Isaiah 58

Isaiah 58

True and False Fasting

58   “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
    lift up your voice like a trumpet;
  declare to my people their transgression,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
  Yet they seek me daily
    and delight to know my ways,
  as if they were a nation that did righteousness
    and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
  they ask of me righteous judgments;
    they delight to draw near to God.
  ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
    Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
  Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
    and oppress all your workers.
  Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
    and to hit with a wicked fist.
  Fasting like yours this day
    will not make your voice to be heard on high.
  Is such the fast that I choose,
    a day for a person to humble himself?
  Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
  Will you call this a fast,
    and a day acceptable to the LORD?
  “Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
  to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
  when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
  your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
  If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
  if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
  then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
  And the LORD will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
  and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.
  And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
  you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in.
  “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
    from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
  and call the Sabbath a delight
    and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
  if you honor it, not going your own ways,
    or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
  then you shall take delight in the LORD,
    and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
  I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
    for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”


Isaiah 58 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Superficial people. We’ve all endured them. If we’re honest, we’ve probably been one at some point in our lives. Superficial people seem frivolous, self-absorbed, and shallow. Merriam-Webster defines superficial as lacking in depth or solidity. What does this have to do with Isaiah 58?

God has always desired a deep heart change in his children. Unfortunately for many of the prophets in the Old Testament, the people they were trying to lead were not allowing God’s truth to sink deep into their hearts. This superficial religious experience led to all kinds of consequences for Israel.

“They worship me every day, claiming that they are eager to know my ways and obey my laws. They say they want me to give them just laws and that they take pleasure in worshiping me.” [3] The people ask, “Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” The LORD says to them, “The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers.”

Isaiah 58:2-3 GNB

Yikes! God knows the people don’t really want Him. They just want what He can give them… and that is such a dangerous theology. It’s easy to point fingers, but the same is true for us today. As I read this passage, I found myself asking, “Would God say this about me?” Let me ask. Would God say this about you? Don’t answer too quickly.

Many of us can fall into the trap of gaining more Bible knowledge, praying to the Lord, worshiping through song, fasting, and never actually do anything. The people in Isaiah’s time fasted and prayed for their own benefit. They expected God to answer their prayers in their timing and in their way, but they were unconcerned with serving Him with their whole hearts. Yes, they would frequent the temple and go about their various ceremonies and rituals, but their hearts were far from God.

Fasting involves incredible sacrifice. However, it should not stop there. When we fast and pray, it should produce dependence. We can talk all about the great time we had. We can sit around and discuss deep theological topics. We can even become emotional and cry, pouring out our deepest and darkest secrets to each other. The fact remains: if that doesn’t lead to humility, dependence, and ultimately a deep relationship with God, what’s the point?

Isaiah gets specific…

“The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. 7 Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives.

Isaiah 58:6-7 GNB

What good was the prayer and fasting if it didn’t lead to the heart of God? This is the difference between someone who is focused on self and someone who is focused on Jesus. God sent His Son to show us His heart, and Jesus had compassion for those in need. Of course, there is much more to His message than social justice, however, it has always been and will always be an important component of the Gospel. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. As we spend time with the Lord, it should compel us to change. It should compel us to be more like Him. God will not be mocked.

“The sins of Isaiah’s day—the profaning of the Sabbath, the gluttony of Israel’s leaders, the widespread idolatry with its vile practices, the punctilious fasting while practicing flagrant injustice—are all surely to be avenged.”

Halley’s Bible Handbook
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