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Ritual and Ceremony Is Not Enough

58 “Shout it loud and clear!

    Don’t hold back!
    Let your voice be like a trumpet blast!
    Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to Jacob’s tribes their sin!
Yes, daily they seem to seek me,
    pretending that they delight to know my ways,
    as though they were a nation that does what is right
    and had not rejected the law of their God.
    They ask me to show them the right way,
    acting as though they are eager to be close to me.
They say, ‘Why is it that when we fasted,
    you did not see it?
    We starved ourselves, and you didn’t seem to notice.’
“Because on the day you fasted
    you were seeking only your own desires,
    and you continue to exploit your workers.[a]
During your fasts, you quarrel and fight with others
    and strike them with an angry fist.
    When you fast like that, your voice will not be heard on high.
Do you think I’m impressed with that kind of fast?
    Is it just a day to starve your bodies,
    make others think you’re humble,[b]
    and lie down in sackcloth and ashes?
    Do you call that a fast?
    Do you think I, Yahweh, will be pleased with that?[c]

Worship God in Truth

“This is the kind of fast that I desire:
    Remove the heavy chains of oppression!
    Stop exploiting your workers![d]
    Set free the crushed and mistreated!
    Break off every yoke of bondage!
Share your food with the hungry!
    Provide for the homeless
    and bring them into your home!
    Clothe the naked!
    Don’t turn your back on your own flesh and blood!
Then my favor will bathe you in sunlight
    until you are like the dawn bursting through a dark night.[e]
    And then suddenly your healing[f] will manifest.[g]
    You will see your righteousness march out before you,
    and the glory of Yahweh will protect you from all harm![h]
Then Yahweh will answer you when you pray.
    When you cry out for help, he will say,
    ‘I am here.’
“If you banish every form of oppression, the scornful accusations,[i]
    and vicious slander,
10 and if you offer yourselves in compassion[j] for the hungry
    and relieve those in misery,[k]
    then your dawning light will rise in the darkness
    and your gloom will turn into noonday splendor![l]
11 Yahweh will always guide you where to go and what to do.
    He will fill you with refreshment
    even when you are in a dry, difficult place.
    He will continually restore strength to you,
    so you will flourish like a well-watered garden
    and like an ever-flowing, trustworthy spring of blessing.
12 Your people will rebuild long-deserted ruins,
    building anew on foundations laid long before you.[m]
    You will be known as Repairers of the Cities[n]
    and Restorers of Communities.[o]
13 “If you stop pursuing your own desires on my holy day,
    and refrain from disregarding the Sabbath,
    if you call the Sabbath a delightful pleasure
    and Yahweh’s holy day honorable,
    if you honor it properly by not chasing your own desires,
    serving your own interests, and speaking empty words,
14 then you will find the joyous bliss
    that comes from serving Yahweh.
    And I will cause you to prosper
    and be carried triumphantly over the high places of the land.[p]
    You will enjoy the heritage of Jacob, your ancestor.”
    Certainly the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it!

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 58:3 See Lev. 16:29. It was clear that their fasting was an attempt to appear spiritual and manipulate God.
  2. Isaiah 58:5 Or “to bow your heads like (bent over) reeds.”
  3. Isaiah 58:5 Or “That is a day acceptable to Yahweh.”
  4. Isaiah 58:6 Or “Loose the ropes of the yoke.”
  5. Isaiah 58:8 Showing justice will bring the light of a new day. This sunrise pictures God’s restored favor and blessing coming upon the people.
  6. Isaiah 58:8 Or “health” or “restoration.” This would include the body, soul, and spirit.
  7. Isaiah 58:8 Or “sprout speedily, grow.”
  8. Isaiah 58:8 Or “will be your rear guard”; that is, God’s glory covers us from our past and protects us today and forever, with glory going before us and following after as well.
  9. Isaiah 58:9 Or “extending the finger.”
  10. Isaiah 58:10 Jesus offered himself to us, so we should offer ourselves in compassion for others. See Matt. 10:8; Acts 20:33-35; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 5:2, 25; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14.
  11. Isaiah 58:10 The five qualifications of last-days ministry are found in vv. 9–10: (1) Commit to banish every form of oppression in our lives, churches, and society. (2) Remove scornful accusation (criticism) of others and their ministries. (3) Forbid to spread malicious slander. (4) Have compassion for the poor and disenfranchised. (5) Comfort those enduring suffering and tragedy. Then God promises (vv. 10–12) that multiple blessings will come: (1) Our spiritual light (influence) will increase in our communities. (2) Discouragement and gloom will disappear from our lives. (3) God will give us specific guidance and counsel to know what to do and where to go. (4) He will fill us with renewing grace, even when we are surrounded by difficult situations. (5) Our spiritual lives will flourish like a lush garden with fruit and beauty. (6) We will not cease to be an ever-flowing source of blessing to others. (7) We will be given God’s grace to rebuild lives and institutions in our cities, churches, and nations. (8) We will take up the legacy of our spiritual fathers and build on their foundations. (9) We will have a testimony of healing cities. (10) We will restore well-being to our communities.
  12. Isaiah 58:10 Or “double light.”
  13. Isaiah 58:12 Or “on foundations of many generations.”
  14. Isaiah 58:12 Or “repairers of the gap.”
  15. Isaiah 58:12 Or “restorers of paths that lead you home.” This is the Elijah ministry of restoration. See Neh. 1–4; Acts 3:21.
  16. Isaiah 58:14 That is, God will raise you up and cause you to prosper greatly. See Deut. 32:13; Eph. 1:3; 2:6.

True Fasting

58 “Shout it aloud,(A) do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.(B)
Declare to my people their rebellion(C)
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.(D)
For day after day they seek(E) me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken(F) the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near(G) them.
‘Why have we fasted,’(H) they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled(I) ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’(J)

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please(K)
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,(L)
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard(M) on high.
Is this the kind of fast(N) I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble(O) themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed(P)
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?(Q)
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting(R) I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice(S)
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed(T) free
    and break every yoke?(U)
Is it not to share your food with the hungry(V)
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter(W)
when you see the naked, to clothe(X) them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?(Y)
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,(Z)
    and your healing(AA) will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a](AB) will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.(AC)
Then you will call,(AD) and the Lord will answer;(AE)
    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(AF) and malicious talk,(AG)
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,(AH)
then your light(AI) will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.(AJ)
11 The Lord will guide(AK) you always;
    he will satisfy your needs(AL) in a sun-scorched land(AM)
    and will strengthen(AN) your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,(AO)
    like a spring(AP) whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins(AQ)
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;(AR)
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,(AS)
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath(AT)
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight(AU)
    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,(AV)
14 then you will find your joy(AW) in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights(AX) of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance(AY) of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.(AZ)

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 58:8 Or your righteous One

Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
    face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5     “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
    Yes! God says so!