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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 58

Overview main part 2.3 – Isaiah 58-66

God as Judge and Savior

The third part of the second main part (Isaiah 40-66) contains Isaiah 58-66 and can be divided as follows:
1. True fasting (Isaiah 58)
2. Sin, grief and salvation (Isaiah 59)
3. The future glory of Zion (Isaiah 60)
4. The year of the favor of the LORD (Isaiah 61)
5. Convinced prayer for the future of Zion (Isaiah 62)
6. The LORD, the Avenger (Isaiah 63:1-6)
7. A psalm of praise and lamentation (Isaiah 63:7-64:12)
8. The great final decisions (Isaiah 65-66)

Introduction to Isaiah 58

With Isaiah 58 a new series of prophecies begins. The first part of it is remarkably similar to what preceded, namely admonition, warning and promise. However, the emphasis in this part is on the future realization of God’s salvation. For the earthly Israel this means the restoration in the land and receiving the full blessing in the millennial realm of peace.

There is no longer directly talk of fulfillment in the short term, as is the case in the previous chapters. Isaiah 1-39 is about the threat of the king of Assyria with a short term fulfillment in the days of Hezekiah and a full fulfillment in the end time. In Isaiah 40-57 it is about the return from exile in Babylon with the short term fulfillment in the return of a remnant to the land and also a full fulfillment in the end time. But in this last part of the book, Isaiah 58-66, it is almost exclusively about the fulfillment in the end time.

Isaiah 40-48 deals with the first great sin of the people of Israel, namely idolatry. That part ends with the observation that the wicked have no peace. In Isaiah 49-57 it is about the second great sin of the people of Israel, namely the rejection of Christ and receiving the antichrist with open arms. That part also ends with the statement that the wicked have no peace.

That is why Isaiah 58 begins with a call to humble themselves, just as the Feast of the trumpet is a call to humble themselves before the day of atonement. Also compare the call to humility and conversion by John the baptist, which is a preparation for the coming of Christ. The Feast of trumpets goes hand in hand with fasting, which finds its climax on the day of atonement. Here, too, we find a call to fasting. The question sounds as it were: “Was it actually for Me that you fasted?” (Zec 7:5), for the LORD “desires truth in the innermost being” (Psa 51:6a).

Verses 1-5

Fast of the People


In order to make the contrast with the future clear, the present situation must also be clear. That is what this chapter is about, which also has great significance for us. It is about fast, but the intention is to demonstrate the principle of the underlying hypocritical, false piety, an external religion. This is also found in professing Christianity. We find it not only in the Pharisees, but also in ourselves. These are people who seem very sincere.

The prophet is summoned to cry “loudly” (literally “with the throat”) and raise his voice like a trumpet to make God’s people known their sins (Isa 58:1). With this, Isaiah underlines the words of the prophet Micah, his contemporary (Mic 3:8b). The sound of the trumpet is not a silver trumpet, but a ram’s horn. The sound must penetrate to behind the hypocritical righteousness and religious masks behind which the people hide.

In Isa 58:2 God speaks about the righteousness of His people. Outwardly everything seems to be in order. Prophetically this is about the last week – i.e. a period of seven years – from the book of Daniel (Dan 9:27). A covenant will be made between Israel under the antichrist and the restored Roman Empire or the united states of Europe under the leadership of the beast out of the sea (Rev 13:1-10). The temple in Jerusalem has been rebuilt and temple service resumed, something that Israel has not been able to do for many centuries (Hos 3:4).

It seems that they like to approach God. They seek the LORD daily. They are also interested in His ways. They would like to get to know them better and for that they read in the Bible. They even pretend they are a nation that has done righteousness and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. You would say, applied to our time, that they are people who like to visit Christian meetings and are also religiously engaged at home. You would say that they serve God wholeheartedly.

However, Isa 58:3a makes it clear that their hearts are not involved at all. Their own confession of piety becomes a cause for complaining that God does not pay attention to it. They complain that they notice so little of God’s blessing in their lives, to which they are entitled because of their tremendous dedication and interest in His things. He should reward this by giving them a pleasant life.

The fact is that they don’t notice how much they do everything to please themselves and not God. With all their ‘good’ intentions they are blind to what God wants. There is something essential missing from all that external religion. The prayer and humility that go with fasting are absent as well as the real seeking of God. They cling to the form, but their hearts are not in harmony with it. The only fast that Scripture asks for in the Old Testament is in connection with the day of atonement and is accompanied by true humility (Lev 16:29).

They are blamed by God for the kind of fasting they do, because their fasting is only an outward ritual (Isa 58:3b). They seek their own advantage and put pressure on their staff to produce more (Isa 58:4; cf. Jam 5:1-6). They content and strife with each other. How can the relationship with the Lord be in order when we live in contention with each other? This is not the fast preferred by the LORD and pleasing to Him (Isa 58:5). Bowing the head, walking in sackcloth and living on ashes seems very humble, but God desires a contrite heart (Isa 57:15).

Verses 6-7

The Fast Which the LORD Chooses


The fast that is pleasing to Him will lead to loosen the bonds of wickedness and the release of the oppressed (Isa 58:6). By presenting the fast that is pleasing to Him as questions to His people, the LORD asks if they agree with Him that His measure is the right one. Happy fast will work out that they care for the hungry, the poor and the naked and their families (Isa 58:7).

These hungry, poor, and naked belong prophetically to the faithful remnant of Israel, referred to by the Lord Jesus as “the least of these brethren of Mine” (Mt 25:40; 45). This shows that the restoration of the sacrifices and the temple service in Jerusalem after the rebuilding of the temple will only be external. They are a fig tree that has been putting forth leaves (Mt 24:32), but is still without fruit.

The seven forms of fast mentioned by the LORD require a renunciation of one’s own interests and a sacrifice in the form of time, forces and means. In larger communities, some brothers and sisters, members of God’s family, may be spiritually hungry, poor and out in the cold, while the highest truths are proclaimed. They are not looked after. Sometimes they are not even missed if they do not come to the meeting. If they are not cared for outside the meetings, the meetings have no meaning for Him.

Verses 8-12

Promise of Blessing


If in these things they are in fellowship with the LORD, thinking about fasting as He does and thereby acting as He wants, their light will break through and their incurable wound will soon be healed (Isa 58:8; cf. Isa 1:6). Righteousness and glory will protect them before and behind as the pillar of cloud was with them during the wilderness journey.

They will please God. Their prayer will be answered by Him. He will show Himself to them when they no longer subject others to rule over them and abuse them for the pursuit of their own desires (Isa 58:9). They will then give to others what they desire for themselves, resulting in a life in the light (Isa 58:10).

Merely external religion and external conformity to rituals are easy. In doing so, they create a spirit of complacency. However, what corresponds to God’s approval is obedience to His Word. The first effect of this will be that they are kept in true exercise of heart in His presence. Subsequently, it leads to a fulfillment of His righteousness in their ways and relationships with others.

We can accurately fulfill spiritual duties, while all the time the heart is not upright for God because there is sin in life that does not escape His all-seeing eye. That is the message of this section.

Isa 58:11 continues on what is said in Isa 58:8, with promises of abundant blessing if the conditions are met. The promises are:
1. uninterrupted guidance;
2. satisfaction of the soul even in extreme drought and aridity;
3. the giving of strength to the bones, so that the body can be the instrument to fulfill His will;
4. the green beauty of a watered garden, as a picture of the brilliant manifestations of the indwelling Spirit of God;
5. the outpouring of blessing by the Holy Spirit, presented as a source of water whose water does not disappoint.

What is promised here to Israel, the Lord in His grace wants to give in the life of the believer also now.

Isa 58:12 contains the promise of national restoration. Those who return from exile will rebuild the old ruins on foundations that many generations before have been laid. They will be given the beautiful names “the repairer of the breach” and “the restorer of the streets”.

Verses 13-14

Keeping the Sabbath


The promises of the previous verse, Isa 58:12, are also subject to conditions (Isa 58:13). Account must be taken of what the LORD has said. One’s own will may not be followed, one’s own pleasure may not be sought, worthless words may not be spoken. He who renounces all this shall rejoice in the LORD (Isa 58:14). It is not merely a matter of keeping a commandment. The LORD Himself is inseparable connected to His law. The commandment is not otherwise than the expression of His own features and attributes.

Our rest, of which the sabbath speaks, is in the accomplished work of Christ. Awareness of this will keep us from pursuing our own interests. In this sense for us it is sabbath every day. We may experience every day as a “holy [day]” of the Lord, a day that is lived not for ourselves, but for Him (2Cor 5:15b). To live in this way is true peace for the believer. It is the life flowing from the peace that the Lord Jesus has acquired for us through His death and resurrection.

To “take delight in the LORD” is the highest possible occupation. It is the privilege of the believer, either in times of fellowship and worship, or in the activities of the service. It has become possible because the Lord Jesus has become their Messiah. In connection with Him they can delight in the LORD. But it is only possible if the preceding conditions are met.

Then there are more promises, which are literal for Israel and spiritual for us. Riding “on the heights of the earth” speaks of the position of Israel among other nations (cf. Deu 32:13). Applied to us, we may think of our position in the heavenly places in Christ.

Feeding with “the heritage” speaks of taking possession of the entire inheritance promised to the fathers. For us, it means that we may think of enjoying the blessings we received in Christ in heaven. Both for Israel and for the church these blessings are certain, “for the mouth of the LORD has spoken”.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 58". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-58.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.