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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 L ord?



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 L ord shall be your rear guard.


Then you shall call, and the L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord,

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 L ord has spoken.


1. Cry with the throat. This chapter has been badly divided; for these words are connected with what goes before; and therefore, if we wish to understand the Prophet’s meaning, we ought to read them as if there had been no separation. The Prophet has testified that the people shall be punished in such a manner as to leave some hope of peace, and next has threatened that the wicked, who by indolent pride endeavor to escape from God, shall have continual war. He now confirms that doctrine, and informs them that God has given him this command, to “cry with the throat,” that is, to use a common expression, (a plein gosier) “at the full stretch of the voice.”

Why is this? It is to make known to the people their sins He does not speak merely of the stretch of the voice, but means by it that keenness and severity of language which hypocrites especially need, as if God were throwing thunderbolts against them from heaven; for they are delighted with their vices, if they be not severely reproved and dragged forth to the light, or rather if they be not violently thrown down.

When he adds, Spare not, it is a mode of expression very frequently employed by Hebrew writers, such as, “I cry, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:2) It is equivalent to a common expression, (Crie sans espargner,) “Cry without sparing.” We have said that the Prophet does not speak of the mere sound of the voice, but means a severe and harsh reproof, which is very necessary to be sharply used towards hypocrites. For instance, if the prophets merely spoke of the Law of the Lord, and showed what is the rule of a good and holy life, and recommended the worship of God, and likewise reproved vices, but. without employing any vehemence of language, what impression would they produce on hypocrites, whose conscience is lulled in such a manner that they cannot be aroused but by applying spurs? And so a simple manner of teaching would not be enough, unless they were sharply attacked, and the thunderbolts of words were launched against them.

Paul also, imitating the prophets, after having condemned all mankind, breaks out with greater vehemence against those who made some profession of holiness and abused God’s patience. “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the Law, and boastest in God, and knowest his will, and approvest what is excellent, being instructed out of the Law; and trustest that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of those who are in darkness, an instructor of fools, a teacher of the ignorant, having the form of knowledge and of truth by the Law. Thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou who preachest that men ought not to steal, dost thou steal? (Romans 2:17-21) Against such persons he threatens the judgment of God and terrible vengeance, because they have abused his goodness, and vainly boast of his name.

Thus the Prophet, in this passage, sharpens his pen expressly against the Jews, who gloried in the name of God, and yet proudly rose up against him. This is the method, therefore, that ought to be followed against hypocrites, who hold out an empty show of holiness; at least, if we wish to discharge our duty in a proper and useful manner. As the Lord exercised the prophets in this kind of combat, so we must be exercised in it at the present day; so that we must not hold our peace, or give them a slight reproof, but must exclaim against them with all our might.

It might be objected, “If the Lord commands his servants to reprove the sins of the people, to whom he promises peace, he undoubtedly intended to leave to them the hope of salvation. And yet it is certain that those words are addressed to the reprobate, against whom he had formerly declared war.” I reply, believers were at that time reduced to a small number; for there were few who embraced the peace that was offered to them. Accordingly, when Isaiah holds out the hope of approaching peace, he has his eye on that little flock; when he threatens war, his aim is to terrify the multitude, who were estranged from God and despised his warnings; for the state of the people was such, as we have formerly seen, (Isaiah 1:21) that scarcely any pure or sound morality remained.

And to the house of Jacob their iniquity. With good reason does he call them “the house of Jacob,” when the greater part of the people were corrupted. And we ought carefully to observe this distinction: that the prophets sometimes address the multitude at large, and sometimes limit their discourse to a few believers. Nor is it without witty and bitter mockery that he gives the designations of “his people” and “children of Jacob” to those who had degenerated from their stock and had basely revolted from the faith of the fathers. The concession made is therefore ironical; as if he had said that there is no privilege which hinders them from hearing what they deserve.

2. Yet they seek me daily. Here he intended to take away every ground of objection from hypocrites, who had their answers ready. “We fear, serve, and love God, and seek him with the whole heart. Why do you rebuke us as if we were irreligious persons; for we wish to regulate our life according to the injunctions of the Law.” To meet this objection, he affirms that they do nothing in a pure or sincere manner, that everything is pretended and hypocritical, and consequently is of no value before God, who demands the whole heart. (Genesis 17:1)

It is proper to observe this order which the Prophet has followed. After having threatened war against wicked men and hypocrites, he now rebukes them severely, and takes away the pretenses and disguises under which they shrouded themselves. This is the manner in which hypocrites should be treated, and dragged, as it were, out of their lurking­places; for otherwise doctrine could produce no good effect upon them. And not only should godly teachers observe this order, but every person ought to apply this manner of teaching for his own use, that he may not be satisfied with himself or flatter his vices; that he may not practice hypocrisy on himself, or suffer himself to be deceived by the tricks of Satan. Let him therefore bring a pure and upright heart, if he wish to profit by the doctrine of the word, and to be acceptable to God.

And wish to know my ways. Although Isaiah admits that traitors and liars have some show of holiness, yet, on the other hand, by a bitter figure of speech, he censures them, as if he had said that in their shameful boasting there was excessive wickedness. Thus it is not simple irony, but there is likewise added a complaint, that, while they apparently labor to serve God, still, if any person examine them more closely, and inquire into their whole manner of life, he will perceive that their hearts are altogether estranged from God.

They ask of me the judgments of righteousness. 118118     “They consult the priests and prophets as to those laws and statutes about which there is any uncertainty, as if they were afraid of breaking the commandments of God through ignorance. ­ Rosenmuller. Those who think that in these words hypocrites blame God, and rise up against him, as if they would enter into controversy with him, have not understood the Prophet’s meaning. I acknowledge that he does this soon afterwards; but before coming down to it, he tears off their mask of pretended godliness. After having said that they “seek God daily,” as if there were nothing that occupied their thoughts more earnestly than religion, he proceeds in the same strain, and says, that they “ask judgments,” that they may serve God, and observe the rule of a holy life, that is, by pretending to burn with zeal for religion. And indeed the Prophet here enumerates the most important exercises of believers, which sometimes are ostentatiously imitated by the wicked. Now, the chief point of religion is, to inquire into the will of God, that we may regulate our life by the rule which he has laid down for us, and to depend on his mouth. But the children of God, in this respect, are falsely copied by hypocrites, so that they appear to practice all that relates to the true worship of God, and sometimes to exceed the very best of men.

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