Summary: A plea for revival drawn from the words of Isaiah.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps 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 him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up speedily;

your righteousness 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, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst,

the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually

and satisfy your desire in scorched places

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters do not fail.

And 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 dwell in.

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,

from doing your pleasure on my holy day,

and call the Sabbath a delight

and the holy day of the LORD honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,

or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;

then you shall take delight in the LORD,

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

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

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” [1]

[ISAIAH 58:6-14]

Human nature inevitably seeks to reduce the Faith to rite and ritual. If we can sleepwalk through the various parts of what is commonly called “worship,” we can allow ourselves to feel that we have done all that God expects. This proclivity to reduce worship to ritual rather than relationship is not unique to this present generation—it was described frequently and condemned by the Prophets of God. These bold, underappreciated men universally condemned rite and ritual performed for the sake of the ritual, performed simply to make those performing the acts feel good about themselves. At the outset of the message, underscore in your mind the consistent condemnation of mankind’s effort to replace relationship with ritual.

Seven hundred fifty years before the Advent of the Saviour, the Living God commissioned His prophet, Isaiah:

“Cry aloud; do not hold back;

lift up your voice life a trumpet;

declare to My people their transgression,

to the house of Jacob their sins.”

[ISAIAH 58:1]

What is especially tragic from the standpoint of the faithful is that the prophet’s commission was given at a time when the nation could claim—legitimately, I might note—that they were fulfilling all the prescribed rituals presented under the Law. The people were confident that they were doing the will of God because the priests told them they were doing well. It was an ancient version of the popular concept of “I’m Okay; You’re Okay.” The populace, not unlike many adherents of religion in this day, were focused on what was done rather than who was met. Literally, worshippers focused on their own lives rather than focusing on whether they had actually met the True and Living God.

“They seek Me daily

and delight to know My ways,

as if they were a nation that did righteousness

and did not forsake the judgement of their God;

they ask of Me righteous judgements;

they delight to draw near to God.”

[ISAIAH 58:2]

The people were offended by the prophet’s charged that he levelled against them and their efforts to worship. They pouted,

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not?

Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?”

Then, God through His prophet responded,

“Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,

and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight

and to hit with a wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day

will not make your voice to be heard on high.”

[ISAIAH 58:3]

The results of religion without transformation is exposed when the LORD God says,

“Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight

and to hit with a wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day

will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose,

a day for a person to humble himself?

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