True Worship

Key Verse: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?”
—Isaiah 58:6

Selected Scripture:
Isaiah 58:3-9

ISAIAH LOOKED FORWARD in the last lesson to the time when the human family would seek the Lord with desire, and that God would fulfill his promises to them by giving them a New Covenant, even the ‘sure mercies of David.’ Now he considers ‘true worship’ in the spirit of those promises.

The prophet is dealing here with a time when the sins of the children of Israel were many. They gave God lip service and made a pretense of worshipping him, but they made no effort to repent for their offences. Fasting was a religious practice among the Jews at that time and they thought that observation of it would gain them Divine favor. When this failed to work they wondered why.

God instructed Isaiah to show the people of Israel their transgressions and sins, and their lack of understanding of his will for them. Their attitude, however, was, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.”—Isa. 58:3,4

The Israelites oppressed their workers, and were taking advantage of their own position of power to treat them unjustly. Their quarrels profaned the fast which inevitably led to strife and contention. Neither did they appreciate God’s care and providence toward them, nor did they understand that they, as a nation, were a typical people. They sought to obey the letter of the Law, while lacking its spirit. They failed to see that the important thing was not the afflicting of their souls, nor the bowing of their heads like a bulrush, and neither was it the spreading of sackcloth and ashes.

The spirit of the fast of which Isaiah wrote was that the children of Israel recognize and practice the principles of love, kindness, and generosity toward all. To merely observe the outward form, or letter of the fast, was not acceptable to God. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out [afflicted, Marginal Translation] to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?”—vss. 6,7

This was the spirit in which our Lord Jesus went forth preaching during his earthly ministry. (Isa. 61:1-3) He went forth with God’s blessing together with a message of hope and encouragement to the meek and brokenhearted, as well as the promise to free mankind from its greatest enemy, death. He gave the people beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for those who mourn, and the garment of praise for the heavyhearted. This was done that God might be glorified, rather than himself.

Although this lesson was addressed to the children of Israel to learn true worship a long time ago, it nevertheless points forward to the time when all mankind must learn to worship God in spirit and in truth.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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