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.
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.
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?
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 noon day:
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.
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.
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The 58th chapter of the Book of Isaiah in the King James Version of the Holy Bible is a profound section that underscores the themes of true and false fasting, social justice, Sabbath observance, and the promise of restoration. It is a call to the Israelites to return to righteous living and adherence to the commandments of God. The prophet Isaiah reveals the stark contrast between the outward appearance of piety and the inner reality of a heart that is far from God.
Isaiah Chapter 58 begins with God commanding the prophet Isaiah to declare to the Israelites their transgressions and sins. Despite their regular fasting and seeking of God's ways, their behavior during these fasts is incompatible with the humility and repentance that should characterize such periods. They fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Their fasting is not to make their voice to be heard on high, but rather, they seek their own pleasures and oppress all their laborers.
Contrary to their expectations, God does not answer their prayers. The prophet Isaiah proclaims that this type of fasting is not the kind that God has chosen. The fast that God approves of is one that loosens the chains of wickedness, unties the cords of the yoke, sets the oppressed free, and breaks every yoke. It is a fast that shares food with the hungry, provides the poor wanderer with shelter, clothes the naked and does not turn away from helping one’s own flesh and blood.
The chapter further elaborates on the theme of social justice, which is at the heart of true fasting. Isaiah 58 outlines the ethical responsibilities that come with observing a fast that is pleasing to God. These responsibilities include feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and not turning a blind eye to the needs of others. In other words, the fast that God desires is one that leads to acts of mercy, justice, and compassion.
Isaiah highlights the disparity between the Israelites' ritualistic observance of fasts and their neglect of these ethical obligations. They sought to gain God's favor through their religious practices, yet they failed to extend kindness and justice to their fellow human beings. This behavior, Isaiah suggests, is why their prayers remain unanswered.
The chapter also emphasizes the importance of observing the Sabbath, another key aspect of righteous living. Isaiah explains that the Sabbath should not be a day of seeking one's own pleasure or pursuing one's own affairs. Instead, it should be a day dedicated to the Lord, a day of delight and honor to God. Those who keep the Sabbath in this manner, refraining from doing as they please or speaking idle words, will find joy in the Lord.
Moreover, Isaiah conveys the promise that those who honor the Sabbath will be rewarded. They will "ride on the heights of the land" and "feed on the heritage of Jacob". This imagery suggests that they will be blessed with prosperity and abundance, a direct result of their obedience and reverence for God's commandments.
The final theme of Isaiah 58 is the promise of restoration. Isaiah assures the Israelites that if they obey God's commands and live righteously, their "light will break forth like the dawn", their healing will quickly appear, and their righteousness will go before them. This metaphorical language suggests a transformation from darkness and despair to light and hope.
Moreover, God promises to answer their prayers and to guide them continually, to satisfy their needs in a sun-scorched land and to strengthen their frame. They will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. These promises reinforce the idea that obedience to God's commandments and living a life of righteousness and justice leads to divine favor and blessings.
In conclusion, Isaiah 58 is a powerful chapter that calls the people of God to a higher standard of living. It challenges them to look beyond the superficiality of their religious practices and to embrace a life of genuine piety marked by justice, compassion, and obedience to God's commands. It is a call to repentance, a call to transformation, and a call to experience the fullness of God's blessings.