Reflection: If any verse in this chapter calls out the skewed and selfish perceptions we often have of God, it’s verse 3. How hard it hits when we read that the Israelites were engaged in fasting, whilst, at the same time, exploiting workers! Isaiah even uses the Israelites’ own words to show their self-centred motives, quoting their arrogance and lack of understanding. Biblical fasting in the days of Isaiah meant abstaining from food so as to submit to God; it was an expression of devotion like prayer, worship and service to the poor. Fasting was a response to God’s blessing,
not a way to earn it! But the people turned it to themselves, wrongly believing that if they performed such spiritual ‘sacrifices’, God would notice and give them what they wanted. Never mind that while ‘fasting’ they also did what they pleased, even treating workers unjustly. They thought God owed them, and were offended that he hadn’t noticed. But he had noticed their selfishness, not their sincerity, and ultimately, sent Jesus, the perfect sacrifice and expression of devotion for us who can never earn his grace.
Question: How do we exploit those for whom we have been made responsible? What did you learn about this as a pattern of sinful behaviour from the passage?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times we think we can look spiritual, gain your attention, or ‘bargain’ with you to receive your blessings. Forgive us for the times when we have exploited those we’re responsible for, whilst claiming to follow you. May our response to your deep forgiveness change our desires so that we can’t help but want to worship you and serve your people for your glory always. Amen.