“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? 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?
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.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.”
“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,
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”’ (Isaiah 58:6-9, 13-14).
The True Fast
Although the ancient Jews fasted, their fasts were not done in the true spirit of godliness. For it didn’t lead to virtuous living. They fasted merely to gain favor with God and to secure His approval of their evil deeds. They thought that refraining from eating was of more importance in God’s sight than refraining from sin (Matthew 6:16). For this reason, their fasts were rejected by Him.
True fasting was intended by God to purify the motives and change the life. God purposed His followers to be free from sin. But the religious leaders of Israel were enslaving the masses with their faulty teachings. Sadly, to the Jews, the rituals of religion had become a cover for tyranny of the poor, robbery of widows and the fatherless. Their false religion included all kinds of corruption, dishonesty, and unfairness (Isaiah 1:17, 23; Hosea 4:2; Amos 2:6; 3:10; 4:1; 5:11; 8:4–6; Micah 6:11, 12).
The way of rebuilding the “old waste places” that is shown in Isaiah 58: 6–10 implies a revival of practical godliness. It is shown in the Christian’s duties in the church and also in the way he lives his life. For the actions of a Christian are the best indicator of his relationship to God. Practical godliness doesn’t merely mean fasting from food but rather offering food to the hungry and releasing the oppressed. This is the only true religion that is accepted by the Lord (Matthew 25:34–46). And how a Christian treats others reflects how God will treat him. Thus, the Christian’s ultimate good is related to what he does for God and others.
When a believer practices criticism, fault-finding and gossip, he hurts his fellow believers. He causes them discouragement, defeat and sorrow. So, the Lord withdraws from him who practices such behavior. God cannot bless a person who is proud and selfish. A true Christian must first crucify self and surrender fully to the changing work of Holy Spirit. He should allow the grace of God to exhibit through him a love for his fellow men.
The renewal of the heart begins with a true Sabbath observance because the Sabbath day is God’s appointed time with His chidren (Isaiah 58: 13). This will lead to the work of reformation pictured in Isaiah 58:5–12. Honoring God’s holy day means having a relationship with Him and remembering His transforming power. The Sabbath was given to man that he might become more like his Creator (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Sabbath day presents man with an opportunity to overcome selfishness, develop the habit of doing God’s will (1 John 3:22) and blessing others. The Sabbath is one of the greatest blessings bestowed upon men by a loving Creator. And how God’s people keep the Sabbath proves their closesness with Him (Jeremiah 17:24–27).
A Promise of Blessing
God’s promises are conditional upon the obedience of His children. Isaiah shows the difference between the prayer God responds to and the worship that He rejects (chs. 1:11–17; 58:2–4). The Lord doesn’t bestow His blessing upon those who do not approach Him in sincerity and truth. But those who keep the Sabbath and bless others will experience an intimate connection with God. And He will place them in the “High places of the earth.” They will be blessed spiritually as well as physically. For He promised, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
In His service,