For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2007 James Melough

58:1. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”

God here commands His servant Isaiah to denounce Israel’s wickedness in unequivocal language; and it is with the same boldness that we are to preach the gospel, warning men to forsake sin and flee from the wrath to come.

Two groups were to be warned: “my people” and “the house of Jacob.” Since however, Jacob invariably speaks of the flesh, the term “my people” may refer to those who were true believers, while Jacob may portray the nation as consisting of believers and unbelievers alike.

“... transgression” here is related to the thought of revolt from God, while “sins” describe the product of such revolt.

58:2. “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.”

TAYLOR’S translation of this verse makes clear the hypocrisy of the people, “Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and are so delighted to hear the reading of My laws - just as though they would obey them - just as though they don’t despise the commandments of God! How anxious they are to worship correctly; oh, how they love the Temple services.”

The description is as relevant to apostate Christendom as to hypocritical Israel. An apostate church has the same delight in an ornate empty ritual, while refusing to acknowledge its sinfulness and need of cleansing in the precious blood of Christ.

58:3. “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labors.”

They couldn’t understand God’s rejection of their religious forms, and apostate Christendom would be equally astounded were its members to be told that He found their “worship” equally worthless and offensive.

Taylor’s translation of the last sentence renders any additional comment redundant, “Because you are living in evil pleasure even while you are fasting, and you keep right on oppressing your workers.”

58:4. “Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.”

The Jerusalem Bible translates this verse, “Look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast, and strike the poor man with your fist. Fasting like yours will never make your voice heard on high,” and the NEB version reads, “Since your fasting leads only to wrangling and strife, and dealing vicious blows with the fist, on such a day you are keeping no fast that will carry your cry to heaven.”

The emphasis continues to be on the futility of mere religious forms.

58:5. “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 as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”

God here declares His scathing denunciation of hypocritical religion that busies itself with mere ritual while being far in heart from Him, and only the spiritually blind will fail to see that much of what passes for worship in Christendom today merits this same condemnation, see 1 Sa 15:22, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

58:6. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?”

Taylor translates this verse, “No, the kind of fast I want is that you stop oppressing those who work for you and treat them fairly and give them what they earn.”

Observance of a religious ritual divorced from love that expresses itself in conduct towards others is an anathema to God, as the Lord Himself declared, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another,” John 13:34-35, see also 1 Thess 3:12, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you.”

58:7. “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

The NEB translation of this verse reads, “Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, taking the homeless poor into your house, clothing the naked when you meet them, and never evading duty to your kinsfolk?”

The emphasis continues to be upon the need to express love not just in words but in deeds.

58:8. “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.”

“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn and soon you will grow healthy like a wound newly healed,” is the NEB translation of this verse, while Taylor renders it, “If you do these things, God will shed His own glorious light upon you. He will heal you.”

The literal reference is to the pillars of cloud and fire that accompanied Israel during their wilderness wanderings, see Ex 14:19-20,
“And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these (the Israelites): so that the one came not near the other all the night.”

Relative to health and healing however, it is to be noted that this is not to be taken literally but spiritually, for it is apparent that many of God’s choicest saints suffer life-long physical maladies, as for example Paul who is believed to have been afflicted with myopia, relative to which it is recorded that, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather gory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” 2 Cor 12:8-9, see also 1 Tim 5:23 where Paul tells Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities.”

“... thy righteousness shall go before thee” is not our own, but that of Christ which clothes every believer, see Phil 3:9, “Not having my own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

58:9. “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;”

The last sentence of this verse is also translated, “All you need to do is stop oppressing the weak, and to stop making false accusations, and spreading vicious rumors,” Taylor. “If you cease to pervert justice, to point the accusing finger and lay false charges,” NEB.

All that is needed to secure God’s peace and blessing is to demonstrate our obedience by displaying love towards others, that love being simply a reflection of our love for Him.

58:10. “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:”

Moffatt’s translation of this verse reads, “ If you bestow your bread upon the hungry, and relieve men in misery, then light shall dawn for you in darkness, your dull hour shall be bright as noon.”

Again, this may not be taken to mean that righteousness will necessarily have its reward here on earth. It is rather the assurance of eternal recompense in heaven.

58:11. “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”

The Jerusalem Bible translates the latter half of this verse, “And you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never run dry.”

It is the metaphoric description of the blessing enjoyed by every obedient believer.

58:12. “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”

This is the assurance that the descendants of those addressed would be known as “The People Who Rebuild Their Walls and Cities,” Taylor, and the ultimate fulfillment awaits the Millennium.

58:13. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:”

58:14. “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

The Jerusalem Bible translates these verses, “If thou refrain from trampling the sabbath, and doing business on the holy day, if you call the sabbath ‘Delightful’, and the day sacred to Yahweh ‘Honorable’, if you honor it by abstaining from travel, from doing business and from gossip (idle talk): then you shall find your happiness in Yahweh, and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land. I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father. For the mouth of Jahweh has spoken.”

The sabbath (the seventh day of the week) was for Israel. They worked for six days, and then rested on the seventh. Their rest was earned in the age of law. It is different however, for believers of this present dispensation of grace: we rest on the first day of the week (that rest being based on Christ’s finished work, not on “works of righteousness which we have done,”), and then we go out to serve for six days. On the seventh, under law, but now the first day of the week under grace, we rest, and come in to worship at the Lord’s Table as we remember His death that has finished the work of redemption and that has brought us pardon for all our sins, and God’s gift of eternal life.

Israel’s riding “upon the high places of the earth,” and their being fed “with the heritage of Jacob thy father” is God’s assurance of Israel’s millennial supremacy. During that era, and for all eternity, we shall reign with Christ, see 2 Tim 2:12, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him ....”


[Isaiah 59]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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