The following article is an excerpt from "A Book of Bible Study"
by Joseph F. Harwood.
To download the book in PDF format, visit our home page at https://www.abookofbiblestudy.net/
In Isaiah 58:6-12, we find a promise of God’s blessing and mercy that is given to His people in return for the mercy they have shown to others. Speaking through the prophet, the Lord rebuked the house of Jacob for their superficial type of fasting. While they went without food, they continued in other sinful practices such as exploiting their workers, quarreling, and even striking one another with their fists. After His rebuke, the Lord said that true fasting that pleases Him is to extend mercy and acts of kindness to others.
In this passage, God promises His people that in return for the mercy that we show toward others in need, we will receive His mercy, provision, and help in our time of need. Beginning in verse 6, we read:
“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. (Isaiah 58:6-12)
There are conditional promises in the word of God. These conditional promises require acts of obedience on our part as God’s people in order for us to receive the blessings promised. In Isaiah 58, we see God promising His blessings and mercies for our lives, and He gives us these promises on the condition that we show mercy to others.
Notice that God calls upon us, to the extent that it is in our power to do so, to “let the oppressed go free” and to “break every yoke”, as we read in verse 6. In verse 7, He calls upon us to give of our own material resources in order to provide necessities to those who are in need. With this kind of fasting, we deny ourselves what we could have kept for our own benefit in order to show mercy to others. This is true fasting that pleases God, fasting that does not merely deny ourselves food for a time.
In the following verses we see that for those of us who show mercy to others, God promises that light will beak forth for us in our own times of darkness. We also see the promise that our “recovery will speedily spring forth”, which speaks of God’s restoration in our lives. We also find God’s promise of His protection, with the glory of the Lord as our rear guard. And we see that for those of us who show mercy to others, God promises that when we call to Him for help in our times of trouble, He will answer us.
Continuing in verse 10, the Lord gave the conditional promise to His people, that if we extend ourselves to the hungry, and if we “satisfy the desire of the afflicted”, then in return our “light will rise” in the midst of our own darkness. He promised that He will guide us always, and He will satisfy our needs, even if we should find ourselves in a scorched and barren place in our own lives. He also promised that He will strengthen us. All of these promises of the Lord’s help and sustenance are given to us in return for the mercies that we have shown to others.
In verse 11, the Lord said that those who have extended these mercies to others will be like a “watered garden” and “like a spring of waters, whose waters do not fail”. This imagery describes the blessings that come to those who have shown mercy by spending themselves and their resources on behalf of the hungry, to satisfy the needs of those who are oppressed. This verse brings to mind the words of the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians where he wrote: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9).