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Isaiah 58 (in Tom’s words)

[An instruction for Isaiah]

With everything you’ve got, shout!
Use your voice and use it loud,
your sledgehammer words to hold them in their tracks.
Confront the rebellion and resistance of my people, the house of Jacob.
This has to be a hard word.

[The diagnosis]

Day after day they seek me, supposedly aligning themselves with my ways,
acting like they’re a righteous nation,
acting like they’re living in line with my commands.
They’re not.
They ask for righteous judgements, they feign delight in drawing near to me.
“Here we are fasting, don’t you see? Why bother humbling ourselves when you don’t even notice?”

You want the truth?

You fast, but even as we speak you’re utterly preoccupied with your own interests; you oppress your workers, for crying out loud! You only fast so you can quarrel, fight, and beat up on others – yes, you with the wicked fist. I’ll tell you for sure, your voice won’t be heard on high. No way. You’re wasting your time with this so-called ‘fasting’.

Do you really think that this is what I want? A day where you humble yourselves and bow your head, acting lowly and pretending like the world has fallen on you? You think this is a fast, a day that the Almighty God takes delights in?

But try this on for size. Here is the kind of fast I choose.

[The prescription]

Loose the chains of injustice.
Undo the restraints of repression.
Let the oppressed go free, and smash down the walls of captivity.
Share your food with the hungry, your house with the homeless poor,
Honour the personhood of the naked; evict their shame, and cover them.
Stay present, attentive, and involved with your family.

[The promise]

See, now we’re talking.
Live like this, and your light will captivate the earth like the dawn;
your healing will arise quickly, as streams from the ground.
Your vindicator will go ahead of you, and God-the-magnificent will have your back. You’ll call out, and Almighty God will answer; you’ll cry for help, and he’ll respond: “I’m here!”

[Further prescription and promise]

If you demolish strongholds of fear, accusation, and evil,
if you work to keep bellies full and to satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light will rise in the darkness, your dusk will be the brightest daylight.
The LORD Almighty will actively and continuously guide you,
satisfying your needs even in the driest places,
giving you a deeply rooted strength.
You’ll be vibrant and rich like a watered garden,
like a pure alpine spring whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, and you’ll raise the foundations for the coming generations;
your name will be Repairer of the Broken Wall, Restorer of the Abundant Streets.

If you can hold back from walking all over the sabbath (the day of renewable energy) and chasing your own glory,

and delight, embrace, and claim it as a holy day of God,
if you honour it and allow your life be shaped by it (rather than using it for your agenda),
then you’ll discover deepest delight in the Lord Almighty.
I’ll cut you loose to ride on the heights of the earth;
I’ll nourish and satisfy you with all the riches and abundances of your inheritance from Jacob.

These are my words to you, my people.

I’ve said it with my own mouth.

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