Isaiah 58 starts with God’s call to Isaiah, asking him to boldly proclaim the sin and rebellion of his people. Verses 1-4 talk about how God’s people are doing religious things, such as fasting (giving something up for a period of time) but it’s superficial, done for show. The fruit of their religiosity was not good: spoiled with greed, exploitation, quarreling, strife, fighting.
In verse 5, the writer expresses God’s true desire for fasting and faith: Don’t just do stuff that makes you look religious. It was never meant to be a status symbol or religious performance.
Isaiah 58 also says if we are fasting, or living out our faith in the way that God intended, then our lives will be freed up to contribute to others in meaningful ways. We will care about justice and the well-being of others. We will be in tune with the patterns of oppression and poverty, and we will do and give what we can to make things better.
Fasting, along with other spiritual disciplines, helps us to practice turning from things that keep us from seeing and participating in the Kingdom of God.
And this comes with a promise (vss. 8-12). If we will untangle ourselves from the appetites that control us, and when we are willing to courageously show up on behalf of others; if we will turn from the things that keep us from loving like Christ…
…then our light will shine bright in darkness. We will have greater intimacy with the Lord and He will guide our steps. We will be renewed by His Spirit, day by day. And we will form a community together that is known for repairing and restoring what has been damaged. Amen!
This chapter of Isaiah reminds us of the first message Jesus shared when He began his public ministry. Jesus said “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)
Jesus, like Isaiah, calls us to repentance, to turn from the things that keep us from experiencing and sharing the Kingdom of God in our lives. He calls us to follow Him, and not just for show. He wants us to believe that God is doing something profound in the world right now, and we can be part of it if we’d only believe Him.
Let’s believe Him together.
For Reflection: Why do you think it can be easy to fall into the trap of outward “religiosity” versus truly allowing these spiritual practices like fasting to tune our hearts towards God?
by Greg Marshall