Robert Wurtz II
If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Restorer of the Breach, The Repairer of Streets to Dwell In Isaiah 58:10-12).
A breach is a break in a wall that allows the enemy to penetrate our defense, enter our lives and churches, and cause untold havoc and destruction. However, the remedy for this “break” is not what we generally hear. There is no call to rebuke principalities and powers or other popular strategies for spiritual warfare. Instead, it is a straightforward solution that few people take seriously.
There is an outlook among professing believers that God has been challenging and rebuking for thousands of years. That outlook says, in effect, that “I have satisfied my obligations to God as long as I keep going through the motions. As long as I keep ticking the box once, twice, or three times a week, I have done my duty, and God will be pleased with me.”
Yet God challenges this viewpoint in the strongest terms by showing the people that their religious exercises aren’t even for Him but are done to quarrel, fight, and hit with a wicked fist. Moreover, they do their own will and oppress people in the process (Isaiah 58:3-4).
Jehovah describes all of their religious exercises, including fasting, as a bunch of worthless and destructive acts that make a mockery of what God intended His service to be. So instead of coming together in love, they come together to quarrel and fight. Instead of breaking the bands of those in bondage, they cause bondage by their oppressive and wicked attitudes.
Yet these same people dared to complain to God that when they fasted, nothing happened. They accused Him of being out of touch with their humility and service as if the problem was on His end.
God’s Purpose in Fasting and Religious Service
In Isaiah 58:6, the prophet lists four purposes for fasting and four directives for success:
- To loose the bonds of wickedness.
- To undo the heavy burdens.
- To let the oppressed go free.
- To break every yoke.
- To share your food with the hungry.
- To bring the poor into your house
- To clothe the naked
- To stop hiding from needy family members.
A careful look at the first four statements reveals a common theme that builds upon a single point. The repetition is a Hebrew writing style meant to emphasize the prophet’s message. It’s like shouting with ten megaphones into the peoples’ ears.
God showed them that fasting, and the process of humbling ourselves before Him, was designed to break the power of Satan off of a person’s life. Jesus will take up this issue in Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29 when the disciples could not clear a demon from a child. Based on the Majority Text Bible translation, we read, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Because Jesus fasted regularly, He was in a position, unlike the disciples, to clear even the most brutal demonic oppression and possession cases. But, like the intended recipients of Isaiah 58, the Pharisees fasted for all the wrong reasons. They used the practice to exalt themselves by showing off how spiritual they were (Matthew 6:16-18).
Regard for the Needy
Fasting in sackcloth and ashes relegates the person temporarily to the plight of those who are less fortunate. They walk in the shoes of the poor, hungry, and naked. The idea is that afterward, they will be mindful of those in need and take measures to help relieve their suffering.
The last point in the list of eight deals with our attitude towards our needy family members. Hardness towards our own kin is evidence of carnality and evil. God intended human beings to naturally care for their parents, siblings, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and extended family at all times, but especially when they are in need.
God detests the practice of hiding when we see a relative coming who has a legitimate need. The callousness towards kin (family) was one of the reasons God instructed the prophet early on to “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isaiah 58:1)
Repentance, Restoration, and Repairing
If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul (Isaiah 58:9-10).
God promised a reward to those who heard the word of the Lord and responded in faith. It is a series of if-then type promises.
- Your light shall break forth like the morning.
- Your healing shall spring forth speedily.
- Your righteousness shall go before you.
- The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
- You will call, and the Lord will answer.
- You will cry, and He will say, “Here I Am.”
- Your light shall dawn in darkness.
- Your darkness will look like noontime.
- The Lord will guide you continually.
- The Lord will satisfy your soul from drought.
- He will strengthen your bones
- You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
If the people would hear and listen to God’s voice through the prophet and mend their ways along these lines, God would do tremendous work through them, and their legacy would be “restorers of the breach and repairers of the path.”
But if they continued on in sin, pretending that they were doing God a service by going through the motions, utter destruction would be their plight. But, sadly, the original hearers of this message never acted on it, so they never knew this “Restorers of the Breach and Repairers of the Path” legacy. Instead, they exchanged it all for eternal damnation and a legacy of rebellion. May we learn from their example, get serious with God, and give ourselves to the things that matter most to Him.