Touch Beyond Measure
Christopher B. Harbin
Isaiah 58:9b-14; Luke 13:10-17; Hebrews 12:18-29
We like to measure success by tangibles on which that we can lay our fingers. We look at position, authority, attendance, income, percentages, grades, scores, and other statistics. The standards we see in the marketplace are the same ones we bring to church. By such standards, we can only be successful if we have the latest and greatest in comparison with others. Our attendance, offerings, and facilities must be extraordinary by standard measures. Even so, these are measures of the church as an institution, not measures of faith. What measure for success would Christ Jesus have us use?
While we measure wealth and success by those things we possess or retain, Isaiah spoke in opposite terms. Wealth and success lie in giving away that which is under our control. It is using those things in our possession to touch others with a measure of God's grace. It is watering gardens in Malawi and aiding the needy in our midst as well. It is showering others with God's love and expressing support for those whose lives are bowed down with care. Do we live to satisfy the needs of others, or our own?
We tend to think of the Old Testament as displaying a lesser ethic than the New Testament or even our own social structure. These words in Isaiah, however, display no lesser ethic or value for all of life. They are the words of a prophet who understood the value Yahweh placed on all people. Yahweh expected Israel to utilize wealth not for personal gain alone, but for the welfare of the larger community. Indeed, failure to respect the needs of the poor was one of the prophet's complaints against Israel, drawing the nation toward exile in judgment.
Why, then, does Isaiah insist on mentioning the Sabbath in the same breath? Of the Ten Commandments, it is the only one he mentions in this context. Indeed, he mentions Sabbath, not as a burden, but as an offering of delight in ...
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