Ever tried to kick a bad habit? Prophet Isaiah encourages us to give up our evil ways and learn to do good. This seems to be replacement therapy: replacing bad habits with good habits. But how do I learn to do good? Is the goal to be a do-gooder, a well-intentioned person supporting philanthropic or humanitarian causes or reforms? That would be one way to seek justice, help the oppressed, defend the cause of orphans, and to fight for the rights of widows, which is Isaiah’s to do list of things to do. Here is my problem I have with to do lists: they quickly become a chore, and becoming a chore the cause it serves may no longer be a matter of my heart but a matter of my duty. Then it is just a matter of time, and I will get burnt out and probably return to my old habits which I was trying to break. Does this sound like a familiar vicious cycle to you?
I believe Isaiah addresses people stuck in such vicious cycles in the first chapter of his book. In his message for rebellious Judah He writes: “This is what the Lord says: ‘The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care – but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.’”
The innate reason for rebellion is rule-breaking. We rebel because we do not like certain rules or any rules. And by being in this state of rebellion we might miss the most obvious truth: that we are being cared for. Let’s take the ox for instance. An ox does not need to learn rules to know its owner. It just comes with the territory: The owner works with the ox and feeds the ox; so owner and ox spend plenty of time together. As a result they are very familiar with each other. The ox will spot its owner from a mile away. The same can be said of the donkey – or put in the name of your pet. What can you learn from your pet? It doesn’t need no stinking rules to know you! It knows you because it is hanging out with you on a daily basis. Here is where rebellion goes wrong: it is based on the assumption that rules pave the way to heaven and hates it. What if this assumption is incorrect? What if there are no rules paving the way to heaven? That means there are really no rules to break. Rebelling against rules that don’t even exist is like chasing mere shadows. This kind of rebellion is truly a lost cause!
Learning from our pets, we start hanging out with our owner, the Lord, and we get familiar. Granted, the Lord is not a pet owner and we are not His pets, but we get the picture! While hanging out with Him we become fine-tuned and notice what He wants to get across to us. Things happen in our lives, and all of a sudden we have a light bulb moment. We meet a person we haven’t seen in years, and we feel the old relationship is rekindled instantly. This is the kind of connectedness Isaiah is talking about and you do not have to be a human being to experience it. Again, if donkeys, cows or your pets could speak, they would tell you what it means to be connected. Let’s take some time out today to hang out with good friends while hanging out with God! That’s what “fellowship” is all about. Doing good will just be a side effect, not a rule to be spelled out and learned. It will come from the heart and in the process will help you leave your old and undesirable habits behind. As you walk out the door today, walk with God!