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FRAMEWORKS: Isaiah 58: True ‘fasting'


v.1-5 Confronting Pretense-Religion

v.6,7 What the Lord does want

v.8-12 What He will then do for you

v.13,14 The changes required and the blessings that will follow


[Preliminary notes: This chapter is possibly one of the most succinct and clearest chapters in the book of demands to put aside religious pretense and turn to genuine practical righteousness. The prophet starts with a confrontation of wrong attitudes and wrong behaviour [v.1-4] and asks if this pretend-religion is really what God wants? [v.5] To be clear he then states what God does want of them [v.6,7] and what He will do in response [v.8-12] but that IS conditional on them acting [v.13,14]. With such clarity Israel could never say they weren't warned! However look again at:

i) the pretense of their religion [v.2-5]

ii) the range of blessings [v.8,9,11,12,14] He holds out to them if they will heed His call.

iii) the things they need to do to bring those blessings [v.7,9b,10a,13]

Total clarity!]



v.1-5 Confronting Pretense-Religion


v.1 Prophet, confront my people's rebellion

v.1  ‘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.

v.2 Confront their pretenses

v.2  For day after day they [i] seek me out;
[ii] seem eager to know my ways,
as if they
[iii] were a nation that does what is right
[iv] has not forsaken the commands of its God.
[v] ask me for just decisions
[vi] seem eager for God to come near them.

v.3 Confront their false humility

v.3  “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.

v.4 Confront their bad attitudes

v.4  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.

v.5 Is this what God wants???

v.5  [i] Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
[ii] Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
[iii] Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?



v.6,7 What the Lord does want


v.6 Rather doesn't He want to see justice & freedom

v.6  ‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
[i] loose the chains of injustice
[ii] untie the cords of the yoke,
[iii] set the oppressed free
[iv] break every yoke?

v.7 Doesn't He want to see concern for the poor

v.7  Is it not [v] to share your food with the hungry
    and to
[vi] provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
[vii] when you see the naked, to clothe them,
[viii] not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?


v.8-12 What He will then do for you


v.8 When, when that happens, then healing & righteousness will flow

v.8  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.

v.9 Then the Lord will be there for you when you call

v.9  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.


v.9b,10 Blessing is conditional on you changing

If [i] you do away with the yoke of oppression,
[ii] with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

v.10  and if [iii] you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
[iv] satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.

v.11,12 Given all that, He will then be there for you…

v.11  The Lord will [i] guide you always;
    he will
[ii] satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will
[iii] strengthen your frame.
You will
[iv] be like a well-watered garden,
[v] like a spring whose waters never fail.

v.12  Your people will [vi] rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will
[vii] raise up the age-old foundations;
you will
[viii] be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.



v.13,14 The changes required and the blessings that will follow


v.13 …but you've got to make these changes…

v.13  ‘If [i] you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
[ii] from doing as you please on my holy day,
[iii] you call the Sabbath a delight
[iv] the Lord's holy day honourable,
and if
[v] you honour it by not going your own way
[vi] not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

v.14 …only then will these blessings come

v.14  then [i] you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will
[ii] cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to [iii] feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.'
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.



Continue to Chapter 59