Isaiah 58:1-7

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 18, 2000


Three sons left home, went out on their own and prospered. Getting back together, they discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother. The first said, "I built a big house for our mother." The second said, "I sent her a Mercedes with a driver." The third smiled and said, "I’ve got you both beat. You remember how mom enjoyed reading the Bible? And you know she can’t see very well. So I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took elders in the church 12 years to teach him. He’s one of a kind. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot recites it." Soon thereafter, mom sent out her letters of thanks: "Milton," she wrote one son, "The house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house." "Gerald," she wrote to another, "I am too old to travel. I stay most of the time at home, so I rarely use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!" "Dearest Donald," she wrote to her third son, "You have the good sense to know what your mother likes. The chicken was delicious."

Today we’re going to look at something that was meant by God to be a valuable gift, but something that has been greatly abused. We’re going to look at God’s ideas about fasting.

:1-5 Hypocrisy

:1 Cry aloud, spare not trumpet

cryqara’ – (Qal) to call, cry, utter a loud sound; to proclaim

aloudgarown – neck, throat

spare notchasak – to withhold, restrain, hold back, keep in check, refrain

trumpetshowphar – horn, ram’s horn

God is asking Isaiah to speak up and show His people what they are doing wrong. He asks Isaiah to shout it out like a trumpet to get their attention.

:1 and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

shewnagad – to be conspicuous; (Hiphil) to tell, declare; announce, report; make known, expound

:2 Yet they seek me daily

seekdarash – to resort to, seek with care, enquire

It speaks of praying, as in asking God for guidance. Doesn’t sound like "sin" to me.

:2 and delight to know my ways

delightchaphets – to delight in, take pleasure in, desire, be pleased with

The people took pleasure in knowing what God’s ways were like. Sounds good.

:2 …and forsook not the ordinance of their God:

They made an effort at obeying the laws of God. Sounds good.

:2 they ask of me the ordinances of justice

justicetsedeq – justice, rightness, righteousness

They would pray, "God, take care of those people that have hurt me so much"

:2 they take delight in approaching to God.

approaching[email protected] – an approach, a drawing near

They liked the things they were to do in order to approach God.

NOTE: As spiritual as this all sounds, keep in mind that these are all EXTERNAL things. They are good things, but something is missing.

fastedtsuwm – to abstain from food, fast

There was only one day each year that the Jews were commanded to fast, on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31), though they were allowed to fast on other days if they wanted.

:3 fasted … and thou seest not?

seestra’ah – to see, look at, inspect, perceive, consider

"God, how come we’ve worked so hard at being miserable and yet You haven’t answered our prayers? Don’t you owe us something here?"

:3 wherefore have we afflicted our soul…

afflicted ‘anah – to afflict, oppress, humble, be bowed down

:3 Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure

This is God’s response to the question in the first part of the verse.

pleasurechephets – delight, pleasure

In their fasting, the people might have abstained from food, but they made sure they still had their other pleasures. They may have been keeping from food, but they made sure they were comfortable in doing it.

:3 and exact all your labours.

exactnagas – to press, drive, oppress, exact, exert demanding pressure; driver, taskmaster, ruler, oppressor, tyrant, lord, exactor of tribute (participle)

labours ‘atseb – labourer, toiler, labour

better, "you oppress all your workers"

:4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate …, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:

striferiyb – strife, controversy, dispute; quarrel

debatematstsah – strife, contention

smitenakah – to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill

wickednessresha‘– wrong, wickedness, guilt

(Isa 58:4 NLT) What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling?


True godliness affects your relationships.

These people were doing something that was supposed to affect their relationship with God. But something that affects your relationship with God ought to also affect your relationship with others.

Warren Wiersbe writes,

Fasting and fighting do not go together! Yet how many families walk piously out of church at the close of a Sunday worship service, get in the family car, and proceed to argue with each other all the way home!

:4 ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

(Isa 58:4 NIV) …You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

One of the goals of fasting is to "make your voice be heard on high", to have God pay attention to your prayers. You will often see "fasting" connected with "prayer" in the Scripture (11 times in KJV).

If fasting is done incorrectly, it will get you nowhere with God.

:5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? …

chosenbachar – to choose, elect, decide for

"Is this what kind of fast I’m really looking for? says the Lord. Is all I want you to do is just bow your heads and wear sackcloth and ashes?" The answer is "no".


False Spirituality

It is possible for a person to put on a display of spirituality that on the outside looks pretty impressive. It may be a person that prays eloquently, knows Bible verses, even teaches Sunday School and helps out with the Harvest Crusade. But it can all be done for the wrong reasons.

The result is that people are beaten up instead of built up.

Jesus warned of the Pharisees –

(Mat 23:2-4 NLT) "The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the Scriptures. {3} So practice and obey whatever they say to you, but don't follow their example. For they don't practice what they teach. {4} They crush you with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to help ease the burden.

If your knees are bowed but your heart isn’t, people are going to be hurt.


Olga and Sven and been fighting all their married life until Olga one day said, "Sven, we been fightin’ and fightin’ these many years I think we should pray about this together." When they knelt down to pray, Olga interupted Sven before he had three words spoken. "Dear Got, Sven and I have been fightin’ and fightin’ these many years. It is time that one of us should go to Heaven… Then I can go live with my mother."

:6-7 The true fast

:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen?

In verses 6 & 7 God describes the kind of "fast" that He likes. It seems to me that verse 6 seems focused on the spiritual part of fasting while verse 7 describes the practical parts of fasting.

:6 to loose the bands of wickedness

to loosepathach – to open; (Piel); to free; to loosen; to open, open oneself

bandschartsubbah – bond, fetter, pang, hands

wickednessresha‘– wrong, wickedness, guilt (same word used in verse 4)

The wording can carry the idea of "setting free people from the bondage of wickedness or guilt"

Do you realize that we have a message that sets people free from guilt and condemnation?

The gospel

Mankind’s greatest need is to know His God. But we have a big problem in getting to know God, and that’s our sin. Our sin creates a separation from God, like putting up a huge wall between us and Him. And there’s no way that we can tear down the wall. In fact, we keep adding bricks to the wall faster than anyone could ever work to tear them down. There is only one thing that can tear down the wall between you and God, and that’s the blood of Jesus. Jesus died on a cross for the very purpose of paying for the penalty for our sins. Because Jesus died to pay for our sins, He is able to offer us God’s COMPLETE forgiveness for everything we’ve ever done.

He offers us God’s forgiveness as a free gift, but like all gifts, it is of no value to us unless we receive the gift. God offers you today a chance to tear down the wall, but you need tell Him that you want Him to do it. You need to say "yes" to Jesus. And when you do, God will completely forgive you and give you freedom from the bondage of guilt and condemnation.

:6 to undo the heavy burdens

to undonathar – (Hiphil) to unfasten, loosen; to set free, unbind

heavymowtah – pole, bar of yoke

burdens ‘aguddah – band, binding; cords, bands, thongs (metaphorical of slavery)

The wording can mean, "to unfasten the cords of the yoke", to set something free from a kind of slavery.

Jesus said,

(Mat 11:28-30 KJV) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

:6 and to let the oppressed go free

oppressedratsats – to crush, oppress

freechophshiy – free; free (from slavery); free (from taxes or obligations)

"Let those that are crushed and broken be freed from slavery"

:6 and that ye break every yoke?

breaknathaq – to pull or tear or draw off or away or apart, draw out, pluck up, break, lift, root out

yokemowtah – pole, bar of yoke; of oppression (fig.)

"tear away every yoke of oppression"


Spiritual ministry requires spiritual motives

God wants us to be a part of His work that will set people free from the slavery of sin and death.

God’s idea of fasting is not about us "getting" our wish-list granted by some big "genie" in the sky.

It’s all about setting the captives free. It’s all about bringing people to Jesus.

If the focus is on YOU, then the focus is on the wrong thing. If the focus is on Jesus and OTHERS, then you’re headed in the right direction.

:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry

dealparac – to divide, break in two

Fasting involves denying yourself a meal or two. But God’s fast is not just about denying yourself a meal, but taking what you deny yourself and giving it to someone else that needs it more than you.

It is one thing to deny yourself that last piece of chocolate cake today and then turn around and have it tomorrow. It’s another thing to give that piece of chocolate cake to someone else.


Denying yourself to give to others

Do you deny yourself just for the sake of denying yourself? Or do you turn it into an opportunity to serve others?


A wife became quite concerned over her husband’s declining health. His color was very pale and lifeless and he had a terrible lack of energy for even the simplest of tasks. After much prodding and cajoling, she persuaded him to go to the doctor to find out what his problem might be. The doctor examined him carefully and ran a full battery of tests to determined the exact natures of the man’s illness. After evaluating the test results, he called the woman into his office to give his prognosis. "Your husband is suffering from a rare form of anemia. Without proper treatment, he could be dead in a matter of just a few weeks," he informed the very anxious wife. He went on to say, "However it can be successfully treated with the right care and diet. With the proper course of treatment, I am happy to report that you can expect full recovery." The wife was very relieved and asked what kind of action was necessary. The doctor gave his prescription, "You will need to get up every morning and fix a complete breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc. Make sure that he has a home-cooked lunch each afternoon of fresh-baked bread and home-made soup. For dinner prepare a meal of fresh salad, old-fashioned meat and potatoes, fresh vegetables and perhaps home-made pie or cake for dessert. Because his immune system is so compromised, you will need to keep the house scrupulously clean. It will also be important to keep his stress level very low, so avoid any kind of confrontation or argument." The wife emerged from the doctor’s office and with tears rolling down her cheeks, she faced her husband. The husband took one look at his wife and said very seriously, "The news is bad isn’t it? What did the doctor say?" With a choked voice, the sobbing wife told her beloved husband, "The doctor says, you’re gonna die."

:7 and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?

bringbow’ – (Hiphil); to lead in; to carry in

cast outmaruwd – restlessness, straying, wanderer, refugee

To give shelter to those who have no home.

:7 and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

hide ‘alam – to conceal, hide, be hidden, be concealed, be secret.

fleshbasar – flesh; kindred, blood-relations

Don’t hide yourself from seeing the needs of your own kindred, your own family.


Practical ministry

True spirituality doesn’t just end with praying for others. It involves practical things as well. It involves things like feeding the hungry, giving shelter and clothing to the homeless, and meeting your own family’s needs.

(James 2:15-16 NLT) Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, {16} and you say, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well"--but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

(1 John 3:16-18 NLT) We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian friends. {17} But if one of you has enough money to live well, and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help--how can God's love be in that person? {18} Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.