Redressing the Balance
Isaiah 58: 9b-14 (MSG)
9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so!
This passionate tirade from Isaiah echoes the more succinct exhortation in Micah 6: “what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”And Isaiah adds the wonderful promise, that if you do, then “you will be a like a well watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” It won’t become some heavy burden to bear, but instead what is on offer is life, ‘more life than we can ever dream of.’
By nature, we find ourselves drawn to one of Micah’s three declarations, and this is the beginning of our journey towards health and wholeness. It is not a coincidence that the Sabbath God longs for is not only where all are fed, but one where the balance between work and rest is also maintained. Doing and being are two sides of the same coin and what we often forget or bypass is, that if we don’t ‘lie fallow’ from time to time, we become a dry and barren land.
Richard Foster begins his book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ with the words: “The world does not need a greater number of intelligent people or gifted people, it needs more deep people.” He is not denying the gifts we have, but rather is saying that we should become more reflective, or prayerful so that we don’t rush headlong into the day, or life without being sure that it is the life God plans for us. For many, the weeks pass with no differences in rhythm, and exhaustion can lead to burn out, to breakdown, or brittleness. The phrase ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ make us smile but if we are honest it also rings true.
“I am giving Thee love with my whole devotion
I am giving Thee kneeling with my whole desire,
I am giving Thee love with my whole heart.
I am giving Thee my soul, O God of all Gods.” (From Carmena Gaedelica)