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23(Isaiah 58,01-09) Fast Track to Renewal

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I.    THE CALL. (1)

(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. 

A.    Cry aloud. The kind that gets your attention, not the soft-spoken, easy-going I’m OK, you’re OK kind of talk.

        Do we still need that today? “It offends our sensibilities. It is not the talk of polite company.”

B.    Spare not. We dare not pick and chose the sins we oppose, or the people we offend.

C.    Show my people. God is asking Isaiah to preach to his own church members. “House of Jacob” – already a special people.

II.  THE CROWD. (2-3a)

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.

A.    These people enjoyed going to church.

B.    They enjoy learning about the Bible.

C.    They have the appearance of God-fearing people!

3 Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?

So what’s wrong, Lord? That’s what they wanted to know! (3a)

III. THE CONTRADICTION. (3b)

(3b) Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. 

It is a contradictory statement here. They were FASTING, yet finding PLEASURE.  They were performing acts of humility, yet they were anything but humble to their fellow man. They were claiming to fast, but they weren’t doing without.

The whole attitude of fasting is a willingness to drastically change our life to draw closer to God, to hear His voice and make needed changes in our life.

Monday is the proof of your worship on Sunday.

And what this text emphasizes is that our action on Monday is the test of whether we really are intent on attacking the sin in our lives, and therefore whether our fasting and praying and worshipping on Sunday is authentic.

If we are sincere on Sunday in our prayerful opposition to the sin of our lives, then we will fight it on Monday with action. We may not always succeed as fully as we would like, but we will fight our sin on Monday if our fasting was true on Sunday.


III. THE CAMOUFLAGE. (4-5)

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? 

Oh, how we like to appear religious, to put on the camouflage of Christian piety!

But is it making any difference in your walk? If not, then it is not acceptable to God.

IV. THE CHARGE. (6-7)

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? 

When we are living in sin -- say the sin if hard-heartedness or deceit or injustice -- the fast which God chooses is not a religious covering of this sin, but a direct frontal assault against this sin.

For these people fasting was not a fight against the besetting sin of their lives; it was a camouflage. If they make themselves hunger a little bit and afflict themselves, maybe it won’t matter so much that they are indifferent to the hunger and the affliction of the poor. So God comes and says, "I test your hearts. Go without bread for the sake of the poor. Give it to them. That’s the fast I choose."

V.  THE CHANGE. (8-9a)

8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.  9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.

A.    Light will break forth – the darkness is cleared away and light returns to your life.

B.    Health shall spring forth – how many are sickened by their sin or as a consequence?

C.    True righteousness  - integrity of character.

D.    Glory of the Lord – sanctification.

E.    Answered prayer. (9a)

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