And [they that shall be] of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in, Isaiah 58,12.
In July 2017, I sat in my second hometown, Arequipa, in my second homeland, Peru, and read Isaiah chapter 58, and found this very burdensome in relation to my church. I closed the Bible and was going to write more about the Sabbath, but I did not get peace. No matter what I started to do, it stopped as fast as I started, and my mind was drawn to Isaiah 58 time after time. It was as if someone had told me to write down my thoughts. I did, and after I came home to Oslo, I took this to my small groups in the church. In 2020, I expressed my concern about this topic to both the trans-European division and to our General Conference. This did not get less burdensome until I decided to share this with everyone who reads my blog.
For me, Isaiah chapter 58 is a powerful but strange chapter. I think it is easy to get stuck in the text and attach to yourself being part of the solution God gives through his admonitions. Much of the chapter is about how God wants us to be and how we really are. The question that comes inexorably is whether we belong to those mentioned in verse 12 or not.
I will divide the text into five parts:
1) God’s expectations – which are given us through the Prophet, verses 1, 6 and 7.
2) God’s answer to his people if they do what He expects, verses 8, 9, 10, and 11.
3) God’s people’s answers to His expectations, and what they really do, verses 2, 3, 4, and 5.
4) God’s blessing and reward to the faithful who do His will, verses 13 and 14.
5) The Prophecy of the chapter, verse 12.
I have to start by saying that I know it is dangerous to come up with criticism, but the criticism I want to come up with can be read directly from the text in chapter 58. This is a general criticism, and there are many that are not affected by this criticism.
Moreover, it must be said that the text of Isaiah chapter 58 was first and foremost given to Isaiah for the purpose of reprove and to wake up Israel. But the text is also valid in our time, and for God’s people in the end times. We should be careful to place ourselves in the place of Isaiah, but if the text of chapter 58 is to be of any relevance today, someone in plural must accept this role. These someone need to wake up the sleeping congregation, and who these someone are, only God knows. Just do not misunderstand me, do not think that I say of myself to be the Isaiah of our time, I certainly am not. I am just pointing on a big problem.
The first thing we have to discuss is who My people are. If the last three verses of the chapter, and especially verse 12, refer to the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA), as a church in our day, there is every reason to worry about the text of verses 2-5. At the same time, there is little doubt that SDA is God’s people in the end times and thereby classifies to the term My People. Indeed, we believe that the SDA have been set into the world to restore what has been destroyed by the false doctrines that have entered the Church, and in that sense we fulfil the verses 12-14.
I believe that the term My people primarily refers to Gods remnant, which is the Church of God in the end-time, but the term can also be used in the wider sense, and then on all those who are God’s people who still are in Babylon. We who are Adventists have received a special blessing from God, but if we abuse this blessing by not proclaiming God’s last warning message to His people who are in Babylon, who we find mentioned in Revelation 18,4 which reads: … Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues, … the blessing can quickly become a curse for us. It is precisely the message of Revelation 18,4 that shows us that God has many of His people, whom He calls My people in all other churches. And these are the ones we shall call coming out of Babylon.
If we have clarified that there are two different groups that God calls My people, we can begin to look at what the text of the various verses and parts says, and what they mean to us as Adventists. God is the God of mercy, and He wants us to reflect His mercy and His will. God gave mankind his law and his commandments, as Paul in Romans 7,12 describes like this … the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. The law and the commandments are given to us to secure a rich and blessed life in harmony with how God the Creator wants us to live our lives, both in relation to God and to our fellow human beings.
We, the Adventists believe that … they that shall be of thee in verse 12 and shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in refers to us as a church. But I think we should be cautious about cutting out a little verse to adapt this to ourselves and be complacent with this. We must look at the whole chapter and what it says in its entirety, and that is why I have divided the chapter into five parts.
1) God’s expectations:
Verse 1: Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Verse 6: [Is] not this the fast that I have chosen? to loosen the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Verse 7: [Is it] not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
This section tells us how we should treat our fellow human beings, and can be divided into three subgroups, a) we are to preach, b) we are to set the captives free and c) we are to meet our neighbour’s needs.
a) To preach: The first thing we must proclaim is the people’s transgressions so that they can
have the opportunity to turn away from their sin and seek the Lord before it is too late, because it is a judgment waiting for humanity. The question is whether we lift up our voice like a trumpet. Do we point out the people’s sins in such a way that it resonates throughout the world? Do we shout at full neck or do we hold back of fear of not hurting or offend our neighbour, or come into conflict with what has been agreed in the ecumenical co-operation*? Verse 1 tells with all clarity that our mission is, if we really are God’s people, to preach the sins of the people in a courageous manner, not wrapping up the message so that it becomes distorted or so woolly that it has no effect, but it must at the same time done with care and love. I want to associate this point with the message of the first angel: And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters, Revelation 14,6-7.
‘The angel’ who flies in the midst of heaven is none other than God’s end-time church, and they will preach the eternal gospel. The eternal gospel consists of pointing to the relationship between law and sin, that is, showing the validity of the law and showing us what sin is so that each one can have the opportunity to turn to God the Creator, worship Him, and give Him glory. But it is urgent, because … the hour of His judgment is come.
Why is it so important to tell about this? The answer is given in the next verse, the second angel’s message, where the angel says that Babylon is fallen. The fallen denominations are figuratively in Babylon. Babylon is, as we know, a jumble of false doctrine, human traditions, and ancient pagan rituals, which become the confusion it is, and the angel calls it the wine of the wrath of Babylon´s fornication. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, Revelation 14,8.
After this, the third angel follows and tells that those who continue to remain in Babylon will perish at the second coming of Jesus. In contrast to those who choose the way of the wicked, despite the warnings that is given, the angel shows to the future of the saints in verses 12 and 13. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name, Revelation 14,9-11.
Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, blessed [are] the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them, Revelation 14,12-13.
* One of the decisions from the ecumenical co-operation states that it should no longer be preached so that a church ‘steals’ members from another church.
b) To set the captives free: Through our preaching, we shall set free those who are slaves
under the yoke of sin and who are prisoners in Babylon. This can only be done if we take our mission seriously and not put the gospel under a chair. In Luke 4,18-19, Jesus quotes what Isaiah says in chapter 61,1-2: The spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.
As Christians, we should do the same as Jesus did. So we must then …
preach good tidings unto the meek
bind up the broken-hearted
proclaim liberty to the captives
open the prison to [them that are] bound
proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God
to comfort all that mourn;
If we take our task seriously, then we will do this with all our heart. We will preach the gospel in such a way that it comforts those who have a broken heart, we will loosen the one who is trapped by the slavery of sin, we will loosen the one who is bound by Satan, and then we proclame an ´acceptable year´ by leading others to Christ who, with His grace, will save them and cleanse them from all sin, and then those whom we reach will be comforted for their grief.
c) To meet our neighbour’s needs: The needs of our neighbour are in this context the spiritual needs. It is the spiritual bread we are to share; it is the hunger for this bread we are going to satisfy, and we do this by leading them to our ´house´, which is the same as our church. We shall also dress the naked, giving him the opportunity to receive Jesus as his Saviour and to partake of the righteousness of the Lord. We shall do this to all people. This reflects what Jesus says in Matthew 25,35-36: For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
When we satisfy our neighbour´s needs then …
we give the hungry food …
we give the thirsty water …
we take in the stranger …
we dress the naked …
we seek out the sick …
we visit the prisoner.
We will make sure to satisfy our neighbour’s spiritual hunger and cover his spiritual nakedness by preaching the gospel of Christ so that he may be spiritually healed and released from his spiritual prison, and come home to his Father in heaven, and in that way get all their needs met by leading our neighbours to the Saviour Jesus Christ.
But big question is whether we, as individual members and as church, do this wholeheartedly. Do we go out and preach the eternal gospel, a gospel that contains a sharp warning of the consequences of not repenting and seeking God, and not least that there is a judgment, and that the judgment is going on now? Are we preaching this in a caring and loving manner so that those who still are in Babylon hear what we say and follow the call come out of her?
2) God’s answer to his people doing what he expects:
Verse 8: Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Verse 9: Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I [am]. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; Verse 10: And [if] thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness [be] as the noon day: Verse 11: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
If meet the requirements God requires of us as God’s remnant in the end times, then the Lord will bless us in every possible way. Just see what glorious promises the God of promises gives us if we respond positively to his call:
If we do our duties, then …
thy light break forth as the morning
thine health shall spring forth speedily
thy righteousness shall go before thee
the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward
Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer
If we do our duties, then …
thou shalt cry, and he shall say, ´Here I [am]´
… and if you open your soul to the hungry and satisfy the humbled soul, then shall …
thy light rise in obscurity
thy darkness [be] as the noon day
the Lord shall guide thee continually
the Lord satisfy thy soul in drought
the Lord make fat thy bones
thou be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not
What promises! Who would not want to share in such blessings? But even though our salvation is free, it costs us everything in a voluntary sacrifice to fulfil God’s expectations of us. We have to get out of our comfort zone, get up from our reclining position in the easy chair and go out where we can meet other people and tell them about the wonderful treasure that lies waiting for them if they open their hearts to God and stretch out their hands and receive His wonderful gift.
It is not until we do this that we respond positively to God by fulfilling all of His commandments gathered in the great commandment, which consists of a vertical axis showing our relationship to God the Creator, and a horizontal axis showing our relationship to ours fellow human beings. If we put the vertical and horizontal axis together, we get the cross. We find the great commandment in Matthew 22,37-39: … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind … // … Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. It is then, and only then, that we fulfil God’s expectations of us as His special people in the end times, and then God will fulfil all His wonderful promises He has given, both over us and those we reach with our message.
Then follows the big question. Are we doing this, or are we just busy saying big and nice words about preaching the end-time message and telling about Jesus’ imminent return? I am terribly afraid the truth is discouraging. Most are Adventists in the name and only in church time, otherwise during the week they have enough with themselves, not unlike the world we are separated from through our message. Let us see how we respond to our call. Are we any better than those who went before us, and whom we criticize?
3) How God’s people respond to God’s expectations:
Verse 2: Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Verse 3: Wherefore have we fasted, [say they], and thou seest not? [wherefore] have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Verse 4: Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as [ye do this] day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Verse 5: Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? [is it] to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes [under him]? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
The way we respond on a general basis, is anything but merry reading. Our common answer is the opposite of the answer God wants us to give. The hope, however, lies in the fact that as a church we seek God day by day and want to know God’s ways. But life and teaching do not follow each other, nothing of what we do is pleasant to God. As a church, we have become like the Pharisees and the scribes in the time of Jesus. High confession, but no love for the word.
Let us take verse by verse and see how the situation is for our church.
Verse 2: Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
In Matthew 15, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and the scribes and pronounces a crushing judgment upon them in verse 7 and 8 saying: [Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.
Now there are probably many who ask the question of how this criticism that Jesus directed especially to the Pharisees and the scribes can apply to us. This applies to us in the highest degree, because we do not prove to be any better than the leaders of the Jews were in the days of Jesus. Yes, we go to church and praise God, but so did those who were set to administer the word of God in Jesus’ day. The question should rather be directed to what happens when we are done in church and go home. What do we do then?
- then we pass by the one who is both physically and spiritually hungry and thirsty,
- we go past those who are strangers to us,
- we do not dress the naked one,
- we don´t seek someone who is sick or in prison.
Then these eternal questions follow again … …
- Are we then a light shining in the dark?
- Does our righteousness then go before us and is the glory of the Lord then our rereward?
- Are we then like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose water never fails?
- Do we then bring the happy message out to those who live in the dark?
- Are we then the salt of the earth?
Nevertheless we claim to have fasted and afflicted our soul, and we claim to do what verse 3 addresses.
Verse 3: Wherefore have we fasted, [say they], and thou seest not? [wherefore] have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
It is probably true that we have fasted and tormented our souls. But how deep does this go? What kind of fasting are we doing? Is it a fast according to tradition, or is it according to God’s precepts?
If we fast by refraining from eating, our fasting is basically a matter of habit. We can also call our offerings to our church fast, and it is in these two ways that we torment our souls. God has given us in abundance of his rich gifts, and we are stingy when it comes to the point that we must give something back to God of what is basically His.
However, it is a type of fasting that God appreciates, and it is the one that is after the heart. Jesus uses the term fasting on some occasions, but God wants obedience from the people rather than a fast that has become a formality. It is obviously a type of fasting that is necessary, but which at the same time is not a matter of habit or tradition. Fasting as a tradition is not something God wants us to do, and it is this type of fasting that is described in Zechariah chapter 7 verse 3 … … Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years? … … where the question is whether they will fast as they had done for many years in the fifth month, which is the month when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 586 BC. The Jews had made this fast a tradition. In Matthew 17,21, Jesus says that both prayer and fasting are necessary to cast out evil spirits, but this is not a fast that is a habit. The question is whether we fast to draw closer to God in our prayers and in life in general, or whether we fast to show our spiritual siblings how pious we are.
Verses 4 and 5: Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as [ye do this] day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? [is it] to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes [under him]? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
According to God, it is not good enough with the kind of fast we conduct. God says we fast in strife and debate. I will dare the assertion that this fits well with our church today. We are in process of being split up just because of conflict and strife. The GC decided, after a democratic process, not to ordain female pastors – not yet. Those parts of our church that want this have protested and said that if they are not allowed to ordain women, they will neither ordain male pastors. This is a conflict that is about to escalate because the GC has introduced a rigid control system to ensure that everyone follows the decisions made by the highest body of the Church. This measure did neither fall into good soil among those who have put themselves in opposition to the majority. This is so wrong so wrong. It is only one who rejoices over such a battle, and that is Satan. He is splitting up the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and it must please him greatly as there is no other denomination he hates stronger than ours.
4) God’s blessing and reward to the faithful:
Verse 13: If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words: Verse 14: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].
Most of us are good at not doing our work on the Sabbath. But is that enough according to Isaiah 58? Is it the same as not doing for our own pleasure? And even though most of us do not do our own pleasure on the Sabbath, there is still something missing, if we believe what Isaiah says. Although we call ‘the Sabbath a great joy, the holy day of the Lord glorious, and if you will honour it, so you do not follow your own ways, and do not do what is in your own good pleasure, and do not speak your own words‘ it is implicit in the text that this in itself is not enough. Instead of doing what is our own pleasure, we should go out and do Gods pleasure.
We probably do not follow our own paths, but do we follow the path God wants us to walk? What does it mean for us to do according to God’s good pleasure on the Sabbath? Do we do Gods pleasure when we are not working on this day? Do we do according to God’s pleasure when we do not go to the store and shop, but instead go to church on the Sabbath? Is this to de according to God’s pleasure on the Sabbath? What about all those who need a helping hand? What about the hungry homeless sitting on the corner of the store? Do we past this one because it is the Sabbath, or do we buy some food and drink for that person? It can all be summed up in one question: Do we really go out and do for God’s pleasure by spreading God’s blessing to the others we meet on our way to and from church – to our neighbour – to the homeless – to the beggar? Do we do this on our way back home, or are we most concerned with getting home as soon as possible?
If we take the time to set aside a few minutes to do God’s pleasure, then God will abundantly reward us for our efforts. A few minutes from or to does not matter much to us, we all get full time, 24 hours, every day, right? So then it is entirely up to how we dispose of the time. If we do according to God’s pleasure, then the Sabbath will be a great joy and we will have time to do much more than we realize. But the Sabbath will not be a great joy just for us who keep the Sabbath of God. It will be an even greater blessing for those who need …
a comforting word …
something to eat and to drink …
a jacket in the cold wind.
This is what I believe God means by calling the Sabbath a joy. But not just the Sabbath. We can and should do this every single day, but on the Sabbath we will have extra time as we do not have to think about our daily chores. Then we can use this time to do as Gods pleasure. Then we will always have time to share a few comforting or encouraging words and buy a bite to eat for a hungry homeless. We should at least have time for that, by organizing ourselves and how we spend the time we have, and not doing our pleasure. This should be our first thought from the time we get up in the morning until we go to bed. Unfortunately, it seems that both we as individuals and as a church are miles away from fulfilling God’s expectations, but there is hope for us as well.
5) What God’s faithful will do according to the prophecy:
Verse 12: And [they that shall be] of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
They that shall be of thee … says the prophecy in the passage, and it does not mean anything else than those who come from the end-time church of God. These are the ones who will preach the message of the three angels and spread divine light and joy together with God’s blessings to people in need. We shall build the old waste places and we shall tell of the infinite and boundless love of God which has the power to set the oppressed free from the slavery that binds him. We shall restore the understanding of the word of God, the law, and the commandments. We will proclaim the true sabbath, the true Sabbath. But to do it properly, we must live the gospel not just preach it. We must show God’s love in our lives through the way we interact with the others. We must live verses 13 and 14 in this passage in such a way that our neighbor sees Gods love in us, in a way that it is an internal flame in our lives that illuminates the lives of those who need our help.
Alone we will not be able to do it, but the closer we live to Christ, and the closer we are to the Source of life, the better we will be able to build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. But this does not happen just like that. Everything we want to achieve we must ground on our knees we must kneel down to God in prayer and ask for strength and power to do what He wants us to do, His pleasure, and ask Him to equip us on all possible ways so that we may prosper in the Lord. But it also requires that we, as a denomination, put aside the things that separate us from the unity that is necessary for success. We must return to the unity of the apostolic church had when they awaited the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem: These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication … // … And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 1,14; 2,1).
Everyone, not anyone or almost everyone, but all – absolutely our entire church must be with one accord, and then we cannot argue about trifles as we do today. Everyone must be in constant prayer to receive the Holy Spirit, for without the Holy Spirit it is little we can do for our neighbor. Then we will be cold, and egoism will prevail. The prophecy says that we shall be called those who build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. But in order for God to be able to use us to do that, we must renounce our own, our ego, and not do according to our own pleasure, but do what is Gods pleasure to do, and that is to … …
- preach good tidings unto the meek
- bind up the broken-hearted
- proclaim liberty to the captives
- open the prison to [them that are] bound
- proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God
- to comfort all that mourn;