“This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! . . .
“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Isaiah 58:6-9, 13-14)
True worship was more than religious ritual, going to the Temple every day, fasting, and listening to Scripture readings. People who only practiced these things missed the point of a living, vital relationship with God. Faith lacks sincerity if it doesn’t reach out to others. God says he wants our service to go beyond our personal growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity. True fasting is more than what we don’t eat; it is pleasing God by applying his Word to our society.
God doesn’t want us to act pious when we have unconfessed sin in our hearts and perform sinful practices with our hands. More important even than correct worship and doctrine is genuine compassion for the poor, the helpless, and the oppressed.
One facet of true worship is to honor the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath honors God, our Creator, who also rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3). It also unifies members of a family and sets priorities for them. Our day of rest refreshes us spiritually and physically—providing time when we can gather together for worship and when we can reflect on God without the stress of our everyday activities. How do you keep the Sabbath?