By ELIZABETH COOPER
Monday 22 February 2021
From the Message translation Isaiah 58
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
“Well, here’s why: The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, GOD, would like?
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debt. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Isaiah says that ‘if a fast does not express true sorrow for sin, and does not promote the putting away of sin, then it is not a fast.
Why did God not notice their fast, they questioned? And in so doing they went the way of Cain who was angry with God and resentful that his offering was not accepted.
Observe how they boasted about themselves and magnified their own performances. They thought God should take great notice of them. Note: that it is a common thing for hypocrites, while they perform the external services of religion, to promise themselves the
acceptance with God which He has promised only to the sincere. They charge God with injustice and justify themselves by throwing up their religion in His face.
The true reason why God did not accept their fast was that they did not fast aright. They fasted indeed, but they persisted in their sins: they went on to find pleasure, to do whatsoever seemed right in their own eyes.’
God gives a beautiful description of what composes true righteousness. It is sharing one's bread with the hungry; it is bringing the homeless, the dispossessed poor, into one's house; it is clothing the naked, etc. The great fault of the human race is that people who have plenty frequently have faces of flint toward the poor, hungry, helpless, and downtrodden of the earth.
What a compassionate, merciful God You are. All Your ways are perfect.
Lord, we come before You to humble ourselves at Your feet, asking You to bring mercy where judgment has been earned. We are deeply sorry for allowing our hearts to be led astray by our own desires and the things of the world, for the ways we have turned away from You, and sinned against You and You alone.
Although we have been disobedient and our sinfulness deserves punishment, You forgive and pardon those who humble themselves before You. Where judgment is warranted, You give mercy.
Forgive us Lord and be merciful to us. Soften our hearts, God, to be tender towards You, to seek your face, and to long for your presence in our lives.
In Jesus name,
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