ISAIAH CHAPTER 58.
Deliverance Comes to the Truly Repentant.
A SHARP REPROOF OF HYPOCRISY. ó V. 1. Cry aloud, so the Lord calls out to the prophet in bidding him rebuke the hypocritical conduct of the people, spare not, in an indulgence which in this case would amount to a sinful weakness, for which reason a crying at the top of the voice is demanded, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, with the far-sounding signal of the trumpets used on the great festivals of the Jewish Church, and show My people their transgression, the breach of covenant of which they had become guilty, and the house of Jacob their sins, for the Lordís mercy had chosen the entire nation and He still sought all its members with the same fervent love which He had shown them of old. V. 2. Yet they seek Me daily, the very Lord whom they have rejected, and delight to know My ways, pretending an earnestness which they are far from feeling, inquiring into the reason for Godís manner of dealing with them, as a nation that did righteousness, as though they were a nation practicing the covenant righteousness required of them, and forsook not the ordinance of their God, just as if they had upheld their end of the covenant; they ask of Me the ordinances of justice, literally, ďthe judgments of righteousness,Ē namely, that the Lord should interfere in their behalf; they take delight in approaching to God, pleading for their own deliverance and the destruction of their enemies. V. 3. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, in the spirit of self-righteousness, which caused them to act as though God had been placed under obligations by their fasting, and Thou seest not? the Lord ignoring them on account of their hypocrisy. Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, by the hardships of fasting, and Thou takest no knowledge? the intimation being that Jehovah was not appreciating their efforts sufficiently. But the Lord has His answer ready and sets them right with emphasis. Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, seeking advantage for themselves by their show of piety, and exact all your labors, oppressing the men who worked for them even while they were professing an unusual degree of holiness. V. 4. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, while they were practicing their wicked oppression, they made a great show of their supposed piety, and to smite with the fist of wickedness, not hesitating even to strike blows in tyrannizing their laborers; ye shall not fast as ye do this day to make your voice to be heard on high. Their fasting was nothing but hypocritical show, lacking the essence of the practice; for proper fasting presupposes a heart filled with repentance, pleading with the Lord for forgiveness and mercy. V. 5. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? Could the Lord accept their fasting as an expression of repentance? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, affecting a sorrow which he was far from feeling, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? to make that his bed. Wilt thou call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord? All external evidences of sorrow and mourning mean nothing if the heart and mind are not affected, if they do not flow out of a repentant heart. The fasting which pleases the Lord is of an entirely different kind. V. 6. Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bands of wickedness, to release the oppressed laborers, to undo the heavy burdens, which these tyrants had laid upon their men as upon pack-animals, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Note the heaping of synonymous expressions in order to emphasize the necessity of desisting from works of tyranny and of practicing true works of mercy. V. 7. Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, to share it with him who is in need, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out, those without a home, without a roof to call their own, to thy house; when thou seest the naked that thou cover him, by providing him with clothing, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? every human being in need of help being our neighbor. The true proof of repentance consists in discontinuing wickedness and oppression in every form and in practicing mercy toward all men.
THE BLESSINGS FOLLOWING TRUE REPENTANCE. ó V. 8. Then, namely, when a person acts in accordance with the suggestion made in the first part of the chapter, shall thy light break forth as the morning, like the dawn of the Orient, which speedily covers the sky, and thine health shall spring forth speedily, the spiritual healing going on with great rapidity; and thy righteousness, the deliverance promised in the covenant, shall go before thee, as the pillar of Jehovah did at the time of the wilderness journey; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward, to protect him against any attack from that quarter. This is nothing else than the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the Messiah Himself. Cp. 2 Cor. 4, 6; 1 Cor. 10, 4. V. 9. Then, namely, when this wonderful fellowship obtains, shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer, with a ready assistance; thou shalt cry, appealing to Him for help, and He shall say, Here I am, indicating His presence and readiness to help with the customary answer. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, removing every form of oppression, the putting forth of the finger, in a threatening gesture, and speaking vanity, things which would prove harmful to the neighbor; v. 10. and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, opening his heart in true mercy, and satisfy the afflicted soul, offering it the desired relief, then shall thy light rise in obscurity, in the midst of the darkness of this vale of tears, and thy darkness, what seems to be the worst form of affliction, be as the noonday, filled with the glorious light of Godís kindness and mercy; v. 11. and the Lord shall guide thee continually, throughout life, and satisfy thy soul in drought, whenever a time of spiritual want comes, and make fat thy bones, strengthening a manís frame for endurance; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, a park with luxuriant growth, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not, such as do not disappoint the traveler by being dried up at the crucial time. V. 12. And they that shall be of thee, their descendants, the members of their nation, shall build the old waste places, changing ruins into inhabited dwellings; thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations, all the cities of the Holy Land, but especially Jerusalem; and thou shalt be called The Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Paths to Dwell In, both activities making the dwelling in the Promised Land possible once more. V. 13. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, the Sabbath being regarded as holy ground, which no unholy foot dared touch, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day, whatever pleases the natural heart of man, and call the Sabbath a delight, refreshment for the soul, the holy of the Lord, honorable, keeping it sacred in the manner commanded by the Lord, and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, in vanity and foolishness: v. 14. then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, finding the soulís true refreshment in Him; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, once more to occupy the hills of their homeland, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob, thy father, enjoying all the blessings promised to that patriarch; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, a solemn formula to assure men of the fulfillment of Godís promises. Even as Israel, the Church of the Old Testament, could come to the enjoyment of Jehovahís heritage only by true repentance, so the believers of the New Testament fitly keep the admonition of the Lord before their eyes, ďRepent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.Ē