“And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.”
—Isaiah 58:10 (NASB)
Isaiah listened to his people complain about God not recognizing their observance of fasting. The people focused on how God would bless them through fasting and not how God will use them through fasting.
Here we find Isaiah calling them out from the hypocrisy that they built around the practice of fasting. The Israelites had been fasting, but it had become a ritual of simply going through the motions. They felt as though they should see God at work more in their lives based on their devotion to the fast.
“Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why do we humble ourselves and You do not notice?” These are some of the things people asked in the first part of Isaiah 58:3. They are offended that their fasting has not seemed beneficial in their personal lives.
Isaiah confronts the Israelites in a way that calls them to attention. When you were a child, there was a way that your mother, grandmother, or some other authority figure could call you to attention. This call was one in which you would have to stop playing ball or watching television to come and stand before the person calling you so he or she could address you with the issue at hand. For me it was when my grandmother would use my first, middle, and last name. I knew I had better come to her immediately.
Isaiah desired for the Israelites to understand that their observance of fasting was based on what they wanted to do and not what God had required of them (Isaiah 58:5–6).
Isaiah is calling the people of Israel to attention. He recognizes that they are indeed fasting, but their motivations for fasting have slipped from the idea of honoring God to honoring themselves. It is because of this that the Israelites are not approaching God with the motivation of loving their neighbor.
In Matthew 22:37–39, Jesus reminds us that we are to, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
What an incredible reminder that we have here from Isaiah. God desires that all people would come to know Him, and make Him known.
It would be incredibly easy for us to point fingers at the Israelites and feel better about ourselves after reading this passage. If we just read verse 10, we realize that we cannot point fingers at the Israelites without pointing fingers at ourselves.
So many times we focus on ourselves and our desires first without ever thinking of how we can show God’s love to the people around us. We are planted exactly where God desires for us to be at every moment of every day so that we can bring Him glory in all that we do.
Isaiah reminds us in verse 10 that if we will seek to honor God, submit to his authority, and follow His commands, we will see the glory of God and experience the blessing of what it means to be in a relationship with Him.
Seeking to honor the Lord by loving other people will cause His light to shine in a dark world. In John 8:12 Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” In following Jesus, we will not walk in darkness. As Matthew 5:16 commands us, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Don Scrivener lives and serves in Lufkin, Texas along with his wife Mary Martha, and children Rani, Andrew, Jonas, and James Walter. Don is the Associate Pastor to Students at Denman Avenue Baptist Church in Lufkin. He has been in student ministry for 15 years and loves to help students find their kingdom purpose.