Cry Aloud (Isa. 58:1)
The call of Israel was a call to be a blessing to the nations that surrounded it. In Isaiah 58:1 we see a cry to call out the iniquities and transgressions of God’s people. To better understand the reason for the cry, we must consider the context. The Lord gives a command in Isaiah 56:1 to “keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed” (NKJV). We see in this passage that justice and righteousness are interconnected. Both justice and righteousness are part of God’s plan of salvation and part of His plan to demonstrate His character to the world.
This combination of justice and righteousness leads to the condemnation of the leaders of Israel. The leaders of Israel failed to fulfill the call that God gave them. Isaiah 57 lists the unrighteous deeds of the leaders of Israel. One of those unrighteous deeds was that “the righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart” (Isa. 57:1, NKJV). The leadership of Israel allowed the people of God to completely forget the moral obligation and blessing they needed to be to the world.
When God’s people combine their religious fast with their religious experience, God’s character is revealed to the world.
False Religion (Isa. 58:1–5)
As we continue in Isaiah 58, we see false religion being demonstrated in verses 1–5. The Israelites thought that by doing their religious works of fasting, praying, and offering sacrifices that they were doing their religious duty. Yet even though the Israelites were doing their religious duties, their religion was superficial because the sacrifices themselves lacked the justice and righteousness needed to demonstrate the righteousness of God to the world. The appropriate fast God wanted from Israel was to demonstrate justice and mercy to the surrounding nations. So God asks, in verse 5, what is the acceptable fast for Me?
True Religion (Isa. 58:5–7)
True religion, according to verses 6–9, includes loosing the bonds of wickedness, letting the oppressed go free, sharing your bread with the hungry, giving a place for the homeless, and clothing those who are naked. True religion is to be concerned for the less fortunate and to fight for those who aren’t receiving justice. It brings satisfaction when we match our care for the less fortunate with our religious practices. The purpose of the gospel and the plan of salvation is to combine both justice and righteousness. This was how Israel would be a blessing to the world. Once the gospel is experienced and demonstrated, the world will see the glory of God’s character.
The Glory (Isa. 58:8, 9; Matt. 5:16; Rev. 18:1)
When God’s people combine their religious fast with their religious experience, God’s character is revealed to the world. The promise is given in verse 8: “Then your light shall break forth like the morning” (NKJV). The conjunction then denotes that what follows results from what precedes it. As Israel fed the poor, clothed the naked, provided homes for the homeless, and fought for the oppressed—this combined with its religious duties—the result would be God’s light (glory) breaking forth like the morning.
Light is synonymous with God’s glory in the Bible (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6). In a world darkened by the lack of a revelation of God’s character, our actions reveal whether or not we are living out the message we claim to proclaim. In Revelation 14:6–13 God gives modern Israel the final message that must be given to the world. One of the first injunctions is to give glory to God. Then Revelation 18:1 gives the result of demonstrating His glory (character) to the world: “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory” (NKJV). This glory is why Jesus emphasized the importance of demonstrating good works in the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5, when He stated that our lights should “ ‘shine before men.’ ” The purpose? “ ‘That they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ ” (verse 16, NKJV). The world desperately needs to see this glory, and the Lord has mandated us to share it.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving (Prov. 11:25)
King Solomon, the wisest man on earth, emphasized the importance of being generous and giving. Solomon stated, “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself” (Prov. 11:25, NKJV). The apostle Paul emphasized the same point in 2 Corinthians 9:6—“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” God wants us to experience the happiness and joy that comes with service. He has blessed us with homes, jobs, food, family, and more; but when we keep those blessings to ourselves and do not impart the blessings to others, we miss the special blessing God wants us to receive. All that He has given to us is so that we may be a blessing to others. For as we water, we will be refreshed as well. Service is a gift that keeps on giving.
1. Is there a call as Christians to be actively involved with the social justice issues of the day (immigration, distribution of wealth, poverty, crime, etc.)?
2. Has there been a time you have gone out of your way to help someone when it seemed to be an inconvenience? How did you feel afterward?