The Chosen Fast

Isaiah 58:1–14 (NKJV)

58:1 “Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’

The Lord calls the people out for their sins.  They think they are in right standing with God, but He will not receive their offerings, nor accept their fast.  They are oblivious to their transgressions.

“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
5 Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the LORD?

God says that an insincere fast, or a fast coupled with sin, is not what He desires.  Is a fast acceptable if people fast just for show?  To outdo someone else?  No!

6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

The Lord then enters into a speech outlining the fast that He would choose for Israel: deliverance, benevolence, provision, feeding, clothing.  These are things that God is looking for in place of an insincere fast.  If they turned their attention from fake piety to caring for others, then they will receive healing, righteousness, and the protection of the Lord.

“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
12 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.

The promises continue in this passage, and even more.  God says that He will give them the knowledge and ability to repair those things that have been torn down.  His names in this context are powerful, “Repairer of the Breach” and “The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”  He will give back what has been lost.

13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The final admonition from the Lord is about the Sabbath.  God is calling His people to honor the Sabbath and stop being selfish in their actions and motives.  If they respond to the call of God, they will find delight in the Lord, and His people will be exalted above all others.  Live in God’s plan, fulfill His will for your life, and you will find favor with God and men!

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