Verse of the Day Devotion. Isaiah 58:1
“Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression, And to the house of Jacob their sins.” – Isaiah 58:1
The first two words ‘Cry loudly’, seen in the first two words of our focus verse, has the idea of calling out someone with your full throat. By this, the prophet is being called by God to declare loudly and clearly that the house of Jacob is committing sinful deeds, specifically ‘missing the mark’ that God called them to follow, and flat-out being treasonous and rebellious. This introduction suggests that a judgment speech will follow, but the format that follows is very different from the normal judgment speech. Verse one provides the reason for the prophet’s speech (God told him to cry out) and legitimates the idea that these criticisms come from God.
So, what were these criticisms? He starts by showing there hypocrisy. “Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness, And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God.” Isaiah 58:2. The whole description in verse two is appropriate to the character of formalists and hypocrites; and the idea is, that public worship by sacrifice was celebrated daily in the temple and was not held up at any time. It is not improbable also that they kept up the regular daily service in their dwellings. Their priests and prophets consult about the laws and institutions of religion, as if they were really afraid of violating the Divine commands. While at the same time that they are full of oppression, strife, and wickedness, they are scrupulously careful about violating any of the commands pertaining to the rites of religion.
Then in verse three and four. “Why have we fasted and Thou dost not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and Thou dost not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire and drive hard all your workers. Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.” Isaiah 58:3-4. Now God exposes the reality, which was that His people didn’t fast with the right heart and did it only as an empty ritual. Even on a day when they fasted, they still exploited their employees. God didn’t accept their fasting when it wasn’t connected with a sincere heart of obedience. They fasted for needs, certainly; but selfish needs like ‘Help me win this argument.’ or ‘Help me defeat this person.’ Though their prayer was accompanied with fasting, it was still a selfish, even wicked prayer, thus God did not answer. The purpose of their fasting was to glorify themselves, to make their voice heard on high. And God says, ‘No more. You will not fast as you do this day.’
Then God describes what He is looking for in us. “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:6-7. God tells His people, If you want to fast the way that pleases Me, begin with getting right with your brothers and sisters. Stop oppressing others and reach out to help them. Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free. How is this done? They had to stop acting wickedly towards others. This means that getting right with God begins by stopping the evil we do towards others. They were to share their bread with the hungry and their clothes with the naked. It was not hide everything for themselves. They had to start acting lovingly towards everyone. This means that getting right with God continues by showing true love to all.
We must be careful that what we do is not to lift up and please ourselves, but to lift God up and please Him. It will not matter if we take communion, read His Word, or go to church if we are only doing it because it is a Christian thing to do. I did this for many years until God showed me I was not truly saved. And when I finally listened to God and gave my life to Him, I finally understood what the true Christian life is all about. Doing the do’s and not doing the don’ts is not enough, for we can do all we want, but if it is not to please and honor our Lord, it is actually a waste of our time. We need to give Him our life and focus on making Christ the core of our existence, pleasing Him in everything we do and we will be in His will. And that includes loving everyone as Christ loves us. Remember when Christ was asked the question of what is the foremost commandment of them all. “Jesus answered, The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31. If we do not love God above everything else, and love everyone as we love ourselves, then all we are doing is going through the motions without honoring and giving our all to God. And this is not what we are to do.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.