Isaiah 58:9-10 9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
You will call on God for help, Isaiah says. And God will be there, saying, “Here I am.”
And God will tell us how to be happy. “Here I am: if you do this, things will go well for you.” If we do what?
If you remove the yoke: if we make some one’s life easier.
If you remove the pointing of the finger: if we stop blaming and pointing out the faults of others.
If you offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted: if we help those in need.
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday...Not only that, but when we care for others, blessings upon blessings abound for us, God says, and we will be healing the whole world:
Isaiah 58:9-12 11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
All those blessings God promises, if we are just kind to others. If we...remember that we’re all just doing our best, we’re all just trying to get by in this world.
And that looking beyond ourselves, includes another piece.
Isaiah 58:13-14 13If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
There’s more—God promises more. “If you do this, your life will get better,” God promises. Do what?
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
if you refrain from pursuing your own interests on God’s holy day,
if you call the sabbath a delight
if you call the holy day of the Lord honorable,
if on that day you do not go your own ways,
if on that day you do not serve your own interests,
if on that day you do not on pursue your own affairs,
then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth.
Looking away from the mirror is what makes us happy. Looking at our neighbors, not in judgement, but to see how we can help. And this other piece: looking toward God. As I’ve said before, the sabbath is a practice for that. We practice putting God on our calendar and making worship a priority. We don’t trample that sacred time we’ve set aside for giving thanks and praise to a Divine Mystery that is greater than us. We set aside time when we are not pursuing our own interests—our own work and our own entertainment. We don’t do it because it is a duty, an obligation, but we recognize it as a delight, a privilege to take time to pray and hear God’s word together and give thanks. We call that time honorable, as a way of honoring the Divine.
Then we can delight in God, and God’s beautiful creation. Then we can ride the heights of the earth and be fed with the heritage of those who have gone before us on this holy path. That is our ancient practice. That is God’s promise to us.