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6

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?

7

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?


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6. Is not this the fast which I have chosen? The Prophet shows what are the real duties of piety, and what God chiefly recommends to us; namely, to relieve those who are wretched and pressed with a heavy burden. But the Prophet appears to abolish fasting universally, when, in place of it, he enumerates those works which are most highly acceptable to God. I reply, fasting is approved when it is accompanied by that love which we owe to our fellow­men; and therefore the Prophet directs that we shall be tried by this principle, that our consciences be entire and pure, that we exercise mutual kindness towards each other; for if this order prevail, then fasting, which shall be added to it, will be pleasing and acceptable to God. But here he does not at all mention purity of heart. I reply, it is described by works, as by its fruits, from which it is easily seen what kind of heart we have. Next, he enumerates the duties of the Second Table, under which, as we have elsewhere seen, by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, he includes the whole observation of the Law; for it would not be enough to assist our neighbor by kind offices, if at the same time we despised God. But we must observe the Prophet’s design; because the love which we owe to our neighbors cannot be sincerely cultivated, unless when we love them in God. In order to make trial of our fear of God, he demands these as more immediate signs, if we live justly, inoffensively, and kindly with each other. Besides, he was not satisfied with outward appearance; and indeed the love of our neighbor does not thrive where the Spirit of God does not reign; and therefore Paul includes it in the enumeration of “the works of the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22) Thus when the observation of the Law is spoken of, not only outward works, but likewise the dispositions of the heart, must be taken into the account.

To loose wicked bindings. Some explain it to mean “sinful thoughts,” by which the hearts of men are entangled. But Isaiah appears to me to have had another object in view, namely, that hypocrites are exceedingly cruel in distressing the poor, and lay heavy burdens upon them. He therefore calls them “bonds,” or “bindings,” or, as we commonly say, “oppressions.” Of the same import is what he adds, to undo the heavy burdens, under the weight of which the poor groan and are overwhelmed. he again adds, “to let the oppressed go free,” and expresses the same thing in a variety of words. Thus the Prophet does not define what is meant by “fasting,” but shows what the Lord requires in the first place and chiefly, and in what manner our obedience can be approved by him, and what ought to be the dispositions of those who endeavor to fast in a right manner.

7. Is it not to break thy bread to the hungry? He goes on to describe the duties of love of our neighbor, which he had described briefly in the preceding verse; for, having formerly said that we must abstain from every act of injustice, he now shows that we ought to exercise kindness towards the wretched, and those who need our assistance. Uprightness and righteousness are divided into two parts; first, that we should injure nobody; and secondly, that we should bestow our wealth and abundance on the poor and needy. And these two ought to be joined together; for it is not enough to abstain from acts of injustice, if thou refuse thy assistance to the needy; nor will it be of much avail to render thine aid to the needy, if at the same time thou rob some of that which thou bestowest on others. Thou must not relieve thy neighbors by plunder or theft.; and if thou hast committed any act of injustice, or cruelty, or extortion, thou must not, by a pretended compensation, call on God to receive a share of the plunder. These two parts, therefore, must be held together, provided only that we have our love of our neighbor approved and accepted by God.

By commanding them to “break bread to the hungry, 122122     Grotius says that “the bread in those countries was such as could be easily ‘broken,’ [like the thin cakes which are still common in the East]; and that to ‘break,’ consequently, meant to ‘impart,’ or to distribute. The phraseology is borrowed from the breaking of the bread which is distributed by the head of a family to the domestics at his table.” — Rosenmuller. he intended to take away every excuse from covetous and greedy men, who allege that they have a right to keep possession of that which is their own. “This is mine, and therefore I may keep it for myself. Why should I make common property of that which God has given me?“ He replies, “It is indeed thine, but on this condition, that thou share it with the hungry and thirsty, not that thou eat it thyself alone.” And indeed this is the dictate of common sense, that the hungry are deprived of their just right, if their hunger is not relieved. That sad spectacle extorts compassion even from the cruel and barbarous. He next enumerates various kinds, which commonly bend hearts of iron to συμπάθειαν fellow­feeling or compassion; that the savage disposition of those who are not moved by feeling for a brother’s poverty and necessity may be the less excusable. At length he concludes —

And that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh. Here we ought to observe the term flesh, by which he means all men universally, not one of whom we can behold, without seeing, as in a mirror, “our own flesh.” It is therefore a proof of the greatest inhumanity, to despise those in whom we are constrained to recognize our own likeness.




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