(I am much more intimately acquainted with the content of this chapter, probably more so than any other chapter in Isaiah. This chapter offers foundational promises and instruction in regard to fasting and Sabbath day observance.)
It strikes me as very important that two of the strongest tools that I have at my disposal are fasting and Sabbath day observance. Prayer ought also to be added to this mix, as it is effectively the water that activates fasting and the Sabbath day. These things are not the longed-face resignations and oppressions of blind faith, rather these are the power tools in the hands of skilled disciples. Fasting and Sabbath day observance is what cuts through confusion; it’s what gets the job done.
Verses 3-5: Ideas of false fasting are debunked.
What fasting is not:
- Afflicting the soul
- For strife and debate, smiting with the fist of wickedness
- For public display/hypocrisy (to make your voice be heard on high)
- To be bow the head down/lay down sackcloth and ashes under him
Principle: Fasting is not the oppression that the natural man sees in it. Nor is it used for displays of piety or tools of debate.
Verses 6-7: Purpose and motives of a true fast are defined.
- Loose the bands of wickedness
- Undo heavy burdens
- Let the oppressed go free
- Break every yoke
- Deal your bread to the hungry
- Bring the poor that are cast out into your own house
- Cover the naked
- Hid not yourself from your own flesh (family)
Verses 8-12: The blessings of true fasting are defined.
The blessings described in these verses are the most desirable of good and virtuous blessings to be desired.
- Your light will break forth as the morning
- Health shall spring forth speedily
- Your righteousness will go before you
- The glory of the Lord shall be your rearward (or protection from behind).
Verse 9 gets even more intimate:
- After fasting, the Lord shall answer when we call.
- When I cry to him, he will say: “Here I am”.
Then in the same verse, I am being asked to attend to a few things, things I should avoid:
- Remove any form of yoke (or bondage) from my midst.
- Stop the “putting forth of the finger” or scorn or shaming others.
- Stop speaking in vanities, or speech that has no meaning. This could also mean flattery, which I have never been prone to resort to.
Verse 10 continues this thought with some proactive points (things we should be doing):
- If I draw my soul out to the hungry
- If I will satisfy the afflicted soul.
I need to pause here to assess what Isaiah (in so few words!) is actually saying. Drawing my soul out to the hungry is a lot more than just pulling five dollars out of my wallet and giving it to someone on a street corner. There is a much more personal commitment of time and energy and resources channeled towards the “hungry” or the “afflicted soul” if I am drawing out my soul to them.
Verse 11 begins the pouring out of blessings upon blessings:
- The Lord shall guide thee continually.
- He shall satisfy thy soul in drought.
- He shall make thy bones fat.
- Thou shall be like a watered garden
- Thou shall be like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
This sounds to me like there is the capacity to live after the manner of a united order, or such a way to succor to the needs of those around us, while not being neglected ourselves.
Spending a little more time in the footnotes on verse 11, I’ve started with “divine guidance”. This reminder of paths trodden serves a reminder that God has been with me, and of the distance already traveled down an unknown or undefined road. But we’re not done traveling that road yet, are we?
The other footnotes in verse 11, suggest a combination of blessings resulting in an abundant life both temporally and spiritually.
The promises found in verse 12 resonate deeply with me:
- They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places.
- Thou shall raise up the foundations of many generations.
- Thou shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.
These are the blessings of a true fast. The blessing articulated in verse 11 come from the Lord. The blessings found in verse 12 suggest the works that we will be enabled to accomplish, a foundational work that will bless my posterity for generations.
Verse 13 addresses what Sabbath day observance looks like:
- Turn thy foot from doing thy pleasure on my holy day.
- Call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable.
- Honor Him [the Lord].
- Do not do thy own ways.
- Do not find thy own pleasure.
- Do not speak thy own words.
So if I am to take as much effort in observing the purpose of the Sabbath day (which is to do the Lord’s will and his work, speaking the Lord’s words, finding what bring Him pleasure), then will the blessings of the Sabbath be received:
- Thou shalt delight thyself in the Lord.
- The Lord will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth.
- The Lord will feed thee with the heritage of Jacob.
There is a footnote on “high places” that points to a passage in Deuteronomy 32, where the Lord explains how the house of Israel (though they lived a desert place) were brought into great temporal prosperity.
All the mysteries of temporal and spiritual prosperity are uncovered in these two principles: Fasting and Sabbath Day Observance, both with their worship towards the true and living God. There is no other recipe for success sanctioned by heaven. There is no other pattern of living that works with lasting and true results.