The Message (MSG)
Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground
58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side.
But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
This made me think about all of the popular personalities and people you meet that put up the air of perfection. They believe what they say is 100% right and everyone else should align with it. They believe that they should get all of God’s blessings because they do everything “right”. Then, they don’t hesitate to tell you were you fall short of grace. God is describing the arrogance it takes to act and think this way. I seriously have a hard time with these people, and apparently God isn’t the most fond of them either.
3-5 “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 clearly spelled out what is wrong with so many church people these days that makes a lot of people hate religion. You sit in church and parade around but go home and continue life as usual. You sit up and talk about God’s grace but miss the entire point of His teachings. Verse three clearly outlines that when profit, pride, and emotions overrule the love of one another, you miss the purpose of what really pleases God.
6-9 “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 debts.
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.’
If all of the world’s Christians acted like this, the world would be a better place. Breaking the chains of injustice, ridding the world of exploitation, freeing the oppressed, and cancelling debts shows one thing, love for others. We are not perfect but we should never be afraid to stand up for what is right. We shouldn’t take the system the world is operating on so seriously that we forget that it’s all a blessing to be here. Sharing food with the hungry, housing the homeless, and clothing the naked all is about showing love for the less fortunate. It is not saying completely forsake yourself, but show that you are thankful of your good fortune and should share, even if only occasionally, with those that lack. Another important line to note is the “being available to your families.” Don’t forgot the real blessings in life. Carve out time for family and loving others. More blessings will come your way.
A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places
9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’ making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so!
Verses 9-14 are just for conclusion’s sake. If you don’t blame victims, stop gossip about other people’s sins, cease unfair practices, feed the hungry, and help those in need, God promises that you will live a full life. God means this beyond acting that way. As we can tell from the beginning of the passage, God knows we people are doing it for the wrong reasons. Treat the day as a day of joy and day of thanksgiving for all that God has given. God wants us to take a day out of our hectic weeks to really appreciate what He has given us, family, friends, and even for the strangers we know nothing about. We can be a blessing to others and we will reap the rewards.
I just wanted to share some of the reflections and thoughts that came up during this reading of this specific verse and how I connected it to the world around me. I wanted to share the message of love overall and the true purpose of fasting, ignoring yourself and personal interest to recognize and appreciate the blessings of the world around you, without distractions.
Anyone a more seasoned faster? How do you fast? I’m starting to fast myself and it helps with focus and other things. Any lessons you’d like to share or advice? Any other additional insights or reflections from Isaiah 58? Leave them in the comments below.