The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

Isaiah 58 (PDF) PDF version

Isaiah 58

I have read Isaiah 58 many times in the years that I’m a Christian and it is certainly one of my favorite passages. However, it never spoke to me so loudly as it did this morning. And it is really a loud chapter. It even says it in the first verse:

Isaiah 58:1
"Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins."

Cry aloud!! This is not a message to stay somewhere hidden. This is a message that must be said ALOUD! It is a message that must be heard like a TRUMPET! For I believe that, like the people of Israel, so also many of us have the same issues they had and which are described in the first 3 verses of the chapter:

Isaiah 58:1-3
"Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God. `Why have we fasted,' they say, `and You have not seen? Whyhave we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?"

Israel was seeking God! Israel took delight to know the ways of the Lord! They took delight in approaching God! You know, these folks wanted to be close to God! They wanted to know God more and more! They fasted! They "afflicted their souls"! And yet… it was like God was deaf in all this! It was like He was blind, frozen, paying no attention to what they did and to their supposingly great interest. If they were today, they would attend church, they would take seminars, they would do "ministry" activities. And yet, God wouldn’t hear nor see! Haven’t we seen this today, probably in our own lives? We may miss somehow God. We try to approach Him … through fasting, through searching for more knowledge, through studying etc… "We take delight to KNOW His ways". Yet, knowing the ways of God does not mean that we know God, nor it means that we walk in these ways! Fasting or taking delight in approaching God does not mean that our hearts are necessarily touched. And it is there that change must happen. It is there where repentance must enter. It is there where transformation must occur. Renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2), means renewal of the heart. As the Lord tells us in I Samuel 16:7 :

I Samuel 16:7
"man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

It is the heart where the Lord looks at. It is not a ritual that we have to follow to approach God: get up at that time, do this and that, go to church every Sunday, do this and that ministry work. This is not going to bring us nearer to God, when there is no change of the heart. If we are going to church, do this and that and have many activities, and yet in our personal lives, in our hearts, we live something else, then whatever we may do will not help. We may very well cry as the Israelites "why you don’t see?". And the reason He does not see lies in the heart. Here is what He said to the people of Israel:

Isaiah 58:3-5
"In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers." Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?"

These folks were fasting but in that very day they exploited their laborers! They were fasting and yet they were harboring strife and debate… and in fact they were fasting for this…. "please Lord make the so and so change his mind and see that I’M RIGHT in my argument". They were afflicting their souls, their head went down like a bulrush, they had sackcloth and ashes under them and yet they had the same hard heart! Do you know what the Lord said: THIS IS NOT A FAST!!! Real fast has to do with change of the heart! Stay as many days as you want without food…. if the heart is not changed it does not matter. This does not mean that the fast does not matter in general. What it means is that a fast with unchanged heart does not matter. And then the Lord moves ahead to tell His people what was the true fast:

Isaiah 58:6-7
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?"

See, this is not an apathy state. What the Lord describes here is ACTION! However, not action in religious practices but action in justice, in doing His will! This is not the picture of somebody that has made settlements with the world and lives OK for himself and cares nothing for the others. And yet there are many church attending brothers that do this. They do their religious duties or ministries and then they think they are justified to live however they like. There are many that live double lives… one life with those outside (church, work etc.) and another life at their home. You can live however you like but you are not justified to do this nor it is going to benefit you. There are many that say "I give my tithes, I do my "ministry works" so I don’t know why God has a problem with me". The reason is that despite the accomplishment of the duties the heart hasn’t changed. It does need change of the heart, it does need a humble heart, to share your bread with the poor, and to take him to your house! It does need change of the heart to not do what is the easiest thing in the world to do: to be indifferent. It does need change of the heart to loose the bonds of wickedness and undo the heavy burdens. It does need change of the heart for our voices to be heard above. It does not need change of our religious practices. It needs change of the heart. And though nothing is possible without the help of God, it is WE that we are at the end responsible about it. It is WE that we have to make the decision which way we will walk. It is WE that we will make a decision and will say "I WANT TO CHANGE". Then God will help us. God will not move into our area when our hearts don’t actually want Him. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" will read in a minute. God will come in only to the extent we truly want Him in our hearts. The Word of God says in James 4:

James 4:1-10
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."

Have you ever thought that this is not spoken to people of the world but to Christians, to brothers and sisters in the faith (James 1:2-3)?!!! They had fights, lust, war, envies, murder, and may be the other awful fruits of the flesh described in Galatians 5:19-21! No wonder that they could not approach God. You cannot expect to have a heart unchanged and at the same time God to come near to you, simply because you may take delight in knowing Him or even in approaching Him. It is not enough to intent to approach Him, to be glad in the thought of it. It is not enough to have good intentions! YOU NEED TO DO IT! YOU NEED TO CHANGE! YOU NEED TO STOP GOING FROM ONE DAY TO THE OTHER, BUT TO STEP OUT AND MAKE A DECISION! True approach of God comes only when the heart changes towards this direction. James does not say "go to church more often… start some more activities… fast for a couple of days and read 4 chapters of the Word every day". He does not say this! Not because these things are wrong or evil or bad. No way. He does not give such instructions for such instructions alone cannot bring you nearer to God, when the heart is not changed! In contrast here is what he, through the Spirit of the Lord, tells us:

James 4:7-10
"Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, yousinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning andyour joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."

Submit to God!!! Resist the devil! Cleanse your hands, and this is not physical cleaning but relates to what these hands have done… it relates to actions! PURIFY YOUR HEARTS!! It does not say…. "please stay as you are and God will change you!". It says: YOU, purify your hearts. It is WE that we do it. Do you want to have a wonderful relationship with the Lord? The key is simple: change of the heart!

Returning to Israel and to Isaiah, after the Lord told them what to do, He tells them what will follow if they followed what He said, if they changed their hearts:

Isaiah 58:8-14
"Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, `Here I am.' "If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Do you want to say "God.." and hear Him say "Here I’m"? Do you want to call Him and hear Him answer? The way is simple… do what Isaiah 58 and James in a another way told us :

loose the bonds of wickedness,

undo the heavy burdens,

let the oppressed go free,

break every yoke ,

share your bread with the hungry,

bring to your house the poor who are cast out,

when you see the naked, cover him,

not hide yourself from your own flesh,

take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,

extend your soul to the hungry,

satisfy the afflicted soul

If the relationship with God is not alive, if the relationship with God is poor, if the relationship with God is not what it used to be, there is one and a single remedy: THE HEART NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. And this is an assignment for YOU. YOU have to make the decision to do it. God wants it more than anything else. But you have to make the decision to change. God cannot get in to something you haven’t decided to do! God will help you but you need first to make the decision to really go for it. God wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge to the truth, but it is the man that makes the decision. God will seem deaf, remote, and blind to your calls when these calls are not accompanied by a change of the heart. Purify the heart, change the heart, make the decision to change and steak to it, and you will call Him and He will be there as He was and even nearer that you have ever seen Him. So close as you couldn’t even dream! This is not an assumption. It is the surety and the last verse of this chapter affirms it, for "THE MOUTH OF THE LORD HAS SPOKEN". This is His promise to you, this is what His mouth says and this is what will happen! It works the same on the contrary though: you can do all the religious activities you want, fast every day, read and memorize all the Bible, go to many seminars etc. BUT NOTHING WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T CHANGE THE HEART, for the Lord does not care for the outside, for what the eyes see, but for the inside, FOR THE HEART! He wants to be loved there, with ALL OUR HEART (Matthew 22:37)! Let the days that come be days of transformation for all of us.

Anastasios Kioulachoglou