“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chain of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”
The Lord calls for a proclamation against His people for their rebellion and sins. They seek the Lord for answers and seem eager for God to come near. They fast and humble themselves but the Lord seems to not notice.
The Lord tells them that even on their fast days, they exploit their workers. Their fasts end in quarrels and fights. The Lord says they can’t expect their prayers to be heard when they fast like that. He isn’t interested in that kind of fast. The fast he honours is the one that results in oppression being lifted and yokes of bondage being removed.
God is opposed to religion. He hates practices which we use in order to avoid Him getting under our skin and changing our hearts. Religion seeks to change God’s mind; true faith is when God changes our heart.
In the passage, the Lord through Isaiah is taking Israel to task for going through religious fasting but still exploiting others and engaging in quarrels. They were claiming to love God, but failed to love their neighbour who is made in the image of God.
We can think that this is a matter for Government. If we vote for the right party , then the right regulations get passed and social justice will reign. This isn’t true of course- daily we hear of employers who rip off their workers even though they know what the mandated pay rates and superannuation requirements are.
The Lord does not want us to contract our consciences out to the political leaders. We are required to love our neighbour where we are. This passage is about my attitude to my neighbour, to the oppressed people in my town.
When I fast, when I pray, when I worship, it is not just me and Jesus. It is allowing the grace of God to fill me, set me free and empower me to pass on that same grace to others.
Lord I confess that I am often unaware of the problems and sufferings of the people around me. I too easily accept the way things are as being the natural order. Help me to see my neighbour as you see them and to let your love flow through me to them. Amen.