August 12

Read Isaiah 58 -- 63

In Today's Reading:

A description of true fasting; contrast between right and wrong worship; future glory of Israel; the Messiah's Ministry; restoration of Israel; judgment upon the enemies of God.

Verses for Today:

Wherefore have we fasted ? . . . and Thou takest no knowledge? (Isaiah replied) In the day of your fast ye find pleasure (continue to seek selfish interests), and exact (exploit) all your labors (oppress your workmen). . . . Ye fast . . . (but continue your) strife and debate (personal conflicts) (58:3-4).

During Isaiah's time, the Israelite leaders complained to God saying: "We see no results from our fasting." Through Isaiah, the Lord revealed the fundamental requirements necessary for effective prayer and fasting, as well as the reasons why their prayers were not answered.

The most serious sin was their hypocrisy, fasting to be seen by others, to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him (to impress others with pretended humility and godliness) (Isaiah 58:5). Through Isaiah, God reminded the Israelites that true fasting must include humility and godliness and serving the Lord with compassion for those who are suffering: 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 [you] break every (enslaving) yoke? Is it not to [divide your] bread [with] the hungry, and that [you] bring the poor that are cast out [into your] house? when [you see] the naked, that [you clothe] him; and that [you] hide not [yourself] from [your] own flesh (accept your responsibility for your own family)? (58:6-7).

Isaiah promised the Lord will hear their prayers: If [you] take away from the midst of [you] the yoke, the putting forth of the finger (judgment of others), and speaking vanity (self-righteousness) (58:9). If what we do for someone (or for the Lord) is meant to impose (or implies) a yoke of bondage upon them, (expecting special favors in return), our prayers and fasting will not be acceptable to God. Our prayers are effective to the extent that our inward attitudes and our relationship with others are in harmony with the will of God.

The futility of prayer and fasting in Isaiah's day contrasted greatly with the fasting in Persia of Esther and the Jews that brought about their deliverance from evil Haman (Esther 4:3; 7:9-10). Soon after the ascension of Christ into Heaven, Peter was led to the home of a Roman military centurion named Cornelius at Caesarea. Cornelius had been fasting and praying, which led to his conversion and to his receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:30-45). Jesus gave specific instructions regarding fasting, which makes it clear that we are expected to fast (Matthew 6:16-18; Luke 5:35). Often Christians are thought of by things they don't do. But being a Christian is first and foremost something that we are becoming -- conformed to the image of His (God's) Son (Romans 8:29).

The indwelling Holy Spirit leads us to respond to the needs of others. As we seek to be a blessing to the people we meet each day, our Lord will one day say: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40).

Christ Revealed:

As the One anointed to preach Good Tidings (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus preached this passage to the rulers of the synagogue (Luke 4:16-22) but stopping before the completion of the second verse, thus showing that, although He fulfilled the first part, the second part -- the day of judgment -- was yet to be fulfilled. Christ heals the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1; Psalms 147:3) and frees us by His Truth (John 8:32-36).

Word Studies:

60:5 flow together = become enlightened; fear = swell with joy; 61:3 appoint = comfort; 62:4 Hephzibah = My delight is in her; Beulah = married; 63:15 the sounding of thy bowels = the yearning affection of your heart.

Prayer Needs:

Pray for one another · Country: Russia (150 million) northeastern Europe and Asia · Major language: Russian · Religious freedom · 55% Russian/Armenian/Georgian/Old Believers Orthodox; 9% Muslim; .8% Shamanist/animist; .7% Protestant; .6% Buddhist; .5% Catholic · Prayer Suggestion: Pray and lift up your prayers to God with the spirit of understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Optional Reading: 1 Peter 2

Memory Verse for the Week: Romans 5:9