113-158 Isaiah Chapter 58
Observances of Fasts
The Lord God speaks loudly to His people of their transgressions, but will they listen to Him? The love they had for God was shallow and only on the surface. They sought Him daily and wanted to know His ways and in appearance, they seemed to be His people. They were known as a people of righteousness and acted with delight when approaching God. But the people felt as if God was being unfair to them. They fasted and went to the Lord in prayer but He did not answer them.
This was the image of righteousness that God’s people were projecting but God sees their heart and it was not right with the Lord. Their heart was not in the fasting and it had become an empty ritual. God would not accept their fasting if it was not done with a heart of obedience. “How can any nation pretend to fast or worship God at all, or dare to profess that they believe in the existence of such a Being, while they carry on the slave trade, and traffic in the souls, blood, and bodies of men! O ye most flagitious of knaves, and worst of hypocrites, cast off at once the mask of your religion; and deepen not your endless perdition by professing the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, while ye continue in this traffic!” (Adam Clarke)
They fasted and prayed with selfish needs. Therefore their fasting was not to give God the glory but to glorify themselves. The Lord God wanted the fast that He had chosen not the empty hollow show without spiritual substance. They were just going through motions of fasting without giving up something for God’s glory. Theirs’s was the same kind of problem as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Their fasting was built on empty ritual rather than spiritual reality. Fasting is not about image but is in partnership with repentance and the great power of God. (Matthew 17:21)
God sees through the emptiness of empty ritual. In the Parable of Jesus about the Pharisee and the Publican He told of the special effort the Pharisee made to say that he fasted twice a week. (Luke 18:9-14)
God is telling His people that if you want your fast to please Him than you must first get right with your fellow people. That we must not be oppressive to others but to help them in their times of need. First, we have to lose the bonds of wickedness by not acting wicked towards others. We must break the yoke of their heavy burdens, set the oppressed free, breaking these yokes which weight us down. For us to get right with God we must first get right with our neighbor. It is then that we can act in the love towards others that God has for us and everyone.
If the lives of God’s people was joined by fasting and righteous living, if love was their guide, then they would see their prayers answered by God. Their lives would be filled with God’s light and they would receive healing, righteous behavior would govern their lives and they would be filled with the glory of the Lord. When they call upon the name of the Lord He will answer.
The Lord again gives them three things that they must do. They must not oppress others as if they were beast of burden under the yoke. They must stop pointing their fingers at others and be fixing blame upon them. They must not speak wickedly. We cannot walk uprightly with God if we commit these sins of commission. There are two things that the people of God must start doing. They need to minister to the hungry by giving more food. They also need to feed the spiritually hungry with spiritual food. They must also bear with the afflicted the burdens they must carry. These are sins of omission and we must open our eyes to the need and express the love of God through our lives.
To the repentant God promises blessings and they will have light even in the darkness it shall be as the noonday. The Lord will lead with His guidance even more if we forsake the empty rituals. Having God’s guidance is more than rituals as we approach Him with sincere hearts and actions. Our life will be healthy for more than the superficial follower to know and experience. Our accomplishments in His Kingdom will be more successful under His guidance. We will be as the repairer of the breach and the restorer of the streets. The world today needs those who follow God to repair the society we live in. “We live in a broken world. In every direction, there are breaches which are wide and deep. There are broken hearts and broken homes, and that which once was sacred is but a waste place. Whereas once there was a carefully guarded fence around the sanctity of family life, sex life, and the right to personal privacy, now there is just a waste place. The wall of protection is in ruins, and life has lost all its meaning.” (Redpath)
There are positive characteristics of a life that is right with God. It is an enlightened life, as our light will shine in the darkness. It is a guided life as the Lord God takes the lead. A life that is satisfied as there is no drought for the soul. It is a life that springs forth as in a watered garden. Water that does not fail and always sustains us. A productive life that is healed and built up where once was waste.
Keeping the Sabbath
The Sabbath was an empty day of religious observance in the day of Isaiah. The Lord God is now calling them to take a delight in the heart and in the purpose of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is to honor God and not our own ways.
The Christian does not observe the Sabbath as our Jewish brothers did in Isaiah’s day. We are not bound to observe days and months, seasons and years as we are to experience Jesus every day, as He lives within us. (Galatians 4:10) Our salvation was accomplished for us in the life of Jesus. (Hebrews 4:9-10)