Isaiah 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Yet they seek me daily . . .—The “seeking” is that of those who come, like the elders in Ezekiel 20:1, to “enquire” of Jehovah, and looking for an oracle from Him. The words point to the incongruous union, possible in the reign of Manasseh, but hardly possible after the exile, of this formal recognition of Jehovah with an apostate life. Every phrase rings in the tone of an incisive irony,, describing each element of a true devotion which the people did not possess.

Isaiah 58:2. Yet they seek me daily — They cover all their wickedness with a profession of religion, from time to time resorting to my house, pretending to ask counsel of me, and to desire and seek my favour and blessing. And delight to know my ways — That is, either, 1st, They seem to delight to know them, men being often said in Scripture to be or do that which they seem or profess to be or do: or, 2d, They really delight; for there are many men who take some pleasure in knowing God’s will and word, and yet do not conform their lives to them. As a nation that did righteousness — As if they really were a righteous people; and forsook not the ordinance, &c. — As if they were not guilty of any apostacy from God, or neglect of, or disobedience to, his precepts. They ask of me the ordinances of justice — As if they desired and resolved to observe them. They delight — In appearance or reality; in approaching unto God — In coming to my temple to pray to me, receive instruction, or offer sacrifices.58:1,2 The Holy Spirit had hypocrites of every age in view. Self-love and timid Christians may say, Spare thyself; dislike to the cross and other motives will say, Spare the rich and powerful; but God says, Spare not: and we must obey God, not men. We all need earnestly to pray for God's assistance in examining ourselves. Men may go far toward heaven, yet come short; and they may go to hell with a good reputation.Yet they seek me daily - The whole description here is appropriate to the character of formalists and hypocrites; and the idea is, that public worship by sacrifice was celebrated daily in the temple, and was not intermitted. It is not improbable also that they kept up the regular daily service in their dwellings.

And delight to know my ways - Probably this means, they profess to delight to know the ways of God; that is, his commands, truths, and requirements. A hypocrite has no real delight in the service of God, or in his truth, but it is true at the same time that there may be a great deal of professed interest in religion. There may be a great deal of busy and bustling solicitude about the order of religious services; the external organization of the church; the ranks of the clergy; and the claims of a liturgy. There may be much pleasure in theological discussion; in the metaphysics of theology; in the defense of what is deemed orthodoxy. There may be much pleasure in the mere music of devotion. There may be pleasure in the voice of a preacher, and in the power of his arguments. And there may be much pleasure in the advancement of the denomination to which we are attached; the conversion of people not from sin, but from a side opposite to us; and not to holiness and to God, but to our party and denomination. True delight in religion is in religion itself; in the service of God as such, and because it is holy. It is not mere pleasure in creeds, and liturgies, and theological discussions, and in the triumph of our cause, nor even in the triumph of Christianity as a mere party measure; but it is delight in God as he is, in his holy service, and in his truth.

As a nation that did righteousness - As a people would do who really loved the ways of righteousness.

They ask of me the ordinances of justice - Their priests and prophets consult about the laws and institutions of religion, as if they were really afraid of violating the divine commands. At the same time that they are full of oppression, strife, and wickedness, they are scrupulously careful about violating any of the commands pertaining to the rites of religion. The same people were subsequently so conscientious that they did not dare to enter the judgment-hall of Pilate lest they should disqualify themselves from partaking of the Passover, at the same time that they were meditating the death of their own Messiah, and were actually engaged in a plot to secure his crucifixion! John 19:28. It is often the case that hypocrites are most scrupulous and conscientious about forms just as they are meditating some plan of enormous guilt, and accomplishing some scheme of deep depravity.

They take delight in approaching to God - There is a pleasure which even a hypocrite has in the services of religion, and we should not conclude that because we find pleasure in prayer and praise, that therefore we are truly pious. Our pleasure may arise from a great many other sources than any just views of God or of his truth, or an evidence that we have that we are his friends.

2. Put the stop at "ways"; and connect "as a nation that," &c. with what follows; "As a nation that did righteousness," thus answers to, "they ask of Me just judgments" (that is, as a matter of justice due to them, salvation to themselves, and destruction to their enemies); and "forsook not the ordinance of their God," answers to "they desire the drawing near of God" (that God would draw near to exercise those "just judgments" in behalf of them, and against their enemies) [Maurer]. So Jerome, "In the confidence, as it were, of a good conscience, they demand a just judgment, in the language of the saints: Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in mine integrity." So in Mal 2:17, they affect to be scandalized at the impunity of the wicked, and impugn God's justice [Horsley]. Thus, "seek Me daily, and desire (English Version not so well, 'delight') to know My ways," refers to their requiring to know why God delayed so long in helping them. English Version gives a good, though different sense; namely, dispelling the delusion that God would be satisfied with outward observances, while the spirit of the law, was violated and the heart unchanged (Isa 58:3-14; Eze 33:31, 32; compare Joh 18:28), scrupulosity side by side with murder. The prophets were the commentators on the law, as their Magna Charta, in its inward spirit and not the mere letter. They seek me daily; they cover all their wickedness with a profession of religion, from time to time resorting to my house, pretending to ask counsel of me, and to desire and seek my favour and blessing.

Delight to know my ways: either,

1. They seem to delight in it; for men are oft said in Scripture to be or do that which they seem or profess to be or do; as Matthew 13:12, that which he hath, is thus explained in Luke 8:18, that which he seemeth to have; and Romans 7:9, I was alive, i.e. I falsely thought myself to be alive. See also Philippians 3:9. Or,

2. They really delight; for this is evident, that there are many men who take some pleasure in the knowing of God’s will and word, and yet do not conform their lives to it.

As a nation that did righteousness; as if they were a righteous and godly people.

And forsook not the ordinance of their God; as if they were not guilty of any apostacy from God, or neglect of or disobedience to God’s precepts.

They ask of me the ordinances of justice; as if they desired and resolved to observe them.

They take delight, of which see the second note upon this verse,

in approaching to God; in coming to my temple to hear my word, and to offer sacrifices. Yet they seek me daily,.... Which may be considered as an acknowledgment of their external piety; or as a caution to the prophet not to be imposed upon by outward appearances; or as a reason why they should be rebuked sharply: they sought the Lord, either by prayer, or in the ministry of the word; they sought doctrine, as the Targum; they sought him, and that every day, or, however, every Lord's day; and yet they did not seek him with that diligence and intenseness of spirit, with their whole hearts, cordially and sincerely, as they ought to have done; they sought themselves, and the honour of men, rather than the Lord and his glory:

and delight to know my ways; not only his ways of creation and providence, but of grace; and also the ways which he prescribes and directs his people to walk in; not that they had a real delight in them, or in the knowledge of them, or such a delight as truly gracious souls have when they have the presence of God in them; are assisted by his Spirit; have their hearts enlarged with his love; find food for their souls, and have fellowship with the saints; but this delight was only seeming, and at most only in the knowledge and theory of these ways, but not in the practice of them; see Ezekiel 33:31,

as a nation that did righteousness: in general appeared to be outwardly righteous; had a form of godliness, and name to live, and yet dead, and so destitute of any works of true righteousness, at best only going about to establish a righteousness of their own:

and forsook not the ordinance of their God; the ordinance of assembling together in general; any of the ordinances of God in particular; hearing, reading, singing, praying, especially the ordinance of the supper, constantly attended to by them; see Luke 13:26,

they ask of me the ordinances of justice; not of justice between man and man, but of righteousness and religion with respect to God; they ask what are the ordinances of the Gospel, and the rules of worship and discipline, and whether there are any they are ignorant of; suggesting they were desirous of being instructed in them, and of complying with them:

they take delight in approaching to God; there is no right approaching God but through Christ, and gracious souls take a real delight in this way; but the approaching here is only in an external manner, by the performance of outward duties; and the delight is not in God, and communion with him; but in the service, performed as a work of their own, in which they trust, and in what they expect as the reward of it.

Yet they {b} 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.

(b) They will seem to worship me and have outward holiness.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. The people indeed are zealous in the performance of their external religious duties, and imagine that this suffices to put them in a right relation to God. They are ostensibly as eager to know the divine will as if they were in reality, and not merely in profession, a people that practised righteousness. A somewhat strained interpretation has been put upon the verse by many modern commentators, who suppose that it refers to the people’s desire for a speedy manifestation of Jehovah’s righteousness in their favour. This feeling was no doubt in their minds, but it is not expressed here (see below).

they seek me] i.e. enquire of me,—the word used of consulting an oracle.

ordinances of justice] not “righteous judgements” on the enemies and oppressors of Israel, but ordinances of righteousness, i.e. directions as to how righteousness is to be achieved.

they take delight in approaching to God] R.V. they delight to draw near to God. Cf. ch. Isaiah 29:13; Psalm 73:28. To render “in the approach of God (to judgement)” is arbitrary, and unsuited to the verb “delight.”Verse 2. - They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways (compare the picture drawn in Isaiah 1:11-15). We have there exactly the same representation of a people honouring God with their lips, but whose hearts are far from him - zealous in all the outward forms of religion, even making "many prayers" (Isaiah 1:15), but yet altogether an offence to God. They are not conscious hypocrites - quite the reverse; they are bent on "doing righteousness," on not forsaking God's ordinance, on continually "approaching" him; but they are wholly without a proper sense of what religion is - they make it a matter of outward observance, and do not understand that it consists in the devotion of the heart. That did righteousness, and forsook not; rather, that hath done righteousness, and hath not forsaken. The righteousness is, of course, forensic legal righteousness-the offering of the appointed sacrifices, the abstaining from unclean meats, the avoidance of external defilement, the payment of vows, the observance of the one appointed fast, and the like. They ask of me the ordinances of justice. Either "they claim at God's hands righteous judgments on their enemies" (Delitzsch); or "they demand of God a fidelity to his covenant engagements correspondent to their own (assumed) fidelity to theirs." They take delight in approaching to God. So the LXX., the Vulgate, Calvin, Vitringa, and Kay. Others prefer to render, "they desire the approach of God" (Knobel, Delitzsch, Cheyne); i.e. they desire that he will come to help them against their foes. This general law of His action is most especially the law of His conduct towards Israel, in which such grievous effects of its well-deserved punishment are apparent, and effects so different from those intended, that the compassion of God feels impelled to put an end to the punishment for the good of all that are susceptible of salvation. "And because of the iniquity of its selfishness, I was wroth, and smote it; hiding myself, and being angry: then it went on, turning away in the way of its own heart. I have seen its ways, and will heal it; and will lead it, and afford consolations to it, and to its mourning ones." The fundamental and chief sin of Israel is here called בּצע, lit., a cut of slice ( equals gain, Isaiah 56:11); then, like πλεονεξία, which is "idolatry" according to Colossians 3:5, or like φιλαργυρία, which is "the root of all evil" according to 1 Timothy 6:10, greedy desire for worldly possession, self-seeking, or worldliness generally. The future ואכּהוּ, standing as it does by the side of the perfect here, indicates that which is also past; and ואקצף stands in the place of a second gerund: abscondendo (viz., pânai, my face, Isaiah 54:8) et stomachando. When Jehovah had thus wrathfully hidden His gracious countenance from Israel, and withdrawn His gracious presence out of the midst of Israel (Hosea 5:6, מהם חל), it went away from Him (שׁובב with שׁובב, like עולל with עולל), going its own ways like the world of nations that had been left to themselves. But Jehovah had not seen these wanderings without pity. The futures which follow are promising, not by virtue of any syntactic necessity, but by virtue of an inward necessity. He will heal His wounded (Isaiah 1:4-6) and languishing people, and lead in the right way those that are going astray, and afford them consolation as a recompense for their long sufferings (נחוּמים is derived from the piel נחם, and not, as in Hosea 11:8, from the hiphal hinnâchēm, in the sense of "feelings of sympathy"), especially (Vav epexeget.; Ges. 155, 1) its mourning ones (Isaiah 61:2-3; Isaiah 66:10), i.e., those who punishment has brought to repentance, and rendered desirous of salvation.
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