Isaiah 58

 

 

                        FORMALISM REBUKED AND INSTRUCTIONS

                                    GIVEN WITH RESPECT TO FASTING.

                                                            (vs. 1-12)                    

 

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

attention. Lift up thy voice like a trumpet (compare Hosea 8:1Joel 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).

 

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 righteousnessand 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

authority (I Kings 21:9, 12; II Chronicles 20:3Joel 1:142:12, 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" ('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 laborsi.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

employment of "sackcloth and ashes" in fasting, see Esther 4:3Daniel 9:3Jonah 3:6.)

 

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

restoration of pledges (Nehemiah 10:31Ezekiel 18:7) are, perhaps, the acts

pointed at.

 

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

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 (compare ch.  61:4).

 

HOW FAR HAVE WE FALLEN AND HOW AMERICA NEEDS TO

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

                                                   (vs. 13-14)

 

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 AMERICA

TODAY?!!!??

 

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. 

treat it with reverence, as if it were "holy ground" (Exodus 3:5Proverbs 4:27).

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

in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:21-23) and of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:31).

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 iti.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

real importance.

 

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 Palestine" is evidently

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). Israel, having

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.

Israel's rejection of the gospel made the mixed Christian Church the inheritress

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 America's

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

of Heaven.

 

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

 

Israel having laid aside formalism and turned to

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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