They are not keeping the day of fasting holy. Verses 4 and 5 give us further information as to how the Israelites are observing fasting. We find that they are fasting to appear pious to other men. They are fasting so that everyone will know that they fasted, not necessarily out of commitment to God. The Israelites are keeping the ceremony of fasting, but they are doing it for selfish reasons. They are "showing off" their religiousness without feeling anything in their hearts. This is what God sees in their actions.
'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
Verse four is accusatory, telling the Israelites what they have done. In verse five, God uses an accusatory tone in his questions to the Israelites. The phrasing has a sarcastic feel, particularly in relation to the rest of the verses surrounding it. Rather than attending to their own agendas, the people of Israel should be tending to the work that God has chosen for them, not pursuing their own interests on holy days
In verse 6 God reminds the people of the purpose of fasting and its ability to free the "band of wickedness." Fasting is a spiritual, rather than a physical action. It is an expression that frees the person of their burdens and that breaks the bonds of slavery and oppression. This reference may be referring to the bonds and oppression of sin, rather than the actual breaking of bonds. The fast is symbolic of renewing one's connection with God, regardless of the weight that the world has placed on man's shoulders. Fasting is a physical means to remind man of his inner connection with God.
" 6Is 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
To place Isaiah 58 in a modern context, let us consider the liturgy that is practices today. God criticizes the Israelites for practicing the fast, while continuing to make their laborers work on that day. This is likened to a form or spiritual oppression and represents the highest form of hypocrisy
The World Council of Churches allows each member church to decide on which doctrine they will practice and how it will be applied
. This form of government allows individualism in the various churches. Liturgy may be different, but its meaning remains the same. Much emphasis is placed on liturgical practice, almost to the detriment of spiritual purpose. This is exactly what God's message to the Israelites was trying to convey in these verses. It is not so much "how" one chooses to worship, but the heart that they put into it. God places an emphasis of purpose rather than liturgy in these verses.
In verse 7, the Israelites are reminded that all is not lost and that they have some good left in them. They continue to help the poor and hungry. They cloth the naked, even if it means giving the shirt off their own back.
'7Is 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
God then reminds his people that they will gain happiness and spiritual fulfillment through these acts. They are promised health and happiness if they continue to help the needy.
" 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."
God promises his people spiritual rewards, not material ones for their good deeds., This contrasts with the rewards that the Israelites are seeking for themselves in the first five verses. In the first section, the Israelites are seeking financial and material rewards, but God reminds them that the rewards that he offers for their good deeds are spiritual, rather than material in nature. If they follow God's ways, their good deeds will shine into the world and they will have God's favor and reward.
Thomas Schaffer states that the measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are doing
. If the wealthy get wealthier, but continue to go to church faithfully every Sunday, but the poor get hungrier at the same time, then the wealth person does not please God by going to church. Their faith is without substance, that is what Isaiah was speaking about in this verse. We have an obligation to take care of each other. Going about our own business without concern for others will not the happiness that God promises in this chapter.
Isaiah reminds the Israelites that they should not tend to the needs of others before they attend to the needs of their own family. They should not forget the needs of their own family members
. Sinclair extends this argument to the taboo against giving legal advice to someone before they appear in court. If this advice would keep a family member from descending into poverty, then this need is placed above the taboo of giving legal advice. Talmudic law places a high priority on keeping one's own family from descending into poverty
Humanitarian activities can be viewed as achieving unity with God
. In Isaiah 58:6, to be one of God's children means to be compelled to take action. One cannot sit around and tend to their own pleasures. Idealism has not place in the lives of the Israelites when it comes to helping the need. They have to put aside their business and tend to helping those in need. Isaiah is not a passive chapter, it calls the Israelites to get up and go forth. They not to sit by idly and discuss idealism. God clearly indicates that they are to take action to help those in need.
The purpose of fasting closely ties to God's call to action for the impoverished of the world. When one fasts, they feel the pangs of hunger, the dizziness and the unending weariness that is the world of those without food
. Fasting is meant to make us thankful for what God's blessing upon us and to compel us to help those who must experience these pains every day. Currently, one third, of our world is without food, while the smallest portion of the world population consumes the most (Buchanan, p. 16), Buchanan makes a key point of the lopsided distribution of food resources in the world.
In verse 9, we find that the Israelites feel that their prayers not being answered. God recognizes that they feel that their prayers are not being answered. God explains that if they would cry out in earnest, then he would answer them. He has not abandoned them, it is the manner if which he is being addressed.
" 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."
God tells the Israelites that they are speaking of their earthly woes, "the yoke" and pointing the finger of blame. He tells them that they are speaking vainly. Prayer should be approached with humility and humbleness. God assures the Israelites in this verse that he has not abandoned them completely, but they need to change their tone if they wish to be heard. Once, again, God reminds them that all is not lost and that they still have a chance for redemption. However, they will have to change and cannot continue on the same path that they are on. This verse serves as a warning to the Israelites that they must change their ways if they wish to return to the graces of God.
In verse 10, the Israelites are reminded of what the world should see when they look at them. If the Israelites will feed the hungry, they will be an inspiration to the world and will be able to resolve many of the problems of the world.
'10 and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall…