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by | Jan 31, 2023 | Repentance

“‘Why have we fasted, and You see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and You take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, /Here I am.'” (Isaiah 58:3-9a ESV)

Ouch! This is not a comfortable passage to read. Imagine what it would be like for us if, on the way to Holy Communion, we heard God’s voice saying to us, “Actually, there’s an issue I’ve been meaning to bring up with you …”

What would it be? God calls out several bad things that His people are doing. Some of them are oppressing their employees. Some are getting violent with other people. Some act religious but the only thing they are really thinking about is their own pleasure. Do we still have problems like this today? Of course we do!

So it helps to consider just what God might say if He put His finger on a single concrete issue in our lives. For example, have I developed a habit of gossiping about someone I don’t like at work? Maybe I’m losing my patience a lot more with my family. Maybe I’m lying to someone to make my life easier. Or God forbid, maybe I have a really major problem going on—violence or adultery or stealing or addiction.

No matter what it is, big or small, there’s only one thing to do. The prophet Joel tells us: “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster” (Joel 2:12-13).

God will not refuse us or turn us away. He calls us back because He loves us—because He wants us back as His beloved children, forgiven and made clean by Jesus our Savior. Whatever stands in the way He will remove. It’s not our job to clean ourselves up for Him first. God will do that with His own power. Only return. Only call out to Jesus for help. He will surely answer.

Prayer: Dear Lord, bring me back to You in whatever way You see I need it. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on January 31, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved

Reflection Questions:
1. Why is it so hard to admit when we have sinned?
2. How do you know Jesus will welcome you with open arms?
3. Why do Christians need to be reminded of God’s mercy just as much as non-Christians?


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