“We may appease ourselves with religious acts, but God is only pleased with religion in action.”
(1) Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
(2) Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
(3) Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
(4) Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
(5) Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
(6) Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
(7) Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
The people of Isaiah’s day were “religious.” They went through the motions of “seeking” God (v. 2), coming to the Temple and listening to instruction of the Law. They also “fasted” (v. 3). By all outward appearances, they wanted to know God’s will.
However, their motives were far from pure. Behind the facade of religious devotion were “strife,” “debate,” and “wickedness” (v. 4). Their full attention was not turned toward God (v. 3b). They had hoped to gain God’s ear without giving Him their hearts. Instead of showmanship, God was looking for sincere change of life (vv. 6 – 7).