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A Big Deal

January 24 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 9-11; Matthew 15:21-39

A Big Deal

This is the kind of fasting I want: . . . Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.
Isaiah 58:6
READ ISAIAH 58:6–9

A family member needed help with his December rent. To his family, the request felt like a burden—especially with their own unexpected expenses at year’s end. But they dug into their savings, grateful for God’s provision—and blessed by their relative’s gratitude.

He handed them a thank-you card filled with grateful words. “There you go again . . . doing nice things, probably passing it off as no big deal.”

Helping others is a big deal, however, to God. The prophet Isaiah made that point to the nation of Israel. The people were fasting but still quarreling and fighting. Instead, said Isaiah: “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. . . . Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (Isaiah 58:6-7 NLT).

Such a sacrifice, said Isaiah, shares God’s light but also heals our own brokenness (v. 8). As the family helped their relative, they looked hard at their own finances, seeing ways they could manage better all year. This was God’s promise for being generous: “Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind” (v. 8 NLT). In the end, giving to their kin blessed them more. And God? He already gave His all—with love.
By Patricia Raybon

REFLECT & PRAY
God gave His all. Let’s follow as He leads.
Lord, light the path of generosity, helping us to give like You.

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INSIGHT
The Israelites at the time of Isaiah were living hypocritical lives. Isaiah warned them that their pretentious religiosity didn’t please God. “They act so pious! They come to the Temple every day . . . pretending they want to be near me. . . . You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance. . . . Do you really think this will please the LORD?” (58:2, 5 NLT). Isaiah contrasts ritualistic religiosity with true spirituality. Being religious is not the same as being right; fervency in activities (fasting) is not spirituality; false piety is hypocrisy. Isaiah called God’s people to please Him by doing what’s right: Act justly and treat people fairly (vv. 3, 6, 9), stop fighting and quarreling (v. 4), help those burdened or imprisoned by life’s circumstances and poverty (v. 6), and be generous to those in need (vv. 7, 10). K. T. Sim

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