“Look, at the same time you fast, you satisfy your selfish desires,
you oppress your workers. Look, your fasting is accompanied by arguments, brawls, and fistfights. Is this really the kind of fasting I want?...
Do I want a day when people merely humble themselves,
bowing their heads like a reed
and stretching out on sackcloth and ashes?
Is this really what you call a fast,
a day that is pleasing to the Lord” vs. 3-5
This chapter that addresses religion, fasting, and the Sabbath. God begins by declaring, and not in a calm voice but at the top of his lungs, that formal religion does not make a difference in human relationships, and can actually lead to the development of pride. He speaks against the faithfulness and following of religion and religious practices that are superficial, simply routine, and that people do to be seen as “part of the church crowd” and not of their heart. Persons who practice these assume they are people of God because of these superficial practices, because “they attend church,” because of their tradition and heritage. But because it is not from the heart (which God sees and knows) these practices do not extend to or impact the way they treat other people, especially people who do not have the same power, resources, or are not part of their “In” church crowd. The only reason they have received grace in the first place. Is to allow that grace to flow out of them, true worshippers of God, to everyone around them.
Isaiah declares that though people claim or think that their religious practices and purposes are to win special favor with God, the reason is to gain favor and an advantage in todays dog-eat-dog world and struggle to gain success, possessions, position and power. Is this why God instituted forms of religion? No! But to be symbols of an attitude of submission, surrender, trust, that will form a change in the heart and behavior of his people. With that attitude which is evident in one's life by a change of heart and behavior, the forms of religion are not sources of divine pleasure to God, but of divine disgust.
Why do you do the forms of religion you do? Why do you read the Bible, attend Sunday church, hang a cross on your wall or around your neck, and pray? Is it to make you feel good about yourself, part of the in crowd, a source of pride and hoping God will bless you with a better job, more possessions and an easier more comfortable life? Or is it to create in you a heart and behavior of surrender and submission that those forms of religion where intended to create? One that allows you to imitate Jesus and his heart and enables you to do as God desires of you. “I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people. When you see someone naked, clothe him! Donʼt turn your back on your own flesh and blood!” v.7
Fast today and get real with your motives and your God.