Isaiah 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. 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. ‘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. Your fasting ends in quarrelling 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. 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?’ Isaiah 58:1-5

True Fasting

This chapter deals with the National wickedness of the people.

De Hoff, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This chapter contains a severe reproof of the Jews on account of their vices, particularly their hypocrisy in relying on outward ceremonies such as fasting and bodily humiliation while refusing to repent of their sins and obey God’s commandments.’

Here we read that Israel is hypocritical in her religion. The preacher of repentance is not to speak ‘smooth things’, but unceasingly and without restraint, he must call for the people to repent. Isaiah must be bold and lift up his voice like a trumpet.

They fast, and there is no response from God, they offer their sacrifices, but there is no one there to accept them. In many cases, these fasts were turned into feasts and days of pleasure for the master while the servants were required to engage in hard labour.

Worship was turned into quarrelling and quibbling because they deceived themselves into believing that if they performed religious ordinances, God would respond to their needs, Philippians 1:15.

‘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? 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? 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. 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, 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. 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. 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.’ Isaiah 58:6-12

Here we read of an explanation of the kind of fast and service God demanded. It was inconsistent to legally fast, and at the same time be hard on their labourers, refusing to feed the poor, and even refusing to care for one’s own family.

To obtain the blessings of God, Israel must repent and turn back to him. If they would correct their behaviour in their relationships with their fellow man, then their pleas to the Lord would bring a response. If they would respond to God’s will, God would respond with His presence.

If they passed on a spiritual legacy of repentance to their children, there would be good times for their children. When the fathers repent, the children see in them their commitment to the Lord.

‘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 honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 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.’ Isaiah 58:13-14

They had made the Sabbath a time to speak of business deals or seeking pleasures of this world. Instead of focusing on the Lord on the Sabbath rest, they took the opportunity to carry on with business arrangements.

If they would turn from such worldly-mindedness on a day that was to be devoted to spiritual thinking, God would turn to them with blessings.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Again, notice that all-important IF standing at the head of Isaiah 58:13. The multiple requirements are as follows.’

1. That Israel must stop doing ‘their own thing’ on the sabbath day.

2. They must stop teaching and parroting the words of men, their own words, and begin honouring God’s Word.

3. They are commanded to call the sabbath day honourable, and a delight.

4. They must actually honour the sabbath, not merely refer to it as honourable.

5. They must actually do the things God commanded on that day.

Go To Isaiah 59