While Dr. Cecil Sherman was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Asheville, North Carolina, he told the following story about himself: One day he was approached by a group of ladies in the church who wanted to start a clothing closet for the needy in Asheville. They informed him that they had found some space in the basement of the church and that they would collect, organize, and staff the project. They were only asking him for permission and his support. He wished them well and said that he would be praying for them. After several months, the ladies came to him with a problem. They needed someone to help staff the closet on a Friday evening and they were asking him to help. All of a sudden his outlook changed. It was one thing to pray for a project and offer words of support, it was quite another thing to actually put your hands to the project. It put you in close proximity with folks who were dirty and who smelled unwashed. He noted that performing the task had far greater value than thinking about the task or praying for the project or even giving your money.
The passage in Isaiah presents a similar truth. The Lord had become weary of the Israelites’ token sacrifices, offerings, and convocations. If one prayed hard enough, gave enough offering, and attended enough services, they believed they had done their part. Isaiah reminded the readers that the Lord required more from them. They had to leave their “comfort zones” and become active participants in the affairs of the greater community. Do justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan and care for the widow, do these things and the Lord will be pleased with your sacrifice. During the season of Lent, we are to examine ourselves, listen quietly for the voice of instruction, and then prepare ourselves for the task that is presented to us. It is not only the right thing to do; it is the godly thing to do.
Prayer: Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I will be a living sanctuary for You. Amen