Scripture reading – Isaiah 58
If we could condense the whole of Isaiah 58 to just one word, that word would be “hypocrisy.” The chapter opens with the LORD instructing Isaiah, “Cry aloud, spare not, Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, And shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (58:1).
Unlike some fainthearted preachers in our day, the prophet was not to sugarcoat the Word of the LORD. He was to lift up his voice, not sparing a word, and herald God’s warning of judgment like a trumpet calling soldiers to battle.
What were the transgressions and sins of God’s people? (58:2-5)
They were religious phonies, hypocrites, whose ways were acceptable, but whose heart and motives for following the Lord’s paths were based on selfish reasons. Though outwardly pious, the Lord looked past their actions and saw deep into their hearts (58:2). They, like many today who say they worship the Lord, had lost the “why” behind their actions, leaving in their wake emptiness, strife and selfish gain (58:3a).
The LORD answered their complaints, saying, “Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure [i.e., you go seeking joy; delight], and exact [oppress; demand; collect] all your labours [they gave and forgave nothing]” (58:3b). What they did in worship was not out of love to the LORD, but that He might be obligated to them.
Outwardly they fasted, but they were contentious and quarreling among themselves (58:4). Their fasting and praying in “sackcloth and ashes,” gave an appearance of piety, but the LORD asked, “Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” (58:5)
The Fasting God Favors (58:6-7)
Fasting had become a religious ritual, but it was not the fasting God had commanded His people to observe (58:6a). What would please the LORD? What was the fasting God favored? Before they approached the LORD in their fasting and prayers, God commanded them to address the sins and wickedness in their lives (58:6b-7).
How might men prepare their hearts to worship the LORD? To worship the LORD, we must be willing to forgive those who have offended us, and “loose the bands of wickedness” committed by others (58:6b). God will not hear our prayers, nor honor fasting, if we harbor bitterness, and oppress others (58:6c; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).
What honors the LORD? We honor the LORD, when we feed the hungry, and give shelter to the poor (58:7a; Luke 10:30-36). We invite God’s blessings, when we clothe the naked, and give aid to our family (58:7b; Galatians 6:1-2, 9-10).
The Rewards to Those Who Repent of Hypocrisy and Obey the LORD (58:8-14)
1) Light and good health (58:8a)
2) Covered in the righteousness of God, and His glory.
3) The LORD will hear and answer prayer. (58:9)
4) We become a blessing to others. (58:10)
5) The LORD promises to guide us. (58:11a)
6) The LORD will satisfy the spiritual thirst and hunger of our souls. (58:11b)
7) The LORD will strengthen us. (58:12a)
8) The LORD will give His people a new name: “The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths [or broken walls] to dwell in” (58:12b).
Closing thoughts – The Means of Delighting the LORD, and Enjoying His Blessings (58:13-14)
The people had ritualized fasting (which God did not command), and neglected and abused the Sabbath, which the LORD had commanded. The fourth commandment states, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”(Exodus 20:8), but the people spent the Lord’s Day pursuing pleasure, and neglected to honor and worship Him (58:13). The LORD promised, if His people would honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy, He would fill them with joy, bless them, and give them an inheritance (58:14).
Romans 12:1–2 – 1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith