When I plopped down at the table to shovel in my spaghetti-o’s, I noticed Tony’s small pocket sized Bible to my left. It was a New King James version which is not usually one that I gravitate towards, but I figured I had some time so I turned to Isaiah 58. Do you ever love reading some of your favorite scriptures in other translations? I like to do that to keep things fresh! This passage in Isaiah speaks of God’s heart for His people’s actions. They were all, “God, don’t you see us? We have incredible fasting skills…all for you, Lord!”. But God is not really impressed. By the way, that is so me. In my heart I’m always hoping that God will notice my incredible moment of faith OR my helping someone else in a time that was inconvenient for me. I guess I’m trying to impress God by doing things for Him, trying to gain more of His love/acceptance. But, that’s so silly. God responds in Is. 58 with something like, “This isn’t what I want from you guys at all! Yes, I see you fasting, but I also see you using people for your own selfish gain!” (remember, all this so far is my own paraphrase:) God wants His people to show compassion to those in need, to bring a helping hand to the down and out. When we do this, we have a promise from Him that the light He’s placed within us will shine in the darkness. And that even our gloom will become like the brightest part of the day!
As I was reading, I came to verse 10, and it was like this phrase jumped off the page. It grabbed my attention, and I had to ask, “God, what do you mean ‘extend my soul to the hungry?’”
The Hebrew word for soul in verse 10 is nepes, which denotes life, personhood, entire person. Nepes is also used in the famous Deuteronomy 6:5 “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
I have often heard soul to be comprised of our mind, will, and emotions. I also love what the Amplified version of verse 10 says, “and if you pour out that which you sustain your own life for the hungry”. Whoah. God wants me to be really invested here. I mean getting in pretty deep. Why isn’t it good enough to just give someone a hand-out?
I run our food pantry at the church, and it is so easy to see the responsibility of running that operation as an item that needs to be checked off the to-do list for the day. It’s especially tempting to see the food pantry in this way when I’m not getting the results I want out of it. But, people are people–they are difficult, messy, and scared. In the deepest places of their souls, people are not looking for a “drive-through Jesus experience” We want to be fully accepted, with our mistakes and all. I didn’t have a “wam, bam thank you ma’am” salvation experience, why should I expect that out of the people I serve? If I’m giving of my emotions, my time, my will, my mind, and my heart, I won’t look at people as a means to make myself feel good for my saintly actions. I’ll see them as Jesus sees me–having many physical needs/wants, but one spiritual craving which can only be satisfied through God.
Last week we had 3 young people come through the pantry, and as I was interviewing them I felt that “soul-extending” experience taking place. I literally burst into tears telling them how much God loves them, longing for them to know that Jesus truly does make people whole. The greatest help I’m giving our clients is not the actual food, but an open invitation to fall in love with Jesus: soul-Satisfier & Spirit-Savior! I’m offering the very One whom God sustains my own life with.
(by the way, I definitely don’t believe that the ‘hungry’ are only people who are poor. Proverbs 31:20 says “she opens her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her filled hands to the needy [whether in body, mind, or spirit]”