Isaiah 58:6–7 (NKJV) — 6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”
There are lots of things people do trying to look holy. We go to church, we dress just right, we make sure people see us giving tithes. But, what does God require for someone to be holy? What does God look at? I can tell you, He definitely doesn’t look at all these outward personal shows of holiness.
God was speaking through the prophet Isaiah during Israel’s great backsliding prior to their captivity in Babylon. The people were trying to look holy for God, but were sinning, worshipping false gods, and treating each other very badly. One of the ways they tried to look holy for God and others was to fast. They would put on their best fasting clothes (sackcloth and ashes) and would look forlorn and ill. They would cry out and wail in long prayers. The main problem with this is that it was all show. They weren’t doing it for God, they were doing it for themselves and for others to see how holy they were. Jesus even speaks of this.
Matthew 6:16–18 (NKJV) — 16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
God doesn’t care about these outward shows. God cares about the heart. Jesus says to fast in a way that only God knows you are fasting. That way, you know you aren’t seeking praise from men. But God, in Isaiah 58, really gets to the heart of the matter. Fasts are great and all, but that is not what God is after. God wants righteousness and love. God is righteousness and love and that is what He wants from those who follow Him. Let’s look at the fast God says He really wants in Isaiah 58. It is not a fast of denying oneself, but a fast of righteousness and love.
- Righteousness: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke – If we want to be holy, the first thing God wants is righteousness. God wants us to lift the burden of wickedness off of other people. He wants us to stop sinning against others. He wants us to share the gospel and the peace and the freedom from sin that can only be found in Jesus. John 8:36 (NKJV) — 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
- Love: Share your bread with the hungry, bring to your house the poor who are cast out, cover the naked, don’t hide from your brethren in need – If we want to show holiness, the second thing God wants is love. If we truly love others, we will give to them and deny ourselves. God wants us to take care of each other when we are in need. Yet, even in the Church, we often do everything in selfishness and to be self serving. Jesus opens this up by saying we should love even our enemies. Matthew 5:43–44 (NKJV) — 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”
Jesus sums all this up in one statement.
Matthew 22:37–40 (NKJV) — 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
If we do these things, then we will be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48).
In His Service, Scott
This Week’s Reading Plan:
- Day 1 – Jeremiah 4-6
- Day 2 – Jeremiah 7-9
- Day 3 – Jeremiah 10-13
- Day 4 – Jeremiah 14-17
- Day 5 – Jeremiah 18-22
- Day 6 – Jeremiah 23-25
- Day 7 – Jeremiah 26-29