The Word Made Fresh
1Shout it out as loudly as you can!
Let your voices be like trumpets!
Tell my people they are rebellious,
and inform the family of Jacob of all their sins.
2Even so, day after day they search for me,
and are happy to know my ways
as if they were good people
who didn’t turn their backs on their God’s laws.
They ask me to make righteous judgments
and they are happy to come near to me.
3Why should we fast if you don’t see us?
Why should we be humble if you don’t notice?
It is because when you fast you’re seeking a reward for it,
and you treat your own attendants shabbily.
4You fast because you like to argue and fight.
You strike one another with your fists.
The kind of fasting you are practicing
won’t make your voice heard on high.
5Do I want you to fast as a way of humbling yourself?
Is the purpose of it to bow your heads like the grass?
Is it to mope about in sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast? Do you think the LORD approves?
6Isn’t this the fast that I place before you:
to loosen the grip of injustice,
and to undo the straps fastening your yoke,
to release all those who are oppressed –
to break every restraint.
7Isn’t what I want of you instead to share your food with the hungry,
bring the poor who are homeless into your house,
clothe the naked when you see them,
and not turn away from your own relatives?
8If you did these things your light would break forth like morning,
and you would be quickly healed.
Your protector would go ahead of you
and the glory of the LORD would be your rear guard.
9Then you would call, and the LORD would answer;
when you beg for help, God would say, “Here I am.”
If you remove your rules and regulations
and stop pointing at others;
if you will stop saying evil things
10and offer food to the hungry
and help those who are afflicted,
then your light would rise in the darkness,
and your darkness would be like noon.
11The LORD would then be your permanent guide
and would satisfy your thirst when you are parched,
and would strengthen your body.
You would be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring of fresh water that never fails.
12Your ancient ruins would be rebuilt.
You shall raise up the foundations from olden times,
and you shall be called the rebuilder of broken walls,
and the one who restores the streets for people to live on.
13If you will stop treading on the Sabbath
and stop chasing your own desires on my holy day;
if the sabbath becomes your delight
and you call the LORD’s holy day honorable
and honor it, not following your own ways
or serving your own interests or pursuing your own affairs;
14then you would delight in the LORD,
and I would let you scale the heights of the earth.
You would be fed with Jacob’s heritage.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken it.
1-5: Isaiah denounces the way in which the people seek God’s forgiveness. They practice the outer forms of religion – bowing, praying, fasting, and lying in sackcloth and ashes — but neglect the character that proves faith by serving their own interests, oppressing their workers, quarreling, and fighting.
6-9a: The fast that God recognizes is to refrain from injustice and oppression and to share with the poor and those in need. Then, he says, the LORD will hurry to your defense.
9b-12: If they will stop taking advantage of one another and start taking care of one another then God will restore them.
13-14: Keeping the Sabbath holy is upheld as the primary act of obedience for God’s people: a law that we modern people treat so casually is the most important law of all.
One day in seven is to be set aside for God – to worship, to pray, to rest. When we ignore the Sabbath, we invite the world to crowd our lives with things that widen our separation from our creator.