“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. (Isaiah 58:1)”
Isaiah was given the task to tell God’s people, that they had fallen from God’s favor and if they don’t acknowledge it and repent, judgment was coming.
In Chapter 58; God declares a sinful people keep making their approach to him and asking for his favor, as if they were a righteous nation; acting as if nothing was wrong.
The Lord only required Israel to fast once a year during the Day of Atonement. It was to be a time of reflection, thinking over the past year; a time to be humble before their God, through prayer and fasting; knowing that he was about to cover their sins and count them righteous.
It was a time to be sorry for their sin and a time where they confessed their sins, knowing that the Lord was about to wipe the slate clean, where he would remember their sins no more.
The promises of God were to come alive during this time of reflection. The bound would be free from their sin. But the Lord declared that he wasn’t receiving their hypocrisy.
“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. (Isaiah 58:6)”
The people had turned the Day of Atonement into a day of mockery; where they were to humble themselves before God and they would be no longer held accountable for the effects of their sins. But instead of being grateful, (as they were being forgiven); they prayed and fasted for their own forgiveness, but they weren’t willing to forgive those who had trespassed against them. (It appears that some were even fasting and praying to the Lord, asking him to judge those who had wronged them!)
They expected God to forgive them, but they were not willing to reciprocate and forgive their neighbors. They wanted their own bands broken, while placing shackles on those who wronged them. They wanted to be free from every yoke, while they were placing yokes on their own friends and neighbors (fellow Israelites). The Lord was ready to wipe (John & Martha names or every person’s name) off of his list of transgressors, but their names were standing firm on everyone else’s list.
As God’s slate was being wiped clean, they (the people) were making their own lists of transgressions and how their neighbors would have to pay for them; they had become greater than God, who was expected to forgive, but they themselves would hang onto their unforgiveness against others!
“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; (Isaiah 58:9)”
The promise of God was: If they humble themselves before him; (as he forgives them), then they were to forgive (stop pointing their fingers at one another) those who wronged them. As his slate is being cleansed, they were to clear off their slates towards others. Then, when they call upon him, he will answer.
Have you looked into the mirror lately and allowed the Lord to point out your short comings? Those things that may be hindering your prayer and fasting? It could be just like Israel, you may have made a mockery out of God’s grace, you’re looking for God to love you, but you’re not willing to share that same love towards others.
The Lord sent Isaiah long before he sent his judgment, he gave them time to reflect. They acted as if they were blind and couldn’t see their own faults, but they sure could see everyone else’s faults to put them on their list; they were more than ready to place a yoke on someone else, but they expected the Lord to forgive them.
These things were written for an example for us, let’s hope we don’t find ourselves in the same situation as they were in! So look into the mirror of his word and see if you are!