God’s words through Isaiah today are very challenging. So often those who claim to worship God and Jesus make an outward show of doing so, but God knows their hearts. The prophet’s words are ones we need to remember. God tells the prophet, “declare to the people their transgressions … yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God” (58:1,2).

They question why God is not blessing them as a result of this worship and ask, “Why have we fasted, and you see it not?” (verse 3) and receive the answer, “Behold in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure … you fast only to quarrel and to fight … quarrelling like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high” (verse 4) that is, God will not listen to their prayers and petitions: note Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14.

Then God declares, “Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose the bonds of wickedness … to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him” (verses 6,7). Fasting is abstaining, to go without in order to help others; it applies to much more than food. God sees it in a positive sense – of abstaining from being self-centred – let’s see it from God’s perspective.

If we are Christ-centred we will follow his example being conscious of the way of life he taught. We are about to read this in Matthew’s Gospel; it was much more than learning true belief, although that is the foundation.

Isaiah declares, “if you … satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then … the LORD will guide you continually … and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (verses 10,11). What a delightful word picture, it encourages us to think of the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, “The water that I will give him will become in him (or her) a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). May we all “water” our minds daily with the word of God.