Your Prayers Won't Get Off the Ground1"Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back--a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
2They're busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people--
They ask me, "What's the right thing to do?'
and love having me on their side.
3But they also complain,
"Why do we fast and you don't look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'
"Well, here's why:
"The bottom line on your "fast days' is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
4You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won't get your prayers off the ground.
5Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, GOD, would like?
In verse 2 we see the outward show of religious fervor.
In verse 3a we see grumbling that God isn’t taking notice of their self-sacrifices
In verse 3b we see God’s answer. You make a big show, but you don’t really care about Me you care about your fattening your wallet. That isn’t what I’m all about.
In verse 4 we see Him go into greater detail. Fighting and bickering makes your worship a lie. You fight with your fists and not just words. Your prayers won’t get off the ground.
In verse 5, God gets a little cranky. Is this what you think I’m all about?
There is a lot of speculation among scholars about who this is directed to specifically. Some say it was to a specific group of Jews during the time of Isaiah’s prophesying.
Some think it’s directed those Jews who be led captive to Babylon.
Matthew Henry says it is directed to all hypocrites of all ages. I tend to agree with him.
So what were they doing wrong?
They looked good on the outside but were like whitewashed graves, which indeed appear beautiful outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matt 23:27) Some scholars believe that Isaiah’s vision is about the Jews of Jesus’ day when he proclaims the “Woe to you” curses.
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to the disciples and in verse 3 He tells them “do as they say, but not as they do, for they say and do not.” 4 For they bind heavy and hard to bear burdens, and lay them on the shoulders of men, but they do not desire to move them with their finger.
Isa 58:2 Yet they seek Me day by day, and desire knowledge of My ways. As a nation that has done right, and not forsaking the judgment of their God, they ask Me about judgments of righteousness; they desire to draw near to God.
Isaiah 58:3 … Behold, on the day of your fast you find pleasure; and you drive all your laborers hard. (The employees never find a day of rest.)
In other words, the appearance of godliness, but the heart intent is not there. You fast, but you bicker and fight. You fast but you act mean.
So, again, what were they doing wrong? I believe what Isaiah is saying here correlates with Jesus’ cursing of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. Only Jesus says it much harsher drop down to verse 25.
Mat 23:25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also appear righteous to men outwardly, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Now compare Isaiah 58:13 If you turn your foot because of the Sabbath, from doing what you please on My holy days, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of Jehovah, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words…
They are almost exactly the same.