families or those who He puts us in touch with as we go out into all the world with His Good News.
“Love it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way [does not seek its own]; it is not irritable or resentful [does not resent being pushed in on by the needs of others]; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away… the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:5-13 RSVA – emphasis added)
Father, put your heart of love within us and let us be poured out just as your Son was poured out for others as He lived and finally died on that cross. Let your resurrection Life dwell in us and let that Life be the light of men. Amen.