New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Isaiah 58:1 Cry aloud- The first 12 verses in this chapter are similar in essence to Is. 1:1-31. This is just one of many connections between the later part of Isaiah (Is. 40-66) and the earlier part (Is. 1-35). The two sections are connected by the historial interlude of Is. 36-39, where Isaiah works with Hezekiah towards repentance, and then has to judge him for his pride and collapse of faith, concluding that his sons shall go into captivity in Babylon. As I explained on Is. 36-39, Hezekiah sinned quite badly and let the baton drop. A Messianic Kingdom could have been established after the defeat of the Assyrian invader outside Jerusalem, but this possibility was ultimately deferred until our last days. But God didn't give up working with Judah. At the time of the restoration, there could again have been a Messianic Kingdom, the temple of Ez. 40-48 could have been rebuilt; but due to short termism and lack of repentance, this didn't happen. Therefore the same appeals are made to the returned exiles as were made to Judah in the days of Isaiah and Hezekiah.

This appeal in :1 is therefore in order that the returned exiles got a grip on their spirituality and relationship with God, so that yet another disaster and invasion could be avoided, and the Kingdom of God re-established in the land. But such invasions came under Antiochus and others, as Daniel 11 outlines. Again the land and people were dominated by their enemies. The appeal to repent so that this would not happen had already been made by Isaiah in his own day, in the context of Hezekiah and the Assyrian invasion. This explains the copious connections between the first half of Isaiah and the second half, the so-called Deutero Isaiah.

Is. 58:1,2 is a criticism of Judah in exile and also of those who did return to the land- they sought God daily, and yet abused their brethren (Is. 58:6), just as recorded in Neh. 5:15. If they had ceased from their sins, "Then shall your light break forth as the morning", if they had fed the hungry etc, then would've been fulfilled the Messianic Kingdom prophecies of the light of Zion rising above the Gentiles etc (Is. 58:10,12 cp. Is. 60:1).


But who is being asked to "cry aloud" or 'proclaim' this call to repentance? The second half of Isaiah begins with this same invitation to 'proclaim' to Judah the possibility of repentance and forgiveness. The same Hebrew word is used so often in Is. 40. John the Baptist, the Elijah prophet, was the one asked to make this proclamation (Is. 40:3 s.w.). And it is the Christian preachers who take over the proclamation (Is. 40:6 = 1 Pet. 1:24). Initially, it was the ministry of the prophets like Haggai and Zecharahiah who made this call for repentance to the exiles (Zech. 1:4,17; 7:7,13, the prophets cried / called out aloud for Judah's repentance but were not answered). But it went largely unheeded: "When I called [s.w. "cry aloud"], none answered" (Is. 50:2; 65:12; 66:4; Hos. 11:2; Zech. 1:4). And the prophets themselves didn't make the call as they ought to have done: "None calls [s.w. "cry aloud"] for justice..." (Is. 59:4). John the Baptist likewise called for Judah's repentance, as did the early Christian preachers; and we are to make this call to Israel in the last days. And finally it will be heeded; a minority in Israel will respond, albeit due to the tribulation to come upon the land, and then the Messianic Kingdom shall finally come. The One who ultimately makes the "call" or 'crying aloud' is the Lord Jesus, the Messiah (Is. 61:1,2 "... to proclaim / call out / cry loud liberty... to call out the time of Yahweh's acceptance / the acceptable year of the Lord"). But He works through the voice of His people, those who are in Him. This is how in practice He will make this appeal / proclamation / crying out aloud to Israel, both now and in the very last days. The calling out to repent is on the basis of the fact that God has called out / proclaimed His radical acceptance. If we accept it, then sin is no longer any barrier between Him and us.

Don’t spare- Literally, don't restrain. It's the same phrase as used in Is. 54:2 about Judah not holding back but lengthening the cords of their tent as far as they can. The idea is that the extent of the fulfilment of God's purpose is in our hands. These prophecies all had potential fulfilments in the time they were given; the preacher to Israel should be aware that according to his or her success, so the extent of the progress of God's program goes forward.

Lift up your voice like a trumpet- As noted above, there are many connections here with the crying out / proclamation of forgiveness and therefore the call to repent, which we find in Is. 40. In Is. 40:9 the same phrase is used, of lifting up the voice to tell Jerusalem that there is good news- her God "shall come", through manifestation in His Son, and re-establish Israel's Kingdom as God's Kingdom. Yet there the voice is lifted up in calling for repentance. The reality of the possibility of being part of His Kingdom is of itself a call to repentance. Anyone who says yes to those "good tidings", the Gospel, will naturally be moved to repentance by doing so. The trumpet being the crying aloud or proclamation sounds like the proclamation of the day of atonement. But the spirit of that day was to be proclaimed to men as an ongoing experience, which is very much in the spirit of the Lord Jesus now that the ritual feasts have been ended. Now the atonement and the subsequent appeal for repentance to accept it is to be proclaimed to all men, all the time.

And declare to My people their disobedience, and to the house of Jacob their sins- The family of the historical Jacob were very weak spiritually, and yet from them came the foundations of God's people. This was and is to be remembered as an encouragement in our witness. These words are quoted in Mic. 3:8; he was one of the prophets called upon to make this proclamation, both in Isaiah's day and yet also, as with Isaiah, his words therefore also have reference to the exiles who had returned and needed to repent.

Isaiah 58:2 Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways- The word "yet" is such a challenge. They were disobedient, sinful and rejected by God. "Yet" they sought God daily, offering the daily sacrifices ('seeking' in Hebrew thought is to worship), and enthusiastic to have His word explained to them. One can attend meetings regularly, love the worship, and genuinely enthuse to intellectually, academically understand the Bible. And "yet" do no righteousness, and actually forsake the spirit of what "God" is all about. This is the problem with religion. If left at mere religion, it can blind us to true spirituality. They 'delighted' to know God's ways and to 'draw near to God', perhaps a reference to prayer or sacrifice. But this same category of persons chose the things which Yahweh did not delight in, and also "delighted in their abominations" (Is. 65:12; 66:3,4 s.w.). The abominations there listed were not idol worship; their arrogance and exclusivity was as if they offered pig's flesh to God. Their legally correct sacrifices were therefore seen as no better than that. This dualism in the human nature is encouraged by religion, if our faith is left at mere religion. These verses are one of the greatest challenges to all involved in serving God through organized religion. Prayer, sacrifice, worship, Bible study, attendance at meetings... can all be performed as just one pole of a dualistic, religious mindset. Whilst we get on and "delight" in displeasing God. Once we appreciate  the challenge, we will no longer be shocked at the hypocrisy rampant in all forms of organized religion; that a person can do all these things, appearing a stalwart member of a church, and yet at the same time be involved with things which disgust God.

As a nation that did righteousness, and didn’t forsake the ordinance of their God, they ask of Me righteous judgements; they delight to draw near to God- The call to repentance of :1 was not heeded exactly because of the veneer of religion which these Jews then had. This is the problem with religion. It shields us from the piercing appeal for repentance and real, live relationship with God. "Did righteousness" is the phrase translated "do justice" in Gen. 18:19, which was to be a feature of the true seed of Abraham. As noted above, Israel went through all the motions of religious worship, but did not "do justice". The historical accounts in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi give many examples of this; and the lack of justice was expressed in terms of how they treated their own brothers. If the Jews had 'done righteousness' at the time of the restoration, then it would have hastened the revelation of God's justice in the re-establishment of His Kingdom on earth at that time (Is. 56:1 s.w.). For it is Messiah who would 'do justice' in His Kingdom (Jer. 23:5; 33:15 s.w.). The commands of Ez. 40-48 about rebuilding a Messianic temple included the command to 'do righteousness' (Ez. 45:9). But the Jews didn't do this, and thereby precluded the possibility of those prophecies coming true at the restoration.

Isaiah 58:3 ‘Why have we fasted’, they say, ‘and You don’t see?- Zech. 7:5 says that the Jews at the time of the restoration fasted, but not to God. And here we see part of a major theme in Biblical teaching about spirituality- that spiritual disciplines can be performed, but not really, in God's book. We can pray and worship, but without achieving real prayer and worship; we can pay lip service to the idea that God's word is inspired and His real voice to us, and yet let the words glide over us. We can give, but for the sake of appearance and the praise of men. And so they fasted, but not to God. And complained that God apparently didn't recognize it. If they had really fasted on "the fasting day", then the whole Babylonian invasion and exile could have been averted (Jer. 36:6,9); they fasted but were not heard (Jer. 14:12). But now the captivity had ended, still they had not learnt that lesson.

Why have we afflicted our soul, and You take no knowledge?’- The day to 'afflict the soul' in fasting was specifically the day of atonement, the only fast required under the Mosaic law (Lev. 23:27 s.w.). They kept the day of atonement legally, but with no recognition of sin; just as we can keep the Lord's supper with no sense of our sins, no flame of passion to respond to His grace witha similar grace. Lev. 23:29 even taught that the soul who would not afflict themselves would be cut off from the people of God. But that is an example of the Law of Moses revealing how God judges the heart; for no priest could ever  ascertain whether or not a worshipper was afflicting their soul as required. If we do not repent, and afflict our souls for our sins, then we likewise are signing ourselves out of God's true people. And only we know whether or not we do this. For such affairs of the heart cannot be judged by human eyes.

Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and oppress all your labourers- If they had truly afflicted their souls in repentance and in awe of their receipt of God's forgveness, then they would have reflected that grace to others, which is God's pleasure or will. And that principle is true of us too. We are not to be like the unforgiving servat who demanded what was owed; the AV renders "oppress" as "exact" (Mt. 18:28). Perhaps the Lord had this teaching in mind when constructing His parable. The oppression of their workers was the kind of thing going on at the restoration (Neh. 5). Israel failed to do God's pleasure and instead kept His laws whilst doing their own pleasure or will; and therefore the prophecy of the suffering servant who was to do God's pleasure at the restoration was changed in fulfilment from Israel as a people to Messiah as a person (Is. 53:8). The same word for "pleasure" is used in :13 of how these Jews did their pleasure on the Sabbath rather than God's pleasure. We can so easily serve God for our own pleasure, in ways which simply reinforce our natural passions and personality types. The challenge to us is indeed piercing and insistent.

Isaiah 58:4 Behold, you fast for strife and contention, and to strike with the fist of wickedness: you don’t fast this day so as to make your voice to be heard on high- As noted on :3, the restored Jews fasated for their own pleasure rather than God's. They took pleasure from being more righteous than others, endlessly striving and contending with others as to how fasting should be done, even inventing new fast days (Zech. 7:5; 8:19). All the Law required was fasting on the Day of Atonement. The endless controversies over interpretation and ritual which have characterized the walk of so many Christians may well have been simply for their own "pleasure" and justification of striking other believers with a wicked fist. The Catholic and Orthodox churches argue bitterly about ritual, and the Protestant denominations argue over interpretation of Bible passages. Much of this was nothing to do with personal relationship with God, making your voice heard in His ears in highest heaven; but rather in order to put others down that we might appear the better. For the way the Jews criticized others for not fasating as they considered they ought to was effectivly striking their brother with a wicked fist. The allusion is to how righteous Naboth was struck down with a wicked fist when a fast had been proclaimed (1 Kings 21:9-13).

Isaiah 58:5 Is such the fast that I have chosen? The day for a man to afflict his soul?- As noted on :3, the only fast "chosen" or proclaimed by God was that on the Day of Atonement, when every person was to afflict their soul. The Jews kept this feast insincerely, bowing their heads like a bulrush blown in the breeze. All such false humility, using phrases like "Of course, we're all sinners" insincerely, is so abhorrent to God.

Is it to bow down his head as a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Yahweh?- The repentance and contrition required by the Day of Atonement was internal, rather than an external use of sackcloth. Judah had gone into exile exactly because they had rent their garments and not their hearts (Joel 2:13). And the restored Jews had not learnt that lesson. The Day of Atonement was the "acceptable day", and the acceptable day is now every day for us as Christians (2 Cor. 6:2). We are to live our whole lives, every day, in the spirit of the Day of Atonement; both confessing sin and receiving the pronouncement of forgiveness which fills us with all joy and peace.

Isaiah 58:6 Isn’t this the fast that I have chosen: to release the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?- See on Is. 42:7. As noted on :3 and :4, the result of keeping the Day of Atonement properly was to release the bonds of others because our bonds of sin and its consequence have been released. Instead, the resotred Jews at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah were bringing their own brothers into bondage to them, taking their lands from them and then making them their slaves. Such releasing of others from their bonds, both to us and others, can happen on any day; the Day of Atonement was to be realized in the daily experience of the believers.

Consider how the Lord brings together various passages from Isaiah in His opening declaration in Lk. 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach [proclaim] [Heb. ‘call out to a man’] the acceptable year of the Lord”. This combines allusions to Is. 61:1 (Lev. 25:10), Is. 58:6 LXX and Is. 61:2. Is. 58:6 AV: “To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free (cp. Dt. 15:12 re freedom of slaves, s.w.), and that ye break every yoke?” is in the context of an insincerely kept year of Jubilee in Hezekiah’s time, after the Sennacherib invasion; andalso at the time of the restoration. Is. 58 has many Day of Atonement allusions- the year of Jubilee began on this feast. We are as the High Priest declaring the reality of forgiveness to the crowd. Hence Lk. 24:47 asks us to proclaim a Jubilee of atonement. The Greek for “preach” in Lk. 24:47 and for “preach / proclaim the acceptable year” in Lk. 4:19 are the same, and the word is used in the LXX for proclaiming the Jubilee. And the LXX word used for ‘jubilee’ means remission, release, forgiveness, and it is the word used to describe our preaching / proclaiming forgiveness in Lk. 24:47. It could be that we are to see the cross as the day of atonement, and from then on the Jubilee should be proclaimed in the lives of those who accept it. It’s as if we are running round telling people that their mortgages have been cancelled, hire purchase payments written off... and yet we are treated as telling them something unreal, when it is in fact so real and pertinent to them. And the very fact that Yahweh has released others means that we likewise ought to live in a spirit of releasing others from their debts to us: “The creditor shall release that which he hath lent… because the Lord’s release hath been proclaimed” (Dt. 15:2 RV).

There are many connections within Isaiah between the servant songs, and the descriptions of the people of Israel into which the songs are interspersed. The saviour-servant was to bring out the prisoners from the dungeons (Is. 42:7), so was every Israelite “to let the oppressed go free...loose the bonds”, and to “undo the bands of the [heavy] yoke” (Is. 58:6) as Christ did (Mt. 11:28,29); His work of deliverance is to be replicated by each of us in our witness. Whoever is in Him will by this very fact follow Him in this work. In Isaiah’s first context, the suffering servant was King Hezekiah. Yet all Israel were to see themselves as ‘in’ him, as spiritual Israel are to see themselves as in Christ. “He was oppressed”, as Israel at that time were being “oppressed” by Assyria. As they were covered in wounds and spiritual sickness (Is. 1:5,6), so the suffering servant bore their diseases and rose again in salvation victory.

The passage in :6-13 seems to be a reference to an insincerely kept day of atonement in Ezra or Nehemiah’s time, as well as Hezekiah's. The Jewish nobles were oppressing the poor and thereby keeping the feast with no meaning. If they had properly kept the feast, then the promised Kingdom conditions would have burst forth to the world around them. But they were too caught up with their own self-benefit to be bothered to show true care for their brethren. If they had, then the glory of Yahweh would have entered the temple, just as Ezekiel 43 had prophesied would happen, if the Kingdom was built as commanded. Notice how Isaiah 60:1-3 speaks of how Zion’s light would certainly come and give light to the world- even though the prophecy was actually conditional on Judah keeping the Sabbath and caring for their poor brethren: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee...  And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising”. Nehemiah repaired the breaches, Ezra laid the foundations of the temple...the prophecy of Isaiah 58 was fulfilled on the surface, but not in its Kingdom sense, because they failed to keep the Sabbath etc. Isaiah 58:10 says that if they drew out their soul to the hungry, if they allowed themselves to feel the hunger of others, then would their light rise and their darkness be as the noonday. And thus the prophecy of Isaiah 60:1,2 that Zion's light is going to dawn was conditional upon the Jews caring for their hungry amongst them- even though in that passage, the condition isn't directly stated. The restoration was therefore only a sham of what was possible.

There are several links between Is. 58 and Neh. 5, where we read of poor Jews who had to mortgage their vineyards and even sell their children in order to pay their debts. The “oppressed” or “broken victim” of Is. 58, to whom we are invited to proclaim deliverance, were therefore in the very first instance those under the throttling grip of poverty, who had become bondslaves because of their debts and now had no hope of freedom, apart from the frank forgiveness of a year of Jubilee. We take a like message to Westerners overburdened with mortgage payments, to those suffering from absolute poverty in the developing world, and to all those with a sense of debt and being trapped within their life situation. We pronounce to them a year of Jubilee, a frank forgiveness, a way of real escape and freedom. 

Isaiah 58:7 Isn’t it to distribute your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh?- The leaders of Judah in Nehemiah's time were abusing their brethren. Their receipt of grace should have led them be generous to their poor brethren, rather than exploiting them. And that principle is true for us; for the restoration is used in the New Testament as a type of our redemption from the Babylon of sin and this world. And yet too many like to kid themselves that their response to grace is to do the opposite; to cast out their own brethren from their houses and then ignore their need, physically and spiritually.

Isaiah 58:8 Then your light shall break forth as the morning, and your healing shall spring forth speedily; and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of Yahweh shall be your vanguard- This is the language of the establishment of the glorious Messianic Kingdom (Is. 60:1,3,19,20). That Kingdom could have been established then, if the returned exiles had lived as they should have done; and so the prophecies have been deferrred in fulfilment until the Lord's return. The light of Zion was Messiah; this figure could have arisen then at the restoration. But he didn't, and the true fulfilment was in the Lord Jesus, who was the light which arose in the darkness (:10; Mt. 4:16; Lk. 1:79). "Healing" translates a word meaning 'restoration'; the Kingdom of God in the form of Israel's Kingdom would have been restored. The same ideas are found in Mal. 4:2, where again the promise is repeated, that the Messianic sun of righteousness could have arisen at the restoration with healing in His beams. But that had to be delayed in fulfilment until our last days. Judah at this time were spiritually weak; "your righteousness" doesn't refer to their own, but to that of Messiah as "the Lord our righteousness". The Messiah figure bearing this title could have appeared at the restoration from Babylon (Jer. 23:6; 33:16; 51:10). It could have come "speedily" had they heeded these prophetic words. But it didn't, and was delayed. Yahweh's glory is parallel with "your righteousness", and this again should be read as a Messianic title. As Paul explains in Romans, it is through faith in Jesus as Messiah and identification with Him that His righteousness becomes ours.

Isaiah 58:9 Then you shall call, and Yahweh will answer; you shall cry and He will say, ‘Here I am’. If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking wickedly- The Jews complained that despite their fasting, God was not answering (:3). The answer is that they were abusing their brethren, as recorded in Nehemiah 5. They were not only enslaving their brethren literally, but by placing heavy legalistic burdens upon, putting forth the finger in accusing them of spiritual inferiority (see on :4). This doing down of our brethren is the very opposite of the response to grace and restoration which we have received in Christ. It is called here "speaking wickedly". By treating our brethren like this, we place a barrier between God and ourselves, as John's letters also state; and our prayer experience will reflect that barrier.

Isaiah 58:10 And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul: then your light shall rise in darkness, and your obscurity be as the noonday- As noted on :8, Zion's light refers to the coming of Messiah. His coming was and is dependent upon the spirituality of the Jews and their repentance. And that shall only come in the last days as a result of a tribulation and holocaust like none other in their history. "Darkness" and "obscurity" are used in Isaiah to refer to Judah's sinfulness and also their judgment for that sin. Despite all that, if they had shown love and justice to the poor, then Messiah's light would have broken in upon that darkness.

Isaiah 58:11 And Yahweh will guide you continually and satisfy your soul in dry places, and make strong your bones- The allusion is to how Yahweh "guided" (s.w.) Israel in the desert and satisfied them with food and water (s.w. Ex. 16:8,12 "bread to the full"), strengthening their bones for the wilderness journey. This guidance is typical of our journey after baptism towards God's Kingdom (1 Cor. 10:1-3). But our experience of that guidance will in fact be eternal [the idea behind "continually"]. The kind of Divinely guided life we experience now shall eternally continue. If they satisfied the soul of others in need (:10 s.w.) then their soul would be eternally satisfied. There is an absolutely direct connection between what we do for others now, and what God shall do for us eternally. This is not to say that salvation itself is upon the basis of works- for it is by grace alone. Yet it is also true that how we live now shall be reflected eternally in the nature of our eternal existence. At the time of the restoration, the Jews were not satisfied (Hag. 1:6 s.w.) despite all their efforts to achieve self-satisfaction. And lack of satisfaction was part of the repeated experience of an Israel who put their own pleasure first (Lev. 26:26; Ps. 59:15; Ecc. 1:8; 4:8; 5:10; 6:3; Is. 9:20; Ez. 16:28; Hos. 4:10; Mic. 6:14). Yet the righteous are often described as being satisfied both in this life and in the restored Kingdom; David and the righteous died "full" or satisfied (s.w.) with their days (1 Chron. 23:1). We see evidence of this all around us; those who make their own satisfaction their priority live unsatisfied lives.

And you shall be like a watered garden- This is exactly the language of Jer. 31:12 about the restored Kingdom; it really was possible at the time of the restoration. Eden could have been restored.

And like a spring of water, whose waters don’t fail- If they did all these things of :6-13, there would be no drought; but Malachi records how there was drought, because they had not fulfilled these conditions. And so the promises were reapplied and rescheduled. Therefore the Lord promises believers even now this experience of being like an ever bubbling spring, through the experience of the Holy Spirit gift (Jn. 4:14; 7:38,39). It's a case of now but not yet. We can begin to experience now the kind of life we shall eternally have in the Kingdom; in this sense, in the language of John's Gospel, we have eternal life now.

Isaiah 58:12 Those who shall be of you- These words are inserted by the translaters. Literally, "Of you..."; the reference could be to an individual, not the nation.

Shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations- This all alludes to Neh. 13:22. The restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah could have been far more glorious. There was an external appearance of rebuilding, but actually the Kingdom of God was not restored in Israel because the people simply didn't want it. This is why some rejoiced but others wept when the temple was dedicated; those who wept did so because they realized that this was not in fact the temple of the restoration prophecies.

And you shall be called The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in- Neh. 6:1 says that there was no breach [s.w.] in the walls. But that was only external. The restoration prophets use this word to describe the breach between God and Israel which was not filled at that time because the potential Messiah figures didn't or couldn't do so (Is. 30:13; Ez. 13:5; 22:30), failing to be the prophet like unto Moses who did stand in that breach (Ps. 106:23 s.w.). Am. 9:11 speaks of the possibility of reviving the tabernacle of David that had fallen, and closing up the breach at the same time as the ruins were revived. But this didn't happen; for this prophecy was to have its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:16).

Isaiah 58:13 If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of Yahweh honourable; and shall honour it, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words- Judah abused the Sabbath, as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah, wishing to trade with the Gentiles on that day; Am. 8:5 speaks of their longing for the Sabbath to end that they might get on with their trading. The Sabbath was intended to be a time when Israel would hear God's words and not speak their own words; to stop talking, and listen. We too can in essence make that same mistake, going through the motions of religion when our hearts are set upon our next social or business meeting. We should "delight" in God's ways; and if we do, then we shall eternally delight ourselves in them (:14). We can begin to live the Kingdom life now. For throughout our eternity, the ways and things of God shall be our eternal focus. And they ought to be now as far as possible. In this sense, we can live the eternal life now.

Is. 58:12,13 prophesied that the acceptable rebuilding of Zion was dependent upon Judah keeping the Sabbath acceptably; and yet Nehemiah’s record makes clear their tragic abuse of the Sabbath at the time of the restoration; and this therefore meant that the rebuilding of the temple and city were not going to fulfil the Messianic prophecies about them which existed.

Isaiah repeatedly stated that the surrounding nation would come to Zion and share in her joy. Ex. 23:12 had commanded that the Gentile who lived with Israel must keep the Sabbath. If the Jews had not done their pleasure on the Sabbath, then the Messianic Kingdom could have come (Is. 58:13,14). But instead the Gentiles who lived around Jerusalem traded with the Jews on the Sabbath (Neh. 13:16 RSV), they intermarried, and Israel / Zion was not a city set on a hill to enlighten the surrounding world; because they preferred to be influenced by the world around them, rather than vice versa.

The Sabbath was a release from the everyday things of life, the need to search for food (in the wilderness years), to work, from doing one's own pleasure and speaking words which relate to one's own earthly desires (Is. 58:13,14). It is therefore fitting that in our present experience of life, these necessary daily things will not obsess us; and if we may be made free from them, we will " use it rather" . Sodom was condemned for this revelling in the legitimate daily activities of life- attending and organizing weddings, eating, drinking... So let's drive away our nervousness at the idea of serious commitment; we are a priesthood, the centre of our lives is the service of God, His tabernacle is what we camp around by night and carry by day.

Isaiah 58:14 Then you shall delight yourself in Yahweh- This describes how eternally, in the restored Kingdom of God, we will 'delight outselves' in Yahweh; and yet we can do this now. For the same word is used of how He should be our delight now. Ps. 37:4,11 make the same point- we are to delight in Him now, so that we shall eternally do so. We are to live the Kingdom life now. If the things of God are to be our eternal delight, they should be now. The things of the Kingdom are not to be a mere hobby or occasional interest for a few hours / week, but the delight of our souls in every way, reflected in our attitudes to everything in our lives.

And I will make you to ride on the high places of the earth- To ride on high places could mean to bask in triumph and victory. The earth / eretz / land promised to Abraham [the common reference of eretz] was not fully under Jewish control when they returned from the captivity in Babylon. But it could have been. And the "high places" of the land of course recall the places of idolatry. They could have triumphed over all their historical sins and temptations.

And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father- "Jacob" rather than the other patriarchs is repeatedly mentioned in the restoration prophecies because he was clearly the weakest in spiritual terms, and yet from that weakness was led to great heights, had righteousness imputed to him, and was restored to the land of promise by God's grace. He therefore became an appropriate pattern for the returned exiles. The Hebrew translated "feed" also means "to eat"; this word is so commonly used about Jacob 'eating' at various points in his life when covenant relationship was being celebrated and ratified. The list is impressive: Gen. 25:34; 27:19; 28:20; 31:46,54. The idea would be that the covenant with the patriarchs could have come true to that generation, if they followed the path of Jacob. And as Jer. 31 emphasizes, the promises to the patriarchs were in fact the new covenant which we too share in.

For the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it- It was spoke just as that same mouth had stated that within 40 days, Nineveh would be destroyed. But God can change and adjust His stated purpose in accordance with human repentance and response, or lack thereof.