58:2 They seek Me day after day and delight to know My ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God. They ask Me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God.”
58:3 “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed! ” “Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers.
58:4 You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high.
58:5 Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the LORD? (Is. 58:2-5 HCSB)
In the passage the prophet tells us that God is aware of their effort to want to serve Him but their desires are not backed up by their actions. They want God to issue Righteous Judgments in the land, something He will cause to come about if the people of the land are walking with Him, but He cannot because when they are holding a fast they fight, argue, and oppress others. Fasting involves not only denying oneself of certain pleasures but also treating all people with equity no matter their circumstance. From this alone we can surmise that God loves all people everywhere equally and without favoritism and condescension. In vs. 5 God sees their efforts as merely rituals and meaningless. Denying oneself for the sake of ritual will profit no one a thing; certainly God will know your motive. What is missing is what should come alongside the efforts to worship, fast, and pray. Isaiah does not leave us in the dark. He tells us in the verse's that follow what God's desire is - that is what is missing and why their prayers go unanswered.
58:6 No, this is the kind of fast I want. I want you to remove the sinful chains, to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke, to set free the oppressed, and to break every burdensome yoke.
58:7 I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people. When you see someone naked, clothe him! Don’t turn your back on your own flesh and blood!
58:8 Then your light will shine like the sunrise; your restoration will quickly arrive; your godly behavior will go before you, and the LORD’s splendor will be your rear guard.
58:9 Then you will call out, and the LORD will respond; you will cry out, and he will reply, ‘Here I am.’ You must remove the burdensome yoke from among you and stop pointing fingers and speaking sinfully.
58:10 You must actively help the hungry and feed the oppressed. Then your light will dispel the darkness, and your darkness will be transformed into noonday.
58:11 The LORD will continually lead you; he will feed you even in parched regions. He will give you renewed strength, and you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring that continually produces water. (Is. 58:6-11 HCSB)
Broken down, here is what the Lord desires when we are actively worshiping, fasting, and serving Him daily:
vs. 6 - I want you to remove the sinful chains - (The temptations that hold us back)
To tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke
To set free the oppressed
To break every burdensome yoke
vs. 7 To share your food with the hungry
To provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people
To clothe the naked
To care for your own flesh and blood - (Family and Church Family see, Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 5:8)
If we do so then...
vs. 8 Your light will shine like the sunrise
Your restoration will quickly arrive
Your godly behavior will go before you
The LORD’s splendor will be your rear guard
vs. 9 You will call out, and the LORD will respond
You will cry out, and he will reply, ‘Here I am.’
You must remove the burdensome yoke from among you
You must stop pointing fingers
You must stop speaking sinfully
vs. 10 You must actively help the hungry
You must feed the oppressed
Then your light will dispel the darkness
Then your darkness will be transformed into noonday
vs. 11 Then LORD will continually lead you
Then He will feed you even in parched regions
Then He will give you renewed strength
Then you will be like a well-watered garden
Then you will be like a spring that continually produces water
Superficial worship that does not work itself out in daily acts of worship through justice, equity, and service to all people cannot truly be called worship at all. So what can we learn? What must we do? Having heard the words of the prophet as God moved Him to speak we are given a little insight into the nature of God and the worship He loves. So what is God's will? To worship in Spirit and in truth, John. 4:24. To act out our devotion to God in worship by devoting ourselves to others in action. To allow God to change us day by day (sanctification). Sadly in America it often too far one way or the other. When we practice faithful attendance in church we often lack faithful daily service. Why is that? When we live to help out others we often do it because it is what we want to do rather than springing from faithful hearts built up in God through faithful attendance in worship. This type of service is most often rife with our picking and choosing when, where, and how we will serve instead of relying on God's nudging and leading and we call it service to God. It is the foundation of a self-styled and planned out works religion. It never takes us out of our comfort zone. Again why? God's desire is that we all look inwardly at our hearts. The true formula of Godly worship that catches God's eye is worship from a pure heart that gives daily in service no matter the sacrifice and springs forth toward all of God's created people. Worship is a daily matter. It is one of the reasons Jesus stated, "Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me, Luke 9:23 (NKJV).
God did not accept Israel's fasting and worship because it was not from the heart. It was ritual, something they were told they needed to do. There was no real heart change in them and they lived toward others differently than He had lived toward them - loving and forgiving their sin even though they did not deserve it.
Let us go forth from the church house and into God's mission field to worship serve Him in the way He alone leads. Then when we regather let us share in the good things God has done the past week! That is worship that is pleasing to God!