Read Isaiah 58 -- 63
During Isaiah's time, the Israelite leaders complained to God: Why have we fasted . . . Why have we afflicted our soul, and You take no knowledge? (Isaiah 58:3) -- meaning: "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. Isaiah replied: In the day of your fast you find pleasure (continue to seek selfish interests), and exact (exploit) all your labors (oppress your workmen). . . . You fast . . . (but continue your) strife and debate (personal conflicts) (58:3-4).
Even more serious 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) (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 (never neglect your responsibility to your own family)? (58:6-7).
Isaiah continued: 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. 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 of Esther and the Jews in Persia that brought about their deliverance from evil Haman (Esther 4:3,16; 7:9-10). Cornelius' fasting 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 being a Christian is thought of as the sum total of things we 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 say: Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it to 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), 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; Psa. 147:3) and frees us by His truth (John 8:32-36).
Word Studies: 60:5 flow together means become enlightened; fear means swell with joy; 61:3 appoint means comfort; 62:4 Hephzibah means My delight is in her; Beulah means married; 63:15 the sounding of thy bowels means the yearning affection of your heart.
Pray for Trans World Radio · Pray for the Bible Pathway International Radio broadcast in memory of Paul & Margaret Ellen Hawkins · Country: Switzerland (7 million) in central Europe · Major languages: German and French · Religious freedom · 53% Roman Catholic; 41% Protestant · Prayer Suggestion: Pray in one accord and praise God as the Creator (Acts 4:24).
Optional Reading: I Peter 2
Memory Verse for the Week: Matthew 25:40