Isaiah 58:1-14 - EXEGESIS (Donovan)
CONTEXT: In this chapter, Yahweh calls the prophet to address the problem of false religious observance. While this ostensibly has to do with two religious disciplines, fasting (vv. 3-12) and Sabbath observance (vv. 13-14), those are only the manifesting problems rather than the root problem.
The root problem is people who observe spiritual disciplines for selfish reasons (to gain God's blessings) while ignoring the hunger, poverty, homelessness, and nakedness of those in need.
The root solution is true devotion to God, which grows naturally out of love for God. People who love God will worship him for the sake of honoring rather than manipulating him. And if we love God, we will also love those whom God loves-our neighbors (broadly defined-see Luke 10:25-37, the Parable of the Good Samaritan). That love for God and neighbor will be manifested by taking concrete steps to care for those in need (those who are hungry, poor, homeless, naked, or otherwise in need).
This chapter or portions thereof occurs three times in the common lectionary:
• Epiphany 5A, Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)
• Ash Wednesday ABC, Isaiah 58:1-12
• Proper 16C, Isaiah 58:9b-14
The chapter has an essential unity, so I have chosen to treat the chapter only once but in its entirety. Not only is that easier administratively, but it is best if the preacher who sets out to preach on particular verses first understands the whole chapter.
Oswalt notes a three part pattern (true religion, the people's inability to keep true religion, and God's power to heal the people) that occurred first in 56:1-57:21 and recurs in 58:1-59:21. "True religion is depicted in 58:1-14; the people's failure is spoken of in 59:1-15a; and God's action on his people's behalf is portrayed in 59:15b-21" (Oswalt, 493).
ISAIAH 58:1-2. DECLARE TO MY PEOPLE THEIR DISOBEDIENCE
1 "Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their wrongdoing, And to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. "
Cry aloud, don't spare, lift up your voice like a trumpet!" (so∙par') (v. 1a). If the prophet is to get the people's attention, Yahweh must first get the prophet's attention. This charge should do it! Yahweh calls the prophet to shout-to "call with the throat," which means to call with full voice.
▪ He is to lift up his voice like a trumpet (so∙par'). The so∙par' is a ram's horn, an instrument that could be used rather like a bugle to call soldiers to assembly or to battle. It could be used to call people to special occasions, such as the enthronement of a king. Priests used trumpets in worship (2 Chronicles 5:12; 7:6; Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:35, 41). Blowing a trumpet was the best way to get people's attention
"and declare to my people their disobedience, and to the house of Jacob their sins" (v. 1b). These two phrases are an example of parallelism, a pattern which we see repeated throughout these verses. They express the same idea twice, but in different words.
▪ The purpose of getting people's attention is to announce their rebellion-to make them aware of their sins. They truly don't understand the scope of their sins. They are in the dark regarding the problem, so they certainly don't have a clue as to the remedy (see also Micah 3:8).
"Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways" (v. 2a). In verse 1b, Yahweh said that these people were rebels and sinners. Now Yahweh says that these people "seek me daily, and delight to know my ways," a phrase that makes them sound as if they are the epitome of faithfulness. Verse 2b will resolve this apparent inconsistency.
"as a nation that did righteousness, and didn't forsake the ordinance of their God" (v. 2b). Next, Yahweh adds "as" or "as if"-making it clear that the faithfulness of these people is not real. They have not been faithful. They have failed the righteousness test. They have forsaken obedience to God's laws.
▪ This will come as a surprise to these people. They think that they have been faithful. They imagine that their fasting and Sabbath-keeping have pleased God. What they are about to learn is that God considers them to have been majoring in minors-to have been faithfully keeping the lesser parts of the law while neglecting (in Jesus' later words to the scribes and Pharisees) "the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith" (Matthew 23:23). It isn't that the lesser requirements of the law (fasting, Sabbath-keeping, tithing, etc.) are unimportant. Jesus will later tell the scribes and Pharisees that they should have observed the lesser requirements "and not to have left the other undone" (Matthew 23:23).
"they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God" (v. 2c). The irony is that these unrighteous people are asking God for "righteous judgments." They fail to understand that, if God were to render "righteous judgments," he would condemn rather than vindicate them.
▪ The same problem continues today. Most (perhaps all) who think themselves righteous are simply self-righteous-i.e., have pronounced themselves righteous when, in fact, they are not. We think of 'fundamentalists' as being guilty of this sin of self-righteousness-of majoring in minors-of fulfilling the lesser Christian duties while ignoring the weightier duties. However, while making that sort of judgment, we assume a stance of morally superiority and, in the process, become self-righteousness ourselves. We would do better to acknowledge that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)-and that, like Paul, we are foremost among sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Then we will appeal to God, not for "righteous judgments," but for mercy.
ISAIAH 58:3-4. WHY HAVE WE FASTED, AND YOU DON'T SEE?
3 'Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?' Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And oppress all your workers. 4 Behold, you fast for contention and strife, and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you have done today to make your voice heard on high!
"'Why have we fasted,' say they, 'and you don't see? Why have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge?'" (v. 3a). This is the people's complaint. They have fasted (abstained from food to demonstrate their repentance and to honor God), but God has failed to reward their devotion. In their minds, it should be a quid pro quo proposition (a situation in which they can give something in order to receive something). If they comply with their obligation to fast, then God should return the favor by conferring blessings on them.
▪ In other words, they believe that fasting establishes an obligation that God is duty-bound to meet. If that is true, it puts them in a position where they can pull strings and obligate God to jump. With regard to power, that would reverse the positions of the creator and the one who was created.
▪ However, their assumption is wrong on at least two points. First, God is God and they are God's creation. God has the right as creator to impose obligations on them, but they have no right as the creation to impose obligations on God. Second, their fasting is but a tiny part of their religious obligation (Jewish law, after all, requires fasting only on the Day of Atonement), and faithfulness in fasting counts for little if they fail to observe the rest of their religious obligations-which, in fact, is the case.
▪ Quid pro quo theology continues to afflict us today. Preachers are tempted to tell people that God will bless
them financially if they tithe, and people are tempted to hope that God will honor that promise. Many prayers
follow the model, "If you will do this, God, I will do that." We would do better to pray, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
"Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure" (v. 3b). The people have stated their complaint-God has ignored their fasting. Now God states his complaint-as an act of repentance or devotion, their fasting is fatally flawed. They have not fasted to honor God, but have instead fasted for selfish reasons. They have assumed that God would reward their fasting, so they fasted to earn the reward. Their purpose was not to give devotion to God but to gain a blessing from God. Their fasting, therefore, was exactly the opposite of genuine fasting. Rather than an act of self-denial, it was a self-centered grasping for reward. Their fasting was not an act of humility but of pride. There is no virtue in that kind of selfishness; they cannot expect a reward.
"and exact all your labors" (v. 3c). Furthermore-this deserves emphasis-FURTHERMORE, these people have practiced their flawed religious devotions WHILE AT THE SAME TIME OPPRESSING THEIR WORKERS! Haven't they understood ANYTHING!
▪ Jewish law is replete with expressions of God's concern for widows, orphans, and others in need. It requires the Jewish people to provide for people in need (Ex 22:22-24; Lev 25:35-43; Deut 10:18; 15:7-18; 16:11-14; 24:17-21; 27:19). The law even forbids oppression of aliens dwelling in their midst (Exodus 22:21, 23:9, 12; Leviticus 19:33-34). How, then, can these people imagine that they can obtain a reward for fasting (a minor observance) while at the same time oppressing their workers (a major transgression)?
"Behold, you fast for strife and contention, and to strike with the fist of wickedness" (v. 4a). The meaning of these words is uncertain, but perhaps they were vying for top honors in fasting and their competition led to fisticuffs. "The fasting of the hypocrites does not prepare their mind for prayer to God but produces contention and strife. Instead of the heart looking to God, the fasters became irritable and upset".
▪ While it seems hard to imagine that an act of devotion would lead to violence, I read a news story about two men who got into an argument about which knew the Bible better. They argued for a time, and then one of them went away and came back armed with a gun. He shot and killed the other man. True story!
▪ Or consider the heated discussions of abortion or homosexuality or other hot-button issues at our denominational conferences. Is it beyond imagining that such discussions could lead to violence?
"you don't fast this day so as to make your voice to be heard on high" (v. 4b). God will not honor their flawed fasting.
ISAIAH 58:5-9a. IS SUCH THE FAST THAT I HAVE CHOSEN?
5 Is it a fast like this that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD? 6 Is this not the fast that I choose: To release the bonds of wickedness, To undo the ropes of the yoke,And to let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke? 7 Is it not to break your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will spring up quickly; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry for help, and He will say, 'Here I am.'
"Is such the fast that I have chosen? the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Yahweh?" (v. 5). God asks if they think that he desires their self-serving actions. Do they imagine that it is an act of humility to manipulate God? Do they believe that their external observances (bowing the head and dressing in sackcloth and ashes) please God? This verse doesn't go so far as to say that these actions are unacceptable to God, but God's questions clearly expect a "No!" answer.
"Isn't this the fast that I have chosen: to release the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?" (v. 6). In verse 5, God asked the people what they thought, and posed his questions to convey disapproval of their actions. Now he tells them clearly what he thinks-what he wants. God's vision has four parts, but all four have to do with establishing freedom for those who are suffering injustice or oppression or bondage.
▪ This is a far grander vision than fasting or sackcloth and ashes. It demands a great deal more of God's people than they have understood until this moment. It is easy to go without food for a day or to dress in humble attire-especially if we think that we will receive a blessing from God for doing so. It is much more difficult to remedy injustice-to give freedom to those whom we have oppressed-to break yokes that bind people to servitude.
▪ Just consider for a moment how difficult it would have been for a slave-owner in the South to free his slaves prior to the Civil War. How could he compete with his neighbors who continued to use slave labor? How could he survive their animosity when accused of endangering their way of life? Such action would have been far from easy, but God calls us to that kind of radical justice. There is a great deal of injustice and oppression in our world today-far more than any one of us can resolve. However, if every Christian took injustice and oppression seriously, God would enable us to make a mighty dent in the problem.
"Isn't it to distribute your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him" (v. 7a). God continues sharing his vision. Instead of emphasizing fasting (denying themselves bread) as an act of religious discipline, God emphasizes sharing their bread with those who are hungry. They are to house the homeless and to provide clothing to cover those who are naked.
"and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh?" (v. 7b). We should not cross to the other side of the street to avoid relatives (or others) who might ask us for help.
"Then your light shall break forth as the morning, and your healing shall spring forth speedily; and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of Yahweh shall be your rear guard" (v. 8). First God made it clear that the people's fasting was flawed and was therefore unsatisfactory (vv. 3-5). Then God made it clear what was needed (vv. 6-7). Now God outlines what the people can expect if they do, indeed, remedy injustice and free the oppressed and feed the hungry:
(1) they can expect that "light shall break forth as the morning." To really appreciate light, one must have stumbled through darkness. These people have done plenty of that during their long exile.
(2) they can expect healing-quick healing.
(3) They can expect that "your righteousness shall go before you" and "the glory of Yahweh shall be your rear guard." It is a promise of protection front and rear, and is reminiscent of the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that led the Israelites on their wilderness journey-but switched to their rear to protect them from the Egyptian army when it pursued them (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19-20).
▪ With God as our guard, we need fear no enemy. Or, as Paul the Apostle will later say, "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31).
"Then you shall call, and Yahweh will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'" (v. 9a). Finally, and
most importantly, if these people will establish justice and set the oppressed free and feed the hungry, God
will answer their prayers for help. If they help others, God will help them.
ISAIAH 58:9b-12. IF YOU DRAW OUT YOUR SOUL TO THE HUNGRY
9b If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, 10 And if you offer yourself to the hungry And satisfy the need of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness, And your gloom will become like midday. 11 And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. 12 Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
"If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking wickedly" (v. 9b). This is the first "if" statement. We will find another "if" statement in verse 10a. Verses 9b and 10a, then, outline what God wants them to do. Verses 10b and 11 provide the "then" statement, outlining what these people can expect if they live up to God's expectations.
▪ First, God calls these people to remedy three facets of unjust or oppressive behavior. The first remedy is to remove the yoke of bondage from those who are not free. Second, to stop finger-pointing, which could be either a gesture of contempt or a way of casting blame. The third is to stop speaking evil of others.
"and if you draw out your soul (nap·se·ka-your soul) to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul"(v. 10a). This is the second "if" statement. God expects these people to feed the hungry and to satisfy the needs of the afflicted. They are not only to feed the hungry, but are also to give them nap·se·ka-their souls-we would say "their hearts." Passionless giving-at-a-distance isn't enough!
"then your light shall rise in darkness, and your obscurity be as the noonday" (v. 10b). This is the beginning of the "then" statement-God's promises. If the people do what God outlined in the two "if" statements (vv. 9b and 10a), then they can expect that light will dispel their darkness.
▪ Light is a metaphor for many positive things, such as blessings (Psalm 112:4; Isaiah 9:2) and the word of God (Psalm 43:3; 119:105), and God (Psalm 27:1). Darkness is a metaphor for negative things, such as wickedness (1 Samuel 2:9), imprisonment (Psalm 107:10) and death (Ecclesiastes 11:8). God promises those who are righteous that light will drive out their darkness and the noonday sun will drive out their gloom.
"and Yahweh will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in dry places, and make strong your bones; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters don't fail"(v. 11). This verse continues the list of blessings promised to the righteous. It includes God's guidance, and promises that the righteous will have their needs met even in parched places-a metaphor for any kind of difficult place in life. Making one's bones strong is a metaphor for good health. Water is mentioned three times as a metaphor for prosperity. This prosperity, however, is not grasping, selfish prosperity, but prosperity akin to a watered garden that furnishes food for many or a spring of water that serves many. Unfailing waters is a metaphor for unending prosperity.
"Those who shall be of 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 paths to dwell in" (v. 12). This verse further continues the list of blessings promised to the righteous. This set of blessings has to do with restoring ruins and foundations and streets as well as repairing breaches. These have an immediate application to these people who need to rebuild Jerusalem. God raised up Cyrus to give them freedom to return to Jerusalem, but they have their work cut out for them. This set of promises is that they will be equal to the task.
ISAIAH 58 - EXPLAINED
Verses 58:1 - 66:24: This section describes the future glory for God's people Israel.
The closing chapters of Isaiah (chapters 58-66), introduce the reader to the Messiah's program of peace for the world. Here we are lifted beyond His first coming to the time of His second coming as Lord, Judge, and King of the universe.
Verses 1-14: "Cry aloud ... show my people their transgression" indicates that Isaiah was to shout against the sins of Israel and Judah.
God further warns them that though they delight to "seek me daily," they will be judged for making a mere show of their religion. The true "fast" is contrasted with the false external show of piety. Thus God's fast will "loose the bands of wickedness" and "undo the heavy burdens" for those who truly repent.
Isaiah 58:1 "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins."
Verses 1-5: We see a description of religious formalism that manifests itself in improper fasting.
This sounds like God giving a message to Isaiah to sound the warning trumpet. The warning from God, many times, comes from God's workers. The preachers of our day need to sound the trumpet. This trumpet of warning is because of the transgressions of the people.
The whole world today is in even worse condition than the house of Jacob in their day. Sin is running rampant. God will not sit idly by and let this happen. The preachers who are not sounding a warning to their people will be responsible for the sins of the people God has for them to minister to.
A shepherd, or shepherdess, guards the sheep. When danger is near, they sound an alarm. They are responsible for the sheep.
Isaiah 58:2 "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."
"Delight in approaching to God": Israel was merely "going through the motions." Their appearance of righteousness was mere pretense (1:11).
It seems they had a form of godliness. They were going through the formality of serving God, but their hearts were not in it. They were honoring God with keeping the ordinances, but they really did not honor Him in their hearts.
Jesus called this type of person whited walls. They look good on the outside, but underneath they are nothing. Some churches today are so formal in their worship, that there is no Spirit. Ritualistic service is not what God wants. He wants our hearts.
Verses 3-7: The people complained when God did not recognize their religious actions, but God responded
that their fasting had been only halfhearted. Hypocritical fasting resulted in contention, quarreling, and
pretense, excluding the possibility of genuine prayer to God.
Fasting consisted of more than just an outward ritual and a mock repentance, it involved penitence over sin and consequent humility, disconnecting from sin and oppression of others, feeding the hungry and acting humanly toward those in need.
Isaiah 58:3 "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 labors."
The type of fasting they were doing here was a waste of their time. This fasting was just a show for the world. It was as if they were saying, I have fasted now, what are you going to do for me in return, God? It was as if it was a tradeoff. Speaking of the Jews here, they felt that God had not kept His bargain with them if He did not immediately reward them for fasting.
Fasting should be a time of total dedication to God. It should be a time of worshipping God not hampered by things of the world. God does not owe us anything. To expect Him to respond is not trusting His judgment. This type fast would be unacceptable to God, then or now.
Isaiah 58:4 "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."
Fasting should be a private thing between you and God alone. Look, with me, at what Jesus had to say about this very thing.
Matthew 6:16-18 "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." "But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;" "That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."
Isaiah 58:5 "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?"
The answer to this is no. This is not what God wishes. God does not just want a man to go through the formality of bowing his head to Him. He does not even want you to tear your clothes, and throw sand on your head. God wants you to have a humble heart. He wants your heart to be stayed upon Him.
The acceptable fast to God is total dedication to Him from your heart. God is not interested in an outward show. He wants you to truly love Him in your heart.
Isaiah 58:6 "[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?"
Fasting is the discipline of abstaining from food for biblical reasons. It is called "afflicting one's soul" (verse 3), and is often practiced to demonstrate the sincerity of our prayers.
There are several biblical reasons for fasting. Christians should fast when facing a national crisis (2 Chron. 20:3;
Ezra 8:21; Esther 4:16), for individual needs (Matt. 17:21), during periods of distress (2 Sam. 3:35; Psalm 35:13), when facing spiritual decisions (Matt. 4:2; Acts 13:2), and in anticipation of Christ's return (Luke 5:35).
Many people have found that heavy burdens are relieved through fasting (chapter 58), wisdom is obtained through fasting (Dan. 10), revival comes from fasting (verse 6), God's protection from danger is secured by fasting (1 Kings 21:27-29), recovery of a sick loved one may come after fasting (Psalm 35:13), and the inauguration of a great ministry may follow fasting (Matt. 4:2).
When a Christian fasts, he should begin with a short fast, one day from sundown to sundown, and attempt to spend time alone with God during the fast. (Isa. 58:6; James 5:14).
God is saying in this, if your heart is right with Me, set the captives free. Stop laying burdens on others too heavy to bear. Break every yoke you have placed on others. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor as yourself. Above all, Love God with your whole heart. This is the acceptable fast to God.
Isaiah 58:7 "[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?"
Jesus said it this way. "Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these thy brethren, you have done it unto me". Feed the hungry, clothe the naked. Help those who cannot help themselves. Help those of your own family who are the family of God.
Isaiah 58:8 "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 reward."
"Thy righteousness ... be thy reward": When Israel learned the proper way to fast, she would enjoy the blessings of salvation and the Messiah's kingdom (52:12).
I love the following Scripture that is saying the same thing.
Matthew 5:16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
When you are full of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are full of His Light, for He is the Light of the world. This is that new life in Christ that we speak of.
Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
It is not necessary to tell people you belong to God, when you have Christ living in you. They will know it by the life you live.
Isaiah 58:9 "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;"
"Here I am" (see 65:1). In contrast with the complaint of (verse 3), a time will come then the Lord will be completely responsive to the prayers of the people (65:24). This will be done when they are converted and giving evidence of the transformation in the kind of works that reflect a truly repentant heart (verses 9-10).
At the time of Christ's return, Israel will demonstrate true repentance and the fullness of blessing will be poured out (verses 10b-11).
James 5:16-17 "Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
Now, we see how to get our prayers answered. We must be in right standing with God. When we pray, He answers. Whatever you do for others, will be done unto you.
Mark 11:25 "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
Isaiah 58:10 "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 noon day:"
When you have love and compassion for others and help them in their need, the Light of God within you becomes brighter and brighter. This Light does away with all darkness. To be possessed of the Light of Jesus Christ does away with all darkness.
Isaiah 58:11 "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."
Jesus says it the best in the following Scripture.
Luke 6:38 "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."
God will not withhold any good thing from you, when you have a generous heart to others. He repays you in every way. You will prosper, and be in good health. You will not go hungry, or thirsty, because you have given to others.
Psalm 37:25 "I have been young, and [now] am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
Isaiah 58:12 "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."
"Build the old waste places": In view here is the final restoration of the millennial Jerusalem, of which Nehemiah's rebuilding of the walls (Nehemiah 2:17), was only a foretaste.
Israel was in a terrible state at the time Isaiah wrote this. God will bring them back into the land and it will flourish, if they keep His commandments. This is, also, speaking of the time when the veil in the temple will be torn from the top to the bottom opening the way to God for all who will believe.
Isa. 58:1-12 - PULPIT COMMENTARY EXPOSITION
FORMALISM REBUKED AND INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN WITH RESPECT TO FASTING. As in the last section, so here, the prophet's eye seems to rest upon his contemporaries rather than upon the exiles; and to note the vices of the time, which have a general resemblance to those rebuked in Isaiah 1:1-31. The whole Law seems to be in force, and the People to make a show of keeping it, and to complain that they are not properly rewarded for their religiousness. God tears the mask from their face, and shows the difference between true religion and the pretence of it.
Isaiah 58:1: Cry aloud; literally, cry from the throat; "a plein gosier," as Calvin says. The command is addressed to the prophet by Jehovah, who will have him warn the people in such sort as to compel their attention. Lift up thy voice like a trumpet (comp. Hosea 8:1; Joel 2:1). The trumpet gives a note of alarm. Show my people their transgression; i.e. "show them how they are especially offending me at this time" (see Micah 3:8).
Isaiah 58:2: They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways (compare the picture drawn in Isaiah 1:11-15). We have there exactly the same representation of a people honouring God with their lips, but whose hearts are far from him-zealous in all the outward forms of religion, even making "many prayers" (Isaiah 1:15), but yet altogether an offence to God. They are not conscious hypocrites-quite the reverse; they are bent on "doing righteousness," on not forsaking God's ordinance, on continually "approaching" him; but they are wholly without a proper sense of what religion is-they make it a matter of outward observance, and do not understand that it consists in the devotion of the heart. That did righteousness, and forsook not; rather, that hath done righteousness, and hath not forsaken. The righteousness is, of course, forensic legal righteousness-the offering of the appointed sacrifices, the abstaining from unclean meats, the avoidance of external defilement, the payment of vows, the observance of the one appointed fast, and the like. They ask of me the ordinances of justice. Either "they claim at God's hands righteous judgments on their enemies" (Delitzsch); or "they demand of God a fidelity to his covenant engagements correspondent to their own (assumed) fidelity to theirs." They take delight in approaching to God. So the LXX; the Vulgate, Calvin, Vitringa, and Kay. Others prefer to render, "they desire the approach of God" (Knobel, Delitzsch, Cheyne); i.e. they desire that he will come to help them against their foes.
Isaiah 58:3: Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? The fasting' spoken of is probably that of the great Day of Atonement. the only fasting commanded in the Law (Leviticus 16:29, Leviticus 16:31). Other fasts were from time to time appointed by civil or ecclesiastical authority (1 Kings 21:9, 1 Kings 12:2 1 Kings 20:3; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:12, Joel 2:15); but they were rare, and do not seem to be here intended. Still, the lesson is general, and would apply to all occasions of fasting. The Jews of the time expected, it would seem, some special definite result, in the way of victory or relief, to follow from their observance of the Atonement fast. As it did not follow, they regarded themselves as ill used, and accordingly made complaint. Their feelings approached to those of the Vedic worshippers, who regarded their religious observances as "not merely pleasing. the god who was the object of them, but as laying him under a binding obligation, and almost compelling him to grant the requests of the worshipper". Afflicted our soul These are the exact words of Leviticus 16:29, Leviticus 16:31, by which the fast of the great Day of Atonement was instituted. And thou takest no knowledge; rather, no notice. In the day of your fast ye find pleasure. Delitzsch and Mr. Cheyne render, "ye carry on business," which accords better with the clause which follows. The great Day of Atonement was, like the sabbath, a day on which no work was to be done (Leviticus 16:29). The Jews, while priding themselves on their observance of the day, did not really observe it in this particular. And exact all your labours; i.e. "require of your servants and subordinates all the services that they have to render on other days." Days of religious observance, even under the Law, were always intended to be days of kindly forbearance towards the poor, of the remission of burdens, or even of the actual giving of relief.
Isaiah 58:4: Ye fast for strife and debate. Delitzsch explains, "When fasting, they are doubly irritable and ill tempered; and this leads to quarrelling and strife, even to striking with angry fists." This is quite a possible explanation. Or there may have been two parties, one for, the other against, fasting; and those who practised fasting may have done it, as some preached Christ, "of envy and strife" (Philippians 1:15)-to provoke the opposite side. Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high; i.e. "ye must not fast as ye do at present, if ye would have your voices heard in heaven." God will not hear the prayer of which such a fast is the accompaniment.
Isaiah 58:5: Is it such a fast that I have chosen, etc.? Do you suppose that such can be the fast commanded by me in the Law-a fast which is expressly called "a day for a man to afflict his soul"? Is afflicting one's soul simply bowing down one's head as a bulrush, and making one's couch on sackcloth and ashes? Surely it is much more than this. (On the employment of "sackcloth and ashes" in fasting, see Esther 4:3; Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:6.)
Isaiah 58:6: Is not this the fast that I have chosen? This passage, as Dr. Kay observes, "stands like a homily for the Day of Atonement." Such homilies are found in the uninspired Jewish writings, and are conceived very much in the same spirit. The Jews call the true fast "the fasting of the heart." To loose the bands of wickedness. To set free those whom wicked persons have wrongfully imprisoned or entangled. To undo the heavy burdens; literally, to untie the thongs of the yoke. The liberation of a man's slaves, or of Jews captive among the heathen (Nehemiah 5:8), is probably intended. To let the oppressed (literally, the bruised) go free. Remission of debts and restoration of pledges (Neh 10:31; Ezekiel 18:7) are, perhaps, the acts pointed at.
Isaiah 58:7: Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry? In the early Christian Church almsgiving was connected with fasting by law. It was also accepted as a moral axiom that "fasting and alms were the wings of prayer." Cast out; or, homeless ἀστέγους LXX.). That thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh. Their "flesh" were not merely their near kindred, but their countrymen generally (see Nehemiah 5:5).
Isaiah 58:8: Then. When thou hast taken this advice to heart, and adopted it, and made it the rule of thy conduct. Upon such a change in thee, all good things shall follow. Thou shalt have no more to complain of unanswered prayers or covenant promises left in abeyance (see the comment on Isaiah 58:2 and Isaiah 58:3). Shall thy lightbreak forth; i.e. thy glorious, time shall begin (comp Isaiah 50:1). Thine health-rather, thine healing; the "healing of thy bruise," or thy recovery from the low estate to which thy sins have brought thee down-shall spring forth speedily; i.e. shall soon manifest itself; and the result will be twofold:
(1) thy own righteousness will go before thee-will be, as it were, thy vanguard; and
(2) The glory of the Lord; i.e. the glory which he will confer upon thee, will follow thee up, and be, as it were, thy rearguard (comp. Isaiah 52:12).
Isaiah 58:9: If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke (comp. Isaiah 58:6). The putting forth of the finger. The pointing of the finger at any one in scorn. And speaking vanity; rather, speaking evil, or plotting evil, against others.
Isaiah 58:10: If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry; i.e. not merely giving him bread, but giving him sympathy and compassion with it. Then shall thy light rise in obscurity (comp. Psalms 112:4, "Unto the godly there riseth up light in the darkness;" and see above, Psalms 112:8).
Isaiah 58:11: The Lord shall guide thee continually; i.e. "direct thee in all thy paths-teach thee the way that thou shouldst walk in." In drought. In time of spiritual depression and weariness. Make fat thy bones; i.e. sustain thy strength. Thou shall; be like a watered garden (comp. Jeremiah 31:12).
Isaiah 58:12: They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places. Thy descendants shall restore all that has fallen into decay in Israel, whether it be cities or customs. They shall restore "breaches" of every kind, and bring back the old paths for thee to walk in. The restoration of the ruined cities of Judah may be glanced at, but is far from exhausting the writer's meaning (comp. Isaiah 61:4).