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Isaiah 58:1-14

Saturday, 25 November 2023

“Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?” -Isaiah 58:5

People in all ages often ask one common question: Why are our prayers not answered? Whether they lived in the olden times or are in the modern era, many people hold God always responsible for unanswered prayers. Isaiah 58 details one of the major reasons for unanswered prayers! There could be many others, but this is a prominent one.

The Israelites were in exile for many years. And they have been hoping for God’s deliverance. They have been desperately praying for the intervention of God to rescue them. They thought, their being meticulous in their routine way of worship would please God! Verse 2 says “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways. …….. They ask Me for just decisions, they delight in the nearness of God.” In the first verse, God asks the prophet to declare their sins to the people. Although they outwardly looked religious, God wanted to reveal to them that their prayers were not acceptable to Him.

However, the people were not able to understand why God wasn’t answering their prayers. Although they tried to be pious, their lives were not aligned with God’s word! They were not obedient to God’s instructions and they were leading their lives the way they wanted; yet they regularly offered their religious duties (v.2) – they prayed and even fasted!

Isaiah 58: 3[NIV] reads: “‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.” The reference to “humbling of souls” tells us that they were celebrating the Day of Atonement as explained in Leviticus 16:1-34 and Vs.29 says “… you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you.” Keeping this in context, in V3& V4, God reveals to them that though they fast, their prayers do not reach heaven, since they do not have compassion on their servants! When God evaluated their acts, He was not pleased in their fasting and humbling as they were merely outward and not sincere – since they were not practising what is written in the above verse.

Even Jesus when He was dealing with the Pharisees, called them “white washed tombs and hypocrites.” He never accepted double character and criticized them severely. The Greek word for hypocrite would mean an “actor.” Truly all who act fine and religious outwardly but inwardly reject God’s principles, are very good actors!!

Is this not the story of many who live today? Are you living a double life? God says, your prayers will not be heard. James addresses this issue in James 4:8: “… purify your hearts, you double minded.” So being double minded or having a hypocritical attitude is a condition of one’s heart.

Solomon prayed for his people in 1Kings 8:61, “Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the LORD our God.” David prayed for his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 29:19 “give my son Solomon a perfect heart to keep your commandments.” Even Solomon offered the biggest sacrifice in the Bible, (of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep!). Still his heart was not wholly devoted to God (1Kings 11:4) Why? Because Solomon deliberately disobeyed God’s word. You may read 1Kings10:26 – 11:4—whatever God asked His people not to do in Deuteronomy 17:16 & 17, Solomon did!

So, willful rejection of God’s principles and then carrying on with religious activities tells that you are a hypocrite, which makes your prayer ineffective and reduces your service to God a mere ritual!!

FOR ACTION: Repent and turn to God (Acts26:20), so that all the blessings written in Isaiah 58:6-14 may come on you!



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