Isaiah 58:6, 7
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…
It should be noticed, as giving special point to this reference to fasting, that, besides the regular fasts of the Jewish religion, there were, during the Captivity in Babylon, special fasts appointed as days of repentance and prayer for Israel. God complains that these fasts did not say to him exactly what those who fasted intended them to say, because he looked at the whole conduct of the men to see if it was in harmony with the fasting. The important principle is here illustrated that, if a man be right with God, he will be right also with his fellow-men. If a man does not forgive his brother his trespasses, he cannot be in such a state of mind as makes it any use to him for God to forgive his trespasses. If a man is harsh, exacting, violent, in his dealings with his fellow-creatures, God will take no notice of his sad countenance, fasting, and fine pretences of penitence. God is never deceived by the excellent appearance of our Sunday ways. He judges us by the records of all the week.
I. GOD'S IDEA OF FASTING IS NOT A FINE OUTWARD SHOW OF HUMILIATION. (Ver. 5.) Bowed head. Starved body. Sackcloth dress. Ashes for a seat. That rooks fine, and men may be deceived by it, but not God. Compare our Lord's teaching in the sermon on the mount. "Be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast." "The prophet finds fault with the fasting of the Jews in two respects.
1. Because they did not combine fasting with works of righteousness.
2. Because they held the bodily exercise to be the chief thing." Outward appearances may speak for us to God, only we must take care that they have something sincere and true and worthy to say to him, from our hearts. "Rend your hearts, and not your garments;" "The Lord searcheth the heart."
II. GOD'S IDEA OF FASTING IS SELF-RESTRAINT IN ORDER TO GAIN HIGHER EFFICIENCY FOR SERVICE. And such fasting needs to make no show. The man who fasts in this sense may "anoint his head, wash his face," and look cheerful. The best signs of fasting are the good works which we can accomplish, which we gain power, through our self-restraints, to accomplish - loosing bands, freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, blessing all. Fasting, in the sense of a refusal of all food, belongs to ceremonial religion and had its origin in Eastern lands. Fasting in its most spiritual form, as personal self-restraint, will-mastery over habits and preferences, must ever be binding upon all Christians. As explained by an apostle, it is "knowing how to possess the vessel of the body in sanctification and honour." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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?