Our sinful nature separates us from God (Is. 59:2-15). Solution: A Redeemer (59:16-21). The Light of the World (60: 1,19-20). Jesus fulfills chapter 61 (Luke 4:16-29). The love of God, His mercy, pardon, and deliverance outlined in chapters 62 & 63.
During Isaiah's time, the Israelite leaders complained to God: Wherefore have we fasted . . . and Thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou takest no knowledge? (Is. 58:3). They accused Him of not paying attention to what they were doing and they felt they had wasted their time. The Lord answered: In the day of your fast ye find pleasure (continue to seek selfish interests), and exact (exploit) all your labours (laborers). . . . ye fast for (continue your) strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness (58:3-4) — although you fast, you are contentious, demanding, overbearing, and insistent on your own way.
Even more serious was their hypocrisy. The Lord said: Is it such a fast that I have chosen? . . . is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him (to impress others with pretended humility)? (58:5; comp. Luke 18:10-14). Through Isaiah, God reminded the Israelites that acceptable fasting was not to impress the world of how religious they were, but it was to seek the will of God through intercession. The Lord said the fast He would accept would be preceded by acts of kindness such as: To loose the bands (bonds) of wickedness . . . undo the heavy burdens . . . to let the oppressed go free. . . . to deal (divide) thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out (wandering) to thy house . . . when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh (never neglect your responsibility to your own family) (Is. 58:6-7).
If what we do for someone, or for the Lord, is meant to impose or imply expecting special favors in return, prayers and fasting will be futile. Our prayers are effective only when our attitude and our relationship with others expresses the mercy and love of God unconditionally.
Often, being a Christian is thought of as the sum total of things we don't do. But a Christian is first and foremost both who we are and what we do. Always remember that whatever you do in word or deed, do all for the glory of God. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
Thought for Today:
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy (Ps. 103:8).
As the One anointed to preach Good Tidings (Is. 61:1). Jesus read this passage to the rulers of the synagogue (Luke 4:16-22) but stopped before reading the completion of the second verse (Is. 61:2), thus showing that He fulfilled the first part but, the second part, the day of judgment, was yet to be fulfilled.
60:5 see, and flow together =become enlightened, and shine forth the Light of God; fear =be in awe (the amazement at what God is doing), and then when that has registered, comes the joy; 61:3 appoint =impart comfort; 62:4 Hephzibah =my delight is in her; Beulah =married; 63:15 the sounding of thy bowels =the yearning affection of your heart.
Pray for International Broadcasts sponsored by Thursday Morning Prayer • Government Official: Rep. Connie Mack IV (FL) • Country: Tunisia (10 million) in North Africa • Major languages: Arabic and French • Islamic state — no open ministry for Christ is permitted; strict surveillance of all Christian activities • 99+% Muslim; .3% Christian • Prayer Suggestion: Trust in the Lord: where He guides, He provides (Ps. 16:1-8).
Optional Reading: 1 Peter 2
Memory Verse for the Week: 2 Corinthians 4:12