Fall 2014: Ye Shall Afflict Your Souls
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Summary: Have you ever brought poor people into your own house? Have you covered naked people with your own clothes?

On October 22nd, 1844, our Lord Jesus Christ entered into the most holy place in heaven to cleanse the sanctuary (Dan 8:14). This year marked the 140th anniversary of that event. In the past 140 years, millions of people were destroyed by natural disasters, wars, and diseases; millions of women and children were molested and killed – some even by their own family members; millions of Christians were tortured and annihilated just because of their pure faith… Have you ever wondered “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Have you ever thought “How can you stand this, O God, holy and just?” Have you ever prayed to our heavenly Mediator “Why have You not come?” Yes, why has He not come?

Jesus has been trying to cleanse the heavenly sanctuary since 1844. Like other parts of the salvation plan, this phase cannot be done by Him alone – His people need to do their part. Ever since our High Priest entered into the most holy place, our history entered into the antitypical Day of Atonement. On the literal Day of Atonement, God bade His people to “afflict their souls” – SIX times! (Lev 16:29, 31; 23:27, 29, 32; Num 29:7). Of course God is not forgetful, but we are. God bade his people to afflict their souls so the sanctuary could be cleansed. Apparently we haven’t done it right because God has been “holding the four winds of the earth” (Rev 7:1). What exactly is “afflicting souls” then?

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God…” (Ezra 8:21). “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul?” (Isaiah 58:5). Afflicting soul has to do with fasting. For sure God is not expecting His people to abstain from food ever since 1844, is He? Then what does fasting mean?

The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that “The true fasting which should be recommended to all, is abstinence from every stimulating kind of food, and the proper use of wholesome, simple food, which God has provided in abundance” {CD 90.1}. Physical fasting definitely helps, but there is more to it – “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 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?” (Isaiah 58:6,7).

I asked two couples who have been Seventh Day Adventists for over 40 years the following question “How many SDA’s do you personally know have brought homeless people to live in their own home?” One couple answered “very few,” and the other “only one.” What is your answer to that question? Have you yourself ever given your food – not extra food – your food to the hungry? Have you ever brought poor people into your own house? Have you covered naked people with your own clothes?

“The fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah contains present truth for the people of God. Here we see how medical missionary work and the gospel ministry are to be bound together as the message is given to the world. Upon those who keep the Sabbath of the Lord is laid the responsibility of doing a work of mercy and benevolence. Medical missionary work is to be bound up with the message, and sealed with the seal of God." –Manuscript 22, 1901. {Ev 516.4}

The whole of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah is to be regarded as a message for this time, to be given over and over again. –Special Testimonies, Series B 02:5. {WM 29.1}

What saith the Lord in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah? The whole chapter is of the highest importance. –Testimonies for the Church 8:159j. {WM 29.2}

My brethren, you need to study more carefully the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. This chapter marks out the only course that we can follow with safety… {4BC 1149.2}

(Quoting Isaiah 58:5-11) This is the special work now before us. All our praying and abstinence from food will avail nothing unless we resolutely lay hold of this work. Sacred obligations are resting upon us. Our duty is plainly stated. {2T 33.2, 34.1}

Is not the counsel from God clear? If it is, let us examine the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah closely.

In the beginning of Isaiah 58, God bade Isaiah to warn His people – the house of Jaob. Here comes a description of God’s people: “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” (Isaiah 58:2). Do you read your Bible daily? Do you have morning and evening devotions? Do you go to church every Sabbath? Even prayer meetings in the middle of the week? And yet, you prayer can’t even hit the ceiling, your relationship with God seems weaker than that with your remotest friend, your soul is often not at peace. “Many wonder why their prayers are so lifeless, their faith so feeble and wavering, their Christian experience so dark and uncertain. Have we not fasted, they say, and “walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” In the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah Christ has shown how this condition of things may be changed.” {6T 266.1}

“Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. 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? …Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? (Isaiah 58:3-5).

To teachers in our schools, to ministers and physicians and nurses, I would say, if you will, you can succeed in revealing the truths of the third angel’s message. This will not be done merely by preaching the word, but by the deeds of loving ministry. It is the spirit of the word that we so greatly need. Those who have the spirit of Christ will work His works. I have been instructed to refer our people to the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. Read this chapter carefully and understand the kind of ministry that will bring life into the churches. {MM 263.1,2}

The leprosy of selfishness has taken hold of the church. The Lord Jesus Christ will heal the church of this terrible disease if she will be healed. The remedy is found in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. –The Review and Herald, December 10, 1901. {CS 85.3}

We have read the fasting God has chosen in Isaiah 58 verses 6 and 7. In His mercy God reveals His will more clearly and specifically though His prophet: “The fast which God can accept is described. It is to deal thy bread to the hungry and to bring the poor which are cast out to thy house. Wait not for them to come to you. The labor rests not on them to hunt you up and entreat of you a home for themselves. You are to search for them and bring them to your house. You are to draw out your soul after them.” {2T 34.2} “Read Isaiah 58, ye who claim to be children of the light. Especially do you read it again and again who have felt so reluctant to inconvenience yourselves by favoring the needy. You whose hearts and houses are too narrow to make a home for the homeless, read it; you who can see orphans and widows oppressed by the iron hand of poverty and bowed down by hard hearted worldlings, read it. Are you afraid that an influence will be introduced into your family that will cost you more labor, read it… The prophet is addressing Sabbathkeepers, not sinners, not unbelievers, but those who make great pretensions to godliness. It is not the abundance of your meetings that God accepts. It is not the numerous prayers, but the rightdoing, doing the right thing and at the right time. It is to be less self-caring and more benevolent.” {2T 35.2}

Plain enough? Let us check out the amazing promises that would follow.

“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning…” (Isaiah 58:8). Have you ever paid attention to the morning light? Soft, tender, arm, bright but not blinding. “Then shall we know if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning” (Hosea 6:3).

“And thine health shall spring forth speedily” (Isaiah 58:8). “The fifty-eighth chapter for Isaiah is a prescription for maladies of the body and of the soul. If we desire health and the true joy of life we must put into practice the rules given in this scripture.” {MH 25.4|

“and thy righteousness shall go before the…” (Isaiah 58:8). We know that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). So who shall go before us if we do the work of Isaiah 58? “This is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:6).

“the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward” (Isaiah 58:8). God’s glory, which is His character (Exodus 33:18 to 34:7) will have to be perfectly reflected by His people before Jesus’ second coming (Rev 18:1), and Isaiah 58 tells us how this is going to happen…

“Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am (Isaiah 58:9). Who says “Here I am”? Remember Abraham (Gen 22:1), Samuel (1 Sam 3:4, 6, 8), and Isaiah 6:8? God is telling us that if we do the work of Isaiah 58, He will answer us like these faithful answered God!

“Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: 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” (Isaiah 58:10, 11). Can we find any other chapter that has so many, so wonderful promises?

The work described in Isaiah 58 is also the work that will restore the Sabbath. For we read: “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). God’s memorial, the seventh-day Sabbath, the sign of His work in creating the world, has been displaced by the man of sin. God’s people have a special work to do in repairing the breach that has been made in His law; and the nearer we approach the end, the more urgent this work becomes. All who love God will show that they bear His sign by keeping His commandments. They are the restorers of paths to dwell in. The Lord says: “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My hold day; and call the Sabbath a delight, […]then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth” (Isaiah 58:13, 14). “Thus genuine medical missionary work is bound up inseparably with the keeping of God’s commandments, of which the Sabbath is especially mentioned, since it is the great memorial of God’s creative work {6T 265.2}.”

Dear brothers and sisters, do you want to put a stop to all the pain and suffering in this world? Do you want to prevent millions more souls going to destruction? Do you want to soon see our loving savior face to face? If your answer is yes, let us accept the present truth, fill the prescription, and do God’s appointed work, which is plainly stated in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. Let us afflict our souls so our High Priest could finish cleansing the heavenly sanctuary and take us home!

About the Author

Yi Zhang is a relatively new Seventh-day Adventist. After working with Amazing Discoveries for 2 years, his wife went to China and while there she visited a leper colony. She felt an immense call from Christ to serve there, and came home excited and tried to persuade Yi to go with her. Initially he was completely disinterested. She persisted, so Yi began to pray for guidance. He eventually agreed to go just to see what it was like in the colony. After a life-changing trip to China, Yi knew they were truly being called by God to serve with the lepers. After thoughtful prayer, Yi and his wife committed their family to spending the next few years working in China.

There are approximately 500 leper colonies in China, and these senior citizens are kept in quarantine from others. Family members and friends have abandoned these people to live on their own. Lepers may look different and have lost their facial features, hands, and feet to leprosy. Most people are frightened and repulsed by their appearance, so they have been cast out. Through the years of solitude and isolation, their hearts have grown cold to outsiders. They have become so accustomed to rejection that they are extremely wary of visitors.

Yi and his wife, Dorothy, have joined a missions team that serves some of these ostracized individuals. Yi and Dorothy have a young son, Enoch, and they are not afraid to give up a comfortable North American life for a life of challenges and discovery. One thing is certain: The Lord is watching over Yi and his family and we will continue to pray for them.

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