Isaiah 58:10 NIV … if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
This one is clearly conditional: the little word “if” is a big, big word.
The three conditions are:
If you spend yourself
In behalf of the hungry
And satisfy the needs of the oppressed
Let’s explore the Hebrew a bit.
The AV renders the first one, “. . . if thou draw out thy soul . . . ”
The Hebrew for “draw out” is ambiguous. The word and its root are used fewer than a dozen times with a variety of meanings attributed to them. What sparkles though is the conjugation. It is Hiphil imperfect form which means (loosely) that it is an incomplete action – an ongoing activity, a lifestyle, not just one stellar event.
The word translated soul is utterly unambiguous – nephesh.
Let’s try this paraphrase. I have a custom, or habit, or lifestyle of emotionally engaging with others in a way that is costly to me emotionally. This is not an occasional act of do-goodism. It is not simply the overflow of my occasional emotionally good days. It is a real life engagement of one person at a time, sufficiently intense and unguarded that the neediness of the other person creates a drain on my emotional reserves.
Good thing the Biblical authors were not as wordy as I am or we would need to move the Bible with a forklift!
Looking at the hunger piece next, in the context of the whole passage God was talking about people who had no food for their bellies. No ambiguity there.
It is not the primary word for hunger however. This is more representative of those having a famine. A sustained hunger – deprivation for months or years due to drought or war. It is used more for a large group of people who are victims of the decisions of others, than it is for an individual who is down on his luck.
Does it apply to me, literally? Nope. Oh, I have given $5 to a homeless person from time to time, but I am not a World Vision supporter, or much involved in mercy ministries at any level. Never have been.
But if we stretched the text to apply to people who have been spiritually famished for a very long time, then there might be something of me here. Is that taking liberties with the text, or is it a legitimate extension of a principle?
Yours to decide.
Finally, satisfied is a strong word. It means to be satiated, like someone pushing back from the table when the hostess offers seconds on dessert. They have all they can hold of the good food present. Again, no mere tokenism here for a photo op. No concert raising funds that never make it to Africa.
And it is the afflicted soul that is thus satiated. No question that both preconditions have to do with the soul.
This one is a little harder to claim. On the one hand, I have been known to serve up a 32 ounce Porterhouse steak for the spirit once in awhile. Some people have not only gotten satiated, they have gotten a belly ache chawing on some of my dinner portions.
On the other hand, satiating a soul is a pretty formidable task. I have certainly had my soul “drawn out” quite a few times to the point of MY exhaustion and depletion, only to have the other person make clear that my best was not good enough and they wanted mo’.
Quite frustrating for me on many occasions. What does it take to satiate a starving soul? Apparently more than I can bring to the table most of the time.
We will leave this one hanging. Not a slam dunk description of me, but still, it is possibly worth putting into play.
So on the causal side of the equation, each one of you will have to decide before God whether I have, in my relationship with you, fulfilled one or more of the above three causes for the effect that follows. Is there a check you can cash here?
I don’t need to know, but if you are an eye witness to any of the above in my life, feel free to explore the topic with the King.
Now the effect is fascinating to me.
Your light will rise
This is such a compelling picture to a son who has a passion for unpacking my treasures. This is not God shining His light on the darkness outside me like He did for the Hebrews in the Red Sea so they could find their way.
No, this is God impacting the light He placed within me. My spirit is light. He pre-loaded my spirit with a bunch of software, apps and data when He designed me, and most of it has not been accessed yet.
So as a Father to a son, under the above conditions, He would “unlock” some apps that are already there in my spirit that have not been used yet.
Could be exciting.
In the darkness
I was totally caught off guard when I looked up this word. How complex can darkness be? If I have read the word study books correctly, this particular conjugation of the root word is used almost exclusively for darkness resulting from a curse.
So this is a stunningly redemptive picture. I surely have large areas of my life that are still cursed with darkness which has rendered them inoperable, because I KNOW both I and my ancestors have been busy little sinners. Who knows how many things I have not known needed to be confessed of their junk, and who knows how many things of my own misbehavior I have forgotten to confess just because I was so over-active in generating sin!
Now think through this issue. Do you know how frustrating it is for a Bible student to be able to find answers for others, while his own questions go unanswered? There are many keys to my life that I have looked for many times over the years and not found. I assumed there were areas of vitality that simply would never be mine because of . . . who knows what.
And now, THIS promise! That under certain circumstances, God will cause MY light to break out, to shine, to dominate in areas inside me, that matter to ME . . . not just more good stuff for you!
Now THAT rocks.
Surprised again. This is a different root word than the darkness above and is most often translated as calamity or distress. In other words, the first half of the verse dealt with the inner darkness. My sin and my forefathers’ sin has conspired to create brain rot at a staggering level inside me.
But the darkness in this part of the verse is the outside consequences of the aforementioned sin. My outside world has gotten twisted, broken, complicated and daunting, creating very measurable pain.
Again, a redemptive promise of immense significance. Have you ever been through an inner healing process or a deliverance where you were magnificently transformed but you left the office to face the same twisted, broken world you were living in when you walked into the office with your wounds and critters an hour earlier?
Can you imagine what it would be like to have a prayer minister who could pray your outside world into alignment at the same time he fixes your inner world!
What a picture – having transformation inside and outside at the same time.
Will become like the noonday.
Again, an unexpected picture. In the poetic usages of the word in other verses, it refers to extreme justice and security that removes the gloom of insecurity.
The verse is a matched pair. The first phrase portrays the external world so broken it yanks you around emotionally. The second half describes a world so stunningly repaired that you feel untouchable by the vicissitudes of life.
Wow. I don’t even daydream about security in this wild and wacky world!
So let’s take it from the top.
-It is a conditional promise. IF!
-There are three potential causes.
-Four potential effects.
If you try to cash some rubber checks, meaning your life does not really reflect the causes, your appeal to the Court will go nowhere.
BUT, if your life DOES reflect those causes, and you don’t cash the checks, it presumably also goes nowhere.
So let’s test the water. If you don’t know me then you should opt out of this light prayer. For this one, you need to bring firsthand, real time, personal history with me to the Court.
But, IF (always the killer word) you have personal examples of my fulfilling one or more of the three causes, I would love to have you ask the Righteous Judge of the Universe to release to me one or more of the four effects of light.
This could be intense!
Copyright January 2014 by Arthur Burk
From home at first, then finished at the Hub