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False and True Worship


Shout out, do not hold back!

Lift up your voice like a trumpet!

Announce to my people their rebellion,

to the house of Jacob their sins.


Yet day after day they seek me

and delight to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness

and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments,

they delight to draw near to God.


“Why do we fast, but you do not see?

Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,

and oppress all your workers.


Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight

and to strike with a wicked fist.

Such fasting as you do today

will not make your voice heard on high.


Is such the fast that I choose,

a day to humble oneself?

Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,

and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?

Will you call this a fast,

a day acceptable to the Lord?



Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of injustice,

to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?


Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them,

and not to hide yourself from your own kin?


Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;

your vindicator shall go before you,

the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.


Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.


If you remove the yoke from among you,

the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,


if you offer your food to the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness

and your gloom be like the noonday.


The Lord will guide you continually,

and satisfy your needs in parched places,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters never fail.


Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to live in.



If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,

from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;

if you call the sabbath a delight

and the holy day of the Lord honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,

serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;


then you shall take delight in the Lord,

and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.


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Isa 58:1-14. Reproof of the Jews for Their Dependence on Mere Outward Forms of Worship.

1. aloudHebrew, "with the throat," that is, with full voice, not merely from the lips (1Sa 1:13). Speak loud enough to arrest attention.

my people—the Jews in Isaiah's time, and again in the time of our Lord, more zealous for externals than for inward holiness. Rosenmuller thinks the reference to be to the Jews in the captivity practising their rites to gain God's favor and a release; and that hence, sacrifices are not mentioned, but only fasting and Sabbath observance, which they could keep though far away from the temple in Jerusalem. The same also applies to their present dispersion, in which they cannot offer sacrifices, but can only show their zeal in fastings, &c. Compare as to our Lord's time, Mt 6:16, 23; Lu 18:12.

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.

3. Wherefore—the words of the Jews: "Why is it that, when we fast, Thou dost not notice it" (by delivering us)? They think to lay God under obligation to their fasting (Ps 73:13; Mal 3:14).

afflicted … soul—(Le 16:29).

Behold—God's reply.

pleasure—in antithesis to their boast of having "afflicted their soul"; it was only in outward show they really enjoyed themselves. Gesenius not so well translates, "business."

exact … labours—rather, "oppressive labors" [Maurer]. Horsley, with Vulgate, translates, "Exact the whole upon your debtors"; those who owe you labor (Ne 5:1-5, 8-10, &c.).

4. ye shall not fast—rather, "ye do not fast at this time, so as to make your voice to be heard on high," that is, in heaven; your aim in fasting is strife, not to gain the ear of God [Maurer] (1Ki 21:9, 12, 13). In English Version the sense is, If you wish acceptance with God, ye must not fast as ye now do, to make your voice heard high in strife.

5. for a man to afflict his soul—The pain felt by abstinence is not the end to be sought, as if it were meritorious; it is of value only in so far as it leads us to amend our ways (Isa 58:6, 7).

bow … head … sackcloth—to affect the outward tokens, so as to "appear to men to fast" (Mt 6:17, 18; 1Ki 21:27; Es 4:3).

6. loose … bands of wickedness—that is, to dissolve every tie wherewith one has unjustly bound his fellow men (Le 25:49, &c.). Servitude, a fraudulent contract, &c.

undo … heavy burdensHebrew, "loose the bands of the yoke."

oppressed—literally, "the broken." The expression, "to let go free," implies that those "broken" with the yoke of slavery, are meant (Ne 5:10-12; Jer 34:9-11, 14, 16). Jerome interprets it, broken with poverty; bankrupt.

7. deal—distribute (Job 31:16-21).

cast out—rather, reduced [Horsley].

naked … cover him—(Mt 25:36).

hide … thyself—means to be strange towards them, and not to relieve them in their poverty (Mt 15:5).

flesh—kindred (Ge 29:14). Also brethren in common descent from Adam, and brethren in Christ (Jas 2:15).

8. light—emblem of prosperity (Isa 58:10; Job 11:17).

health—literally, a long bandage, applied by surgeons to heal a wound (compare Isa 1:6). Hence restoration from all past calamities.

go before thee—Thy conformity to the divine covenant acts as a leader, conducting thee to peace and prosperity.

glory … reward—like the pillar of cloud and fire, the symbol of God's "glory," which went behind Israel, separating them from their Egyptian pursuers (Isa 52:12; Ex 14:19, 20).

9. Then … call … answer—when sin is renounced (Isa 65:24). When the Lord's call is not hearkened to, He will not hear our "call" (Ps 66:18; Pr 1:24, 28; 15:29; 28:9).

putting forth of … finger—the finger of scorn pointed at simple-minded godly men. The middle finger was so used by the Romans.

speaking vanity—every injurious speech [Lowth].

10. draw out thy soul—"impart of thine own subsistence," or "sustenance" [Horsley]. "Soul" is figurative for "that wherewith thou sustainest thy soul," or "life."

light … in obscurity—Calamities shall be suddenly succeeded by prosperity (Ps 112:4).

11. satisfy … in drought—(Isa 41:17, 18). Literally, "drought," that is, parched places [Maurer].

make fat—rather, "strengthen" [Noyes]. "Give thee the free use of thy bones" [Jerome], or, "of thy strength" [Horsley].

watered garden—an Oriental picture of happiness.

fail notHebrew, "deceive not"; as streams that disappoint the caravan which had expected to find water, as formerly, but find it dried up (Job 6:15-17).

12. they … of thee—thy people, the Israelites.

old waste places—the old ruins of Jerusalem (Isa 61:4; Eze 36:33-36).

foundations of many generations—that is, the buildings which had lain in ruins, even to their foundations, for many ages; called in the parallel passage (Isa 61:4), "the former desolations"; and in the preceding clause here, "the old waste places." The literal and spiritual restoration of Israel is meant, which shall produce like blessed results on the Gentile world (Am 9:11, 12; Ac 15:16, 17).

be called—appropriately: the name truly designating what thou shalt do.

breach—the calamity wherewith God visited Israel for their sin (Isa 30:26; 1Ch 15:13).

paths to dwell in—not that the paths were to be dwelt in, but the paths leading to their dwellings were to be restored; "paths, so as to dwell in the land" [Maurer].

13. (Isa 56:2; Ne 13:15-22). The Sabbath, even under the new dispensation, was to be obligatory (Isa 66:23).

foot—the instrument of motion (compare Pr 4:27); men are not to travel for mere pleasure on the Sabbath (Ac 1:12). The Jews were forbidden to travel on it farther than the tabernacle or temple. If thou keep thy foot from going on thy own ways and "doing thy pleasure," &c. (Ex 20:10, 11).

my holy day—God claims it as His day; to take it for our pleasure is to rob Him of His own. This is the very way in which the Sabbath is mostly broken; it is made a day of carnal pleasure instead of spiritual "delight."

holy of the Lord—not the predicate, but the subject; "if thou call the holy (day) of Jehovah honorable"; if thou treat it as a day to be honored.

him—or else, it, the Sabbath.

not doing … own way—answering to, "turn away thy foot from the Sabbath."

nor finding … pleasure—answering to, "doing thy pleasure." "To keep the Sabbath in an idle manner is the sabbath of oxen and asses; to pass it in a jovial manner is the sabbath of the golden calf, when the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose again to play; to keep it in surfeiting and wantonness is the sabbath of Satan, the devil's holiday" [Bishop Andrewes].

nor speaking … words—answering to, "call Sabbath a delight … honorable." Man's "own words" would "call" it a "weariness"; it is the spiritual nature given from above which "calls it a delight" (Am 8:5; Mal 1:13).

14. delight … in … Lord—God rewards in kind, as He punishes in kind. As we "delight" in keeping God's "Sabbath," so God will give us "delight" in Himself (Ge 15:1; Job 22:21-26; Ps 37:4).

ride upon … high places—I will make thee supreme lord of the land; the phrase is taken from a conqueror riding in his chariot, and occupying the hills and fastnesses of a country [Vitringa], (De 32:13; Mic 1:3; Hab 3:19). Judea was a land of hills; the idea thus is, "I will restore thee to thine own land" [Calvin]. The parallel words, "heritage of Jacob," confirm this (Ge 27:28, 29; 28:13-15).

mouth of … Lord … spoken it—a formula to assure men of the fulfilment of any solemn promise which God has made (Isa 40:5).