Summary: Though the people wanted the blessings of God, they were not interested in allowing God to change their heart, their attitude & their actions. They wanted their religion to gain them special favor with God so that they would win the dog eat dog struggle
Going through the motions of religion, even those of sacrifice and fasting, does not move God. A true and vital relationship with God does not come through external religion and ritual. What brings the response of God into life is a genuine compassion for the poor, the helpless, and the oppressed. A true seeking after relationship with God will result in seeking justice for the oppressed and acting compassionately toward the needy.
Though the people wanted the blessings of God, they were not interested in allowing God to change their heart, their attitude, and their actions. They wanted their religion to gain them special favor with God so that they would win the dog eat dog struggle for power, position, and possessions. God though wants to fill their hear with compassion.
I. THE PERSISTENT PROBLEM, 1-2.
II. THE PEOPLE’S PRESSURE, 3-5.
III. THE PROPER PATTERN, 6-7.
IV. THE PRECIOUS PROMISES , 8-12.
[The seriousness of the people’s self-absorbed religion is proclaimed in verse 1. "Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins. (2) "Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions. They delight in the nearness of God. The people thought themselves right with God. They performed the prescribed ritual observations as if this was the way to right relationship with God. God will reveal the futility of perfunctory religious formalities.]
II. THE PEOPLE’S PRESSURE, 3-5.
In verse 3 the people voice their complaint that they were in difficulty though they were doing what the Law required. ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.
The people now present how they view their religion. They had observed their prescribed religious activity, even engaging in fasting (Lev. 16:29; Zech 7:5-6). They thought their act of fasting in itself was humbling themselves before the Lord. Their fasting though was thoughtless or done as an attempt to obtain a selfish end. It was employed only for religious show or to engage God to act on their behalf. (See Mt. 6:16-18).
Fasting is an act of self-denial to draw closer to God, to hear God better. The prescribed annual fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29) was to afflict one’s soul for the purpose of mediation on the seriousness of one’s sins and the greatness of God in making a way of atonement for them [Oswalt, NIC, Isaiah, 497]. They saw fasting as denying themselves some food so that they might gain something worldly of God in return. Their religious behavior was in order to get something from God in return. Neither repentance nor fasting should be to get God to do anything. They are expressions of the conviction that my ways are wrong and God’s ways are right, whether He does anything for me or not [ibid, 497].