Isaiah 58 - Outline of Isaiah (MENU page)
III. Salvation, ch. 40-66
C. Restoration secured through Israel's glorious King (The King of Peace), ch. 58-66
  1. Israel's false worship contrasted with true worship, 58:1-14

1. Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet,
and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
shew my people their transgression...- It is sin that places a barrier between man and God.
This final section of Isaiah deals with the restoration of Israel's fellowship with the LORD.
Therefore, their sin must be addressed at the outset. Isa 59:1,2
2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways,
as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God:
they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
yet they seek me daily...- They were religious, with external ritual.
Their self-perception is that they are righteous, fulfilling the letter of the law as it relates to God and to justice between men, and enjoying the religious ceremonies which they think draw them near to God. Their faithfulness in their formal religion is the basis for their indignant question in v.3.
3. Wherefore have we fasted, [say they], and thou seest not?
[wherefore] have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:
ye shall not fast as [ye do this] day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen?
a day for a man to afflict his soul?
[is it] to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes [under him]?
wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?...- In other words,
What good is all of our religious ritual? Is it worth continuing, since nothing seems to come of it?
The same thinking was behind the questions and complaints of Zech 7:1-6 and Mal 3:13,14.
Behold...ye find pleasure...- The LORD's answer was unmistakably clear:
Their supposed 'affliction' was actually self-satisfaction. cp. Isa 22:12,13; Zech 7:5,6
...and exact {ie., exert pressure upon} all your labours {ie., laborers}...- cp. Deu 24:14,15; Jam 5:1-6
...ye fast for strife and debate {ie., contention}, and to smite with the fist of wickedness...-
They were using religion as a tool of oppression (eg., the fast which Jezebel called, to falsely accuse Naboth, 1Kin 21:9-13).
Is it such a fast that I have chosen?...- Prior to the fall of Jerusalem, only one fast was prescribed.
On the Day of Atonement, the people were to 'afflict their souls' in repentance of their sin (Lev 16:29-31). However, following the fall of Jerusalem, additional fasts were instituted to mourn the crisis that had befallen the nation, and to commemorate specific events relative to their captivity. (Zech 7:3-5; 8:19; tenth month: 2Kin 25:1; fourth month: 2Kin 25:3,4; fifth month: 2Kin 25:8,9; seventh month: the Day of Atonement, Lev 16:29).
...wilt thou call this... an acceptable day to the LORD? -
While they mourned their troubles, they continued in the sins for which they were under judgment.
There is a place for fasting, and for 'afflicting one's soul' when rightly motivated. Examples:
6 [Is] not this the fast that I have chosen?
to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens,
and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 [Is it] not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him;
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
8. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,
and thine health shall spring forth speedily:
and thy righteousness shall go before thee;
the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer;
thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I [am].
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke,
the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And [if] thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul;
then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness [be] as the noonday:
11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually,
and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?...-
They were abstaining from food, thinking to gain the LORD's favor.
But the LORD would much prefer that they abstain from sin.
"To obey is better than sacrifice" or any other form of religious ritual (1Sam 15:22).
...to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens...-
ie., the restoration of wrongful gain and of a wronged party. cp. Jer 34:8-11; Neh 5:1-12
...to deal they bread to the hungry... - ie., the care for others in need.
Examples: Luk 10:26-37; Jam 1:26,27 ('pure religion'); Jam 2:15,16; 1Joh 3:16,17
then... (v.8)- ie., When they truly live to please the LORD...
...shall thy light break forth as the morning...- cp. Mal 4:2; Isa 57:18; 60:1; Jer 33:6,7
...thy righteousness... before thee...- Psa 85:13
...the glory of the LORD... thy rereward {ie., rear guard}...- Isa 52:12
then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer...- cf. Isa 1:15; cp. Isa 30:19; 65:24; Psa 34:15,16
...if thou take away from the midst of thee...
  • the yoke {of oppression}...-
  • speaking vanity...- Psa 12:2
  • putting forth of the finger... - ie., in profane gestures (Prov 6:12,13), or, in pointing for false accusation (Isa 59:3)
...if thou draw out... to the hungry... and satisfy the afflicted...-
  • God blesses those, whose hearts, like His, are moved to meet the need of the downtrodden.
12 And [they that shall be] of thee shall build the old waste places:
thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations;
and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
13. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day;
and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable;
and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways,
nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words:
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD;
and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth,
and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].
[then, or, in that day, those who have descended from you] shall build the old waste places...-
The city and land, that laid waste under God's judgment for many generations, will be rebuilt by the generation that turns to follow the LORD (as described in v.6-11; cp. Isa 49:19). They will repair the broken city walls. They will restore the old paths of righteousness as a way of life (Jer 6:16).
If thou... then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD...-
At first glance, these verses (vs.13,14) seem to say that the promised blessings will come when Israel earns them, through keeping the sabbath and living morally. However, it is the LORD, not Israel, that "will cause" them to ride upon the high places of the earth (ie., in peace and prosperity, cp. Deu 32:13; Hab 3:16-19), and who will 'cause them to partake' of the heritage of their forefathers (ie., in the promised land, Psa 105:9-11; 135:12; 136:21).
     These blessings will come when He gives them new hearts to "delight thyself in the LORD." The word 'delight' in v.14 {HB= 'anag, to take exquisit delight}, expresses an inner yearning for and tenderness toward the LORD and the things that please Him.
     Earlier in the chapter, another word {HB=chaphets, to take pleasure} was used of their selfish 'delight' in pretentious religious ritual (v.2). This word is used twice in v.13 (thy pleasure, thine own pleasure), in contrast to true love for the things of the LORD. The tension between these two words forms the argument of v.13. They are to turn away from satisfying their own 'pleasure' in the sabbath and other activities, and truly 'delight' {HB= 'anag} in the sabbath and in living for the LORD's honor and pleasure. This delight is a characteristic of the new heart, which is received through the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-33; Eze 36:26).

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