Read Isaiah 58 -- 63
In Today's Reading:
True fasting; sin, confession, and redemption; future glory of Jerusalem; the day of vengeance; God's loving-kindness to Israel
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? (Isaiah 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: Behold, 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 (occupied with personal conflicts) (58:3-4).
Even more serious was their hypocrisy, fasting to be seen by others. The Lord demands true repentance, and said: 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 (to impress others with pretended humility)? (58:5; also 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 was to seek the will of God through intercession. The Lord said the fast He would accept would be preceded by acts of kindness — to loose the bands (bonds) of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free . . . 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 (never neglect your responsibility to your own family)? (Isaiah 58:6-7).
If what we do for someone (or for the Lord) is meant to impose (or implies) expecting special favors in return, prayers and fasting will be futile. Our prayers are effective only when our attitude and our relationship with others is in harmony with the mercy and love of God.
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 what we are and what we do. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
The indwelling Holy Spirit leads us to respond in compassion to the needs of others. Our Lord takes note of how we treat others, especially those of His own Household (see Galatians 3:28-29). On the day of judgment: The King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40).
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; Psalm 147:3) and frees us by His Truth (John 8:32-36).
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.
Pray for William Parker, Crosswalk.com, Inc. · Country: Namibia (2 million) in southwest Africa · Major languages: Afrikaans and German · Religious freedom · 68% Protestant; 16% Roman Catholic; 5% African traditional religions · Major languages: Arabic and English · Religious tolerance · 93% Muslim; 5% Christian · Prayer Suggestion: Put on God's whole armor so that you may be able to successfully stand up against Satan's evil attacks (Ephesians 6:11).
Optional Reading: I Peter 2
Memory Verse for the Week: Romans 5:9