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 ch. 1. 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.
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.” 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
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).
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.”
They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways (compare the picture drawn in
ch. 1:11-15). We have there exactly the same representation of a people honoring
God with their lips, but whose hearts are far from Him - zealous in all the
outward forms of religion, even making "many prayers" (ch.1:15), but yet
altogether an offense 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 Septuagint, 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.
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.” 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, 31). Other fasts were from time to time appointed by civil or ecclesiastical
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" ('Religions of the Ancient World,' pp. 143, 144). Afflicted our soul.
These are the exact words of Leviticus 16:29, 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 labors; 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.
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.”
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 practiced 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.
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?” 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
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?” 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 ('Taanith,' 2:1; 'Nedarim babli,' p. 10, a, etc.),
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
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?”
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry? In the early Christian Church
almsgiving was connected with fasting by law (Dressel's 'Patr. Apost.,' p. 493).
It was also accepted as a moral axiom that "fasting and alms were the wings
of prayer." Cast out; or, homeless ἀστέγους – astegous - Septuagint). 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).
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.” 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 vs. 2 and 3). Shall thy light break forth; i.e. thy glorious, time shall begin
(compare ch. 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 (compare ch. 52:12).
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.” If thou take away from
the midst of thee the yoke (compare v. 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.
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.”
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
(compare Psalm 112:4, "Unto the godly there riseth up light in the darkness;" and
see above, v. 8).
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.” 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 (compare Jeremiah 31:12).
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.”
They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places. Thy descendants
all that has fallen into decay in
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
far from exhausting the writer's meaning (compare ch. 61:4).
HOW FAR HAVE WE
FALLEN AND HOW
REPAIR THE BREACHES IN OUR SOCIETY! (CY – 2009)
(In the last eleven years, since the above was written, chasmic holes
continue to be dug, thus tearing down, not building up the waste places.
CY – 2020)
A STRICT OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH ENJOINED
While the fasting of the day only required to be spiritualized,
the sabbath observance needed both spiritualizing and increased strictness.
From 2 Chronicles 36:21 we learn that the sabbatical years had been
little observed during the later Jewish kingdom; and it would seem from
the present passage (compare Jeremiah 17:21-23) that even the
observance of the sabbath itself had been neglected. Not that the neglect
was total. The sacrifices proper to the sabbath were duly offered — the
“solemn assembly” was duly called and attended (ch. 1:13); but
during the rest of the day business flowed in its usual course — the
complete sanctification of the entire day was set aside. We find a similar
laxity prevalent after the return from the Captivity (Nehemiah 10:31;
13:15-16). SURELY NO ONE
WILL DENY THIS SIN 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, honorable; and
shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor
speaking thine own words.” If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath; i.e.
From doing thy pleasure; rather, from doing thy business - the same expression
as in v. 3. It is by "business," not by pleasure, that the sabbath was polluted both
And call the sabbath a delight. This is the spiritualization of the sabbath - "to call"
and feel it "a delight," a real satisfaction to the soul, not a weariness (Amos 8:5),
as it was to many. And shalt honor Him; rather, and shalt honor it; i.e. the sabbath,
which is made masculine here, as in ch. 56:2. The sabbath was to be honored by men
not pursuing their own ordinary ways, or engaging in their regular business, or even
carrying on their ordinary everyday talk. Literally, the command is, not to
"speak words;" but no Jews were ever such strict sabbatarians as to understand this
as prohibiting all speech on the sabbath. Some have held that sabbatical talk should
be scanty, limited, restrained as much as possible; but even for this there is no
warrant. It is the quality, rather than the quantity, of the words uttered that is of
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 shalt thou delight thyself
in the Lord. Then shall communion with Jehovah become a real pleasure to thee.
The acts of worship shall not be done merely from a sense of duty, because
commanded, but because they are congenial to the soul of the worshipper.
A right use of the sabbath will help to form in men habits of devotion, which
will make religion a joy and a delight to them. I will cause thee to ride upon
the high places of the earth; i.e. "I will give thee a prominent position in the earth,
and cause thee to occupy its high places, and bear rule over many nations."
Something more than
a "taking triumphal possession of
pointed at (see Deuteronomy 32:13). And feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy
father. The world itself was the "heritage of Jacob," since in him and his seed
"all the families of the earth were to be
blessed" (Genesis 28:14).
laid aside its formalism, and turned to God sincerely. keeping fast and sabbath as
God would have them kept, not in the letter, but IN THE SPIRIT, would enter
upon the promised heritage, and occupy the position originally assigned to it.
of the old promises.
It is "by business" and not pleasure that the sabbath
was polluted - Jer. 17:21-23, 27
They pursued their secular occupations on the sabbath
day as they pleased - they bought and sold, carried their
corn, trod the winepress, conveyed commodities from
place to place and engaged in every form of traffic
and merchandise - Neh. 13:15-16
Abortion, desecration of the sabbath, a turned back
on theTen Commandments, obsession with separation
of church and state - are all connected with
decline and is speedily ushering us into JUDGMENT!
God's people should look forward to their sabbaths
as times of refreshment and of "joy in the Lord" -
as oases in the wilderness of life, glimpses and foretastes
The sabbath was intended to be the crown of the
week, the special day "which the Lord hath made
and we should "rejoice and be glad in it" - Psalm 118:24
I will give thee a prominent position in the earth
and cause thee to occupy its high places and bear
rule over many nations
God sincerely would enter upon the promised
heritage and occupy the position originally
assigned to it!!
"for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (ch. 40:5)
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