No electronics in the bedrooms. No shoes on in the house. Bedtime is 8:30.
I love rules. Perhaps I’m a control freak, but rules make me feel safe. Yes, I certainly have the better end of the bargain because I’m the one who gets to make up the rules, but for the most part everybody seems to agree they are here for our benefit.
The rules in our house serve two main purposes:
They keep us healthy in mind and body. (No electronics in the bedrooms.)
They help us to respect each other. (No shoes on in the house means less mess for me to wrangle.)
Bedtime at 8:30 is especially great because it accomplishes both goals! When my kids go to bed early, they are getting the sleep their bodies need and they get enough rest to avoid being crabby apples the next day.
But problems come when we honor the rules and forget the motives. Then they become like links in a chain, tying us up and holding us down.
This week’s memory verse comes from Isaiah 58. In this chapter, God is pointing out the ways in which people are warping the rules.
Instead of being kind to each other, the Israelites were treating their friends/neighbors/family anyway they pleased. Then they turned around and offered a sacrifice to God or began a fasting ritual so everyone could see how good and religious and obedient they were.
God is basically saying through Isaiah, I see you. You’re not fooling anyone by hiding behind the rules. Your motives are wrong.
Then God goes on to say this, “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” Isaiah 58:10 (NLT)
I feel like “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble” could mean a lot of different things. Maybe we can ponder what that means and then come back and share our thoughts.
Here’s my initial take on it.
Feed the hungry. I think that means those who are hungry in the physical realm and those who are spiritually hungry. Invite them to your table. Ask them how they feel about God. Share with them how you feel. If you have questions about how it all works, that’s okay. Maybe your vulnerability will allow them to unload theirs.
Help those in trouble. Yes, people have temporary troubles that we sometimes have the resources to fix. So let’s do that. But there’s a deeper issue here. Everyone who is not following Jesus is in trouble. Period. Let’s tell them where we get our strength, not in a preachy “You’re wrong because you’re not following my rules” sort of way, but in our natural daily interactions. If Jesus is truly walking right alongside us, then why would we leave him out of the conversation and pretend he isn’t there? That would be rude.
Okay, now hold onto your hats. Here’s where it gets awesome!
After we feed the hungry and help those in trouble, God promises a beautiful reaction. “Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”
Instead of living in a world that feels dark and oppressive and filled with fear and anxiety, we get to live in the world we actually want to live in. Surrounded by light.
The light we’re searching for in this grey world isn’t found somewhere out there. It’s found inside each one of us. That light is our kindness. Perhaps you smile at someone and share your light. Then they write a note to hurting friend and share the light. Then that person treats a stranger to dinner and shares the light.
Feeding the hungry and helping those in trouble aren’t rules made for us by a control-freak father. They are the way we light up the world around us.
I hope committing these words to memory this week will help us remember why we choose to follow the rules.