Read Isaiah 58
58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
This chapter conveys a similar message to the one that Isaiah gives all the way back in Isaiah 1: Israel’s heartless actions were not accepted. The Israelites were saying one thing and doing the opposite. Isaiah speaks specifically in this chapter about the fruitless fasting that was taking place. The Israelites are complaining that they were keeping the fast in accordance with the Law, but not being properly rewarded by God for their religiousness. God exposes their shallow worship saying, “For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God”, but then their “fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists” (v. 2, 4). God corrects them and shows them that a true faithful walk does not look like going through the motions in order to have an appearance of holiness but to be wholly consecrated to Him in the way they live. Half-hearted devotion to the Lord is really no devotion to Him at all.
In contrast to the fruitless fasting that was taking place, God speaks of the fast that is acceptable to Him. This is a new way of life. The fast that God prefers over fruitless fasting is self-denial and service to others. It is walking with a humility rooted in the gospel and considering others as more significant. The fast that He chooses is to break the “chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.” It is “to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter” (v. 6-7). God is telling them to stop their evil actions, stop their finger-pointing, and to stop speaking maliciously, and start serving those around them. They needed to stop their empty religious rituals and start walking in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord. Only then will they shine like lights in the darkness.
On the outside Israel wanted the perception of looking holy, righteous, and pure, but in reality, they were full of sin. Jesus gives the Pharisees a similar rebuke in Luke 11, saying “you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” God doesn’t look at the outward appearance, He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16). When our heart is truly seeking to honor the Lord, our actions will follow it.
The true meaning and purpose of fasting is to show our devotion and dependence on God, by taking our eyes off the world and onto Him. This chapter is not saying that we should not fast. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that can lead us into a deeper relationship with our Father. Biblical fasting, however, should come from a humble heart of seeking God and redirecting our attention to Him. It is not about the appearance of looking holy, but an act of worship to our Creator. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18). The Lord is glorified when the motive of our actions are to please Him, and not draw attention to ourselves. Ultimately, our motive matters most for why we do what we do.
- What comes to mind when you think about fasting? Have you fasted before? Why or why not?
- What do you think is the benefit of fasting?
- How can you implement the spiritual discipline of fasting into your life?
Interested in practicing the discipline of fasting but not sure where to start? Check out this overview of fasting from GotQuestions.org.
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3 thoughts on “Isaiah 58”
There’s the truth and there’s a dupe. The enemy of our souls often entices us into a lifestyle of pretense that never moves our hearts in true obedience to God. It’s a subtle, sneaky, check the boxes theology that is a stench to God Almighty. We may fool ourselves and others, but we will never fool the One who “weighs and examines the motives and intents of the heart and knows the truth”(Prov.16:2). Instead he beckons us to listen to his call to serve the marginalized, prisoners, poor, and needy giving them a seat at our table. This is how we practically honor and delight in our Lord.
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
This is hard especially in the holiday seasons to be with your flesh and blood for some. This is where the hurt starts for most people. So how can we share Christ with them? Simply how this scripture and JP encourages us to, by showing them in action. By doing the dishes, sweeping the floor or whatever simple thing that would bless their life but not by words until they ask. When they ask what has gotten into you, you can tell them about Christ how He forgave you and ask them to forgive you. In this life our own flesh and blood is where there is turmoil. BUT GOD, when we cry will say “Here am I”. We have to do away with malicious talk and pointing of fingers, help those in need whether it be family first or others we know or God directs us to. That’s when we will know freedom, a light in the darkness for those we are serving. (vs9-11).
God thank You for guidance through this week with family. Thank You for Your words falling out of my mouth. Thank You for details of blessing to give family members honor. Thank You God for giving me instructions and guidance. May Your love goggles be over my eyes all day to see what it is You want me to see and help me be Your hands in Jesus name amen.
Well, we read today that God not only sees the good, but all our spiritual sins. I woke up reflecting on what I shared yesterday, and wondered why sometimes we have a narrow, tunnel perspective? When do we finally reach the age of awareness of our surroundings? Humanly, I think we have the idea that God sees as we do. That He can only see the side of us that we face towards Him. (same for others) Is it because in our minds if we can’t see it, then it is hidden from view?
We neglect the idea that our family knows which decision we would make before we make it. And it’s even more incomprehensible to believe God knows and sees way beyond them and us.
One thing I noticed about today’s reading is that Isaiah clearly states the benefits of living holy and honorable—to do what is right. That pretending “to fast” does come with repercussions that grace will not cover by not enjoying all He the blessings He has in store.