Today's child of God would do well to spend some time in looking into the law that was nailed to the cross by Jesus. It is still our "schoolmaster," teaching us things about God, foretelling the coming Christ, and even giving us a glimpse of ourselves in our response to God. The short chapter 58 in Isaiah, only 14 verses long, is God speaking through the prophet, concerning the actions of some of God's chosen.
In these verses the wrath of God is revealed toward his people because they are giving the appearance of being close to him, the appearance of being a righteous nation, and the appearance of a people who would never disobey God. The people even start accusing God of not recognizing their fasting. They further let God know how humble they are and he doesn't seem to notice.
God is quick to point out their fasting has no spiritual value, because their lives are remaining self-centered. He says their fasts end up in quarrels and even fist fights among themselves. He lets them know the spirituality they are professing through the act of fasting cannot coincide with the way they are treating their workers and each other.
The word of the Lord through Isaiah nails them hard when they are asked the question, "Is that what you call a fast?" God wants them to know the brand of spirituality they claim to possess is negated through their selfishness, their treatment of others, and their fighting among themselves.
Look at Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"
The real message here isn't about fasting, it's about hearts. It should cause us to make an honest and clear evaluation of our hearts when we are actively doing some work or ministry for God. It makes me wonder if I have been guilty of putting a spotlight on myself at the completion of something I have done in working for the Lord. Have I taken the credit for successfully accomplishing tasks which should have been accomplished to bring glory to God?
Do you suppose at noon on any given Sunday, God is wanting to ask us, "Is that what you call worship?" We may have left the assembly feeling good about the singing or the preaching, but failing to realize that we are not the audience when we worship.....God is.
Read all of Isaiah 58 and you will see that our work and worship is centered around who we really are, inside and out, 24/7. If we are going to be the people of God, his glory must be reflected in the way we live for him and in the way we live in our relationships with others. He loves us enough to show us the way, and his desire is for us to belong to him.