We are going to pick up in Isa 57.3-8, and this is the last chapter of the second section of the Servant Passages. As we have established in Part 35, we have come to the festival of Rosh Ha Shannah (v 1-2). The word “offspring” in v 3 (NASB) is the word “seed” and this means a “follower” of a sorceress, an adulterer. This is in contrast to to the righteous in v 1-2. Their practices are revealed in v 5 where it says, “You inflame yourselves among the oaks (in a sexual context-1 Cor 7.9), under every luxuriant (green) tree (this ties into the Asherim), who slaughter the children in the ravines (to Molech), under the clefts of the crags? Among the smooth stones of the ravines (used for idols) is your portion, they are your lot; even to them you have poured out a libation, you have made a grain offering. Shall I relent concerning these things (of the evil I said I would bring)? Upon a high and lofty mountain you have made your bed. You also went up there to offer sacrifice. And behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your sign (Hebrew “Zikron”=remembrance, and in this case their household idols, statues, pictures). Indeed, far removed from me you have uncovered yourself (spiritual prostitutes); and have gone up and made your bed wide, and you have made an agreement for yourselves with them (other than the covenant God made with them), you have loved their bed (took pleasure in idolatrous worship), you have looked on their manhood.”
Isa 57.9-13 talks about they made themselves like a harlot, available and agreeable to idolatry. They were tired out by false doctrine, but found renewed strength. But, God was long-suffering (“I was silent”) wanting them to repent. So, let the idols save you, but he who takes refuge in God will “possess my holy mountain” (the Kingdom of God-Dan 2).
Isa 57.14-21 talks about repentance and removing the obstacles. Isa 57.14 to Isa 58.14 is the reading from the Haftorah on Yom Kippur. God will revive the spirit of the lowly and contrite, but he will not contend forever. This proves that longevity does not produce repentance (Gen 6.3). The Lord his his face (the Shekinah) and the people also turned away. But he will heal (pardon) Israel, lead him and comfort him who is far (those in Babylon and other nations. Spiritually it alludes to the non-Jews=Eph 2.17) and to him who is near (Israel). But the wicked are like a tossing sea (seen as the domain of Ha Satan, Leviathan, unconverted humanity-Ezek 32.2; Job 26.12-13). Verse 21 ends the same way as section one in Isa 48.22.
What do we have here? Isa 57 is a Rosh Ha Shannah passage; Isa 58 is a Yom Kippur passage; Isa 59-60 are Rosh Ha Shannah passages; Isa 61 is a Yom Kippur passage and Isa 62 is a Rosh Ha Shannah passage. What we have is a pattern, just like everything else in the Scriptures. Isa 1 begins with Rosh Ha Shannah themes (v 1-9) and it ends with Yom Kippur themes (v 10-20). Micah 1.1-16 is basically the same thing as Isa 1. It is a Yom Ha Din and they will be worded almost the same way. God is bringing charges against Israel. Isa 1.10-20 have Yom Kippur themes and they will relate to Isa 58 (we will see this). These concepts are tough for the western mind because this is not how we are taught to study. But, God does not ask us to study like people in America. He wants you to study within the context of how he set it all up. He puts messages in there, but you have to do your homework. You have to learn how to find those messages.
Isa 58.1-14 is a Yom Kippur passage and part of the Haftorah reading for Yom Kippur. God rebukes Israel because they have depended on idolatry. This is an important chapter so we will comment verse by verse on this one.
58.1…”Raise your voice like a trumpet” is a key phrase related to a festival. There are three festivals that have a trumpet associated with it: Shavuot (First Trump), Rosh Ha Shannah (Last Trump), Yom Kippur (Great Trump). In this case it is Yom Kippur (Great Trump) and a Yom Ha Din.
58.2…They had an external piety but lacked the whole heart. They delight to know God’s ways in theory. In general, they appeared righteous outwardly and they delighted in the outward duties in the services and rituals.
58.3…They ask why have “we fasted and you do not see?”. Why have “we humbled ourselves and you do not notice?” This is like the Pharisee in Luke 18.9-14. God did take notice, but they had a higher opinion of their actions than the Lord did. He goes on to list the reasons and what the problem is. They found their own pleasure and pleased themselves.
58.4…They fasted for contention and strife, brawling with servants and quarreling about words. They expected to “fast” and then be heard after all this.
58.5…Is that the kind of fast approved of by the Lord? Is it a day to “bow ones head like a reed” or in other words, “look depressed, suffering, bruised, humbled and afflicted?” The answer is “No!”
58.6…This verse indicates that there are other “fasts” not related to food that God approves of, which is to separate yourself from the flesh and wickedness. They were to let the oppressed go free, which means they were to to oppress people in spirit, or with finances through confiscation, fines, prison. This can apply physically and spiritually. This includes any fraudulent judgment.
58.7…God’s fast includes dividing your food with the poor and hungry, housing those that have been cast out of their house. They were to clothe the naked and do not hide themselves from a family member in need. Then, after they did these things, “your light (understanding) will break out like the dawn,” Their health will be better when contentions and strife are eliminated.
58.9…Then they will call and God will answer. He will answer and give relief. This will happen if they are removed the yoke of man’s traditions, doctrines and ritual, quit pointing the finger at those who don’t comply with them, and speaking vanity and false doctrine. They were to satisfy the afflicted and then their understanding would come.
58.11…Then the Lord will guide them and satisfy their spiritual desires for knowledge and understanding. This will give strength to their bones and they will be a well-watered garden (full of life) whose waters do not fail.
58.12…Then there will be those who will rebuild (Isa 62.10-12, 61.4; Neh 2.20) the ancient ruins and age old foundations will be raised up. This includes the foundations physically, but also spiritually like the Scriptures. Then they will be called a “repairer of the breach and a restorer of the streets.”
58.13…If they would stop doing their own thing on the Sabbath (remember, the context is Yom Kippur, which is called the “Sabbath of Sabbaths” but this also means the regular Sabbath. They were not to conduct business or work). They were to call the Sabbath a delight and stop their servile work and sensual satisfactions. They were not to speak “mere words.”
58.14…Then they will take delight in his justice, love, grace, compassion, wisdom and truth. Then God will deed them them the “heritage of Jacob” (all that God had given-Isa 47.6; Psa 94.5; Rom 9.4-5).
What is being dealt with here, like in Isa 1.10-20, is the mundane performance of the commandments void of their deeper concerns of love, mercy, kindness and justice towards others, is useless. The Midrashic Aggadah (parable) in Luke 10.30-36 teaches this principle also. The priests and the Levites were coming back from the Temple after their week of service. Robbers had left someone half dead, but they didn’t know it. The Torah says a priest is not to touch the dead (Lev 21.1), so they left the victim there without even checking to see if he was alive or not. But, where there is a need there is no law. The lesson here is strict observance of the letter of the law “kills” (2 COr 3.6) kindness, mercy, justice and the intent of the instruction (2 Chr 30.13-20). The thing the Lord is trying to communicate is keep the commandments but don’t forget the weightier measures of the Torah like mercy, kindness, justice.
We will pick up here in Part 37 and begin to talk about the timing of the Final Redemption.