By David Snell,
“You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12
We like to look in the Bible for scriptures that speak to the work we do, building and restoring houses. This verse from Isaiah seems to be a call to the people to repair the walls and restore the city. Actually it’s a promise to the people of what they can achieve if they will do the Lord’s will. It comes at the end of a chapter where the people are being chastised for their false fasting. Apparently they felt that God wasn’t giving them enough credit for their fasting and general righteousness. The response is quick and clear. “I haven’t recognized your fasting,” He says, “because it’s false”.
Isaiah goes on to tell the people what true fasting means. A sincere fast, he tells them, involves casting off wickedness, letting the oppressed go free, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. Righteous fasting includes righteous behavior.
Then come the promises. If the people will behave their “light will rise like the dawn out of darkness”; the Lord will guide them and strengthen them, their ancient ruins will be rebuilt, and they will “raise up the foundations of many generations; and be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in”.
What’s interesting about this passage is that Isaiah, some 700 years before the birth of Christ, was teaching the basic elements of the gospel—love one another, take care of those in need, feed the hungry and house the homeless. The great Jewish theologian Hillel, who died about the time Jesus was a young man, wrote that the essence of the Torah was to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. All the rest, he wrote, was commentary.
One of the most profound elements of the Theology of the Hammer, a theology we here at The Fuller Center for Housing take very seriously, is the opportunity that a building project provides for people of all ages, races and religions to come together for a common good. We put aside the little things that tend to separate us and join together to do as Jesus (and Isaiah) would have us do—share of our blessings to help those who need a hand. And that, Saint James would say, is pure religion.