In chapter 58 God tells Isaiah, “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet, declare to My people their transgression.”
What have the people of God done wrong? What is their transgression? Have they neglected God? Have they failed to seek God? Well, on the surface they actually seem to be very attentive to God. God Himself points out that His people seek Him daily and delight to know His ways. They appear to be a nation who likes righteousness, and they give the impression of delighting to draw near to God. …But it’s transactional.
My car is currently long overdue for an oil change. When I take my car to the shop later this week I will be eagerly seeking the services of my mechanic. And I will be sincerely interested to know his ways (primarily to assure myself that he is not trying to charge me for repairs I don’t really need). I will appear to be a person who enthusiastically esteems car mechanics, and I will give the impression of earnestly rubbing shoulders with the grease priests who serve in the temples of the car repair industry. But it’s all transactional. I do the work of getting my vehicle to the shop, and I pay my money for particular repairs or routine maintenance. I am then entitled to receive the services I paid for. I’m not really interested in anything beyond that. I don’t want to unwrap presents with my mechanic on Christmas morning, and I don’t want to snuggle on the couch and watch Tiger King with him. I’m sure he’s a swell guy, but I’m not looking for a relationship.
That’s how the people of Isaiah’s day ‘related’ to God. They felt cheated by God, “Why have we fasted, and You see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and You take no knowledge of it?” They didn’t experience humility as health, and they didn’t fast to know God better. They sought profit. They served themselves. They weren’t interested in having a relationship with God, He was merely a means to an end. Their paradigm was: pay God some humility and fasting, and be compensated with some pleasure for yourself (pleasure separate and severed from God’s heavy presence). God said to His people, “In the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure; you don’t really want Me or My ways. You come to My house and turn it into a den of thieves, and a place to fight each other. Fasting like this will not make your voice to be heard on high. Do you think I owe you something because you ‘afflicted yourself’ with fasting for a day? Will you call that a fast?”
God says, “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 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.” …God will settle for nothing less than a REAL, ROBUST, RELATIONSHIP with us; and FULL FELLOWSHIP with God is experienced through wholeheartedly accepting and enjoying 4 primary gifts: (1) Actively listening to/imaginatively-inhabiting the stories of God, (2) Candidly/Psalm-esquely talking to God, (3) Life together with other Jesus addicts and having all things in common with each other (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Thessalonians 2:8, 19-20; Hebrews 10:24-25), and (4) Hanging out with Jesus as He is disguised as the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-40; Isaiah 58:6-12).