This is a message from God to his people who were frustrated from his lack of response during their fast. God's gives us clear instructions for what we should be doing during the next few weeks. This chapter describes exactly what God expects of us during a period of fasting. We have to remember that a fast is not a hunger strike to get God to do what we want.
True and False Worship
1“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins!
2Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.
3‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.
4What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
6“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.
7Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help. 8“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
12Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
13“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. 14Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
-Isaiah 58 (NLT)
Pray that God will use your experience with hunger and discomfort to permanently alter how you see those in the world who are lost and needy. Pray that God will empty you of all that is you and fill you with all that is Him.