Isaiah 58: The Law of the Fast (and Sabbath)

CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 58. Also, John H Vandenberg’s April Conference talk in 1963 covered this chapter of Isaiah.

This chapter goes with chapter 60, but stays with the theme of telling what will happen to the people of Israel just before the very final last days.  After reminding the people of the happiness of living His laws and becoming a holy people, the Lord now explains some of those laws – specifically the Law of the Fast, and also keeping the Sabbath.  These laws are always given through prophets.  It is by a Prophet (Adam) that we left His presence, and it is by the Prophet that we return to His presence.  The Prophet is the “flaming sword”, delivering the words of God to us to guide us how we may return to His presence and that paradise rather than choosing to live our immortality in our current sinful and miserable state.  This is why we all are “prophets” as we testify of the truth of the Savior (Revelation 19:10), and why Prophets have the job to teach the laws of  God so that we can learn the difference between what is of-God and what is not-of-God (verse 1).

We all need this, even those of us who attend church and worship in the temple regularly (verse 2).  Going through the motions is not enough, and a pattern of prayers is not enough.  Our prayers must be real, with contrite spirits and sincere hearts that boldly approach Our Father and our God.  He is both!  The Lord promises to manifest Himself to us to the degree (“inasmuchas”) we sincerely approach Him.  Specifically, fasting should be a holy day of prayer and service, not a day of complaining or celebrating (verse 3).

The people are not getting their prayers answered because they are not following the Law of the Fast or honoring the Sabbath.

The people cannot feel the Lord close, do not feel the Spirit, and are losing their testimonies because they are not keeping the Fast or honoring the Sabbath.

In another example, He says that some people are extra irritable and miserable when fasting because they are fasting for the wrong reasons.  These people cause contention and fight amongst themselves too much.  They give fast offerings, but do nothing to help the poor or those without the priesthood (converts, singles, orphans, widows).   The Law of the Fast doesn’t mean just refraining from food, but also doing the work between fasts to give the Fast its power: caring for the people around us (verse 4).

The Lord says He doesn’t want a Fast where we are mean and hard on ourselves.  He says He never designed a Fast that was for public show of mock humility.  This is not the kind of thing He designed, and acting like this does not serve its purpose (verse 5).  Instead, the Fast that the Lord designed was a time for people to separate themselves from the world, disengaging from both wickedness and preoccupations (verse 6).  It is a time to forgive others, to serve others, and to free those that are oppressed in any way – even emotionally or spiritually.  It is a time to break the “yoke” of those things that burden us and the people around us.  It is like a mini-Jubilee, meant to set everyone free and endow them with power.  This may be the literal care of people (Aaronic), by providing food or clothing to those who need it, or it may be the spiritual care of people (Melchizedek), by providing priesthood blessings, ordinances, forgiveness, and service for others (verse 7).

And it must be done, no matter what, “with glad hearts and cheerful countenances” if the Fast Offering is to be accepted by the Lord (and us blessed for it) (Skousen, p. 702; History of the Church, 7:413).

But if we do give “with glad hearts and cheerful countenances”, then the blessings given are very specific:

  • “awakening to each new day with zest and joy” (Skousen, 702);
  • improved health;
  • increased capacity for generosity and righteousness; and
  • protected from unexpected attacks from the adversary.

Those are big blessings!  Huge!  We need them, and it is wisdom that He gives these blessings to us.

But there are more promises!

Another specific blessing given as part of the Law of the Fast:  the Lord promises that those who sincerely fast and pray regularly will absolutely receive answers to their prayers (verse 9).

The Lord says the experience of fasting and praying will transform us (another promised blessing!) so much that what was once dark and empty and alone and hungry will be filled with satisfaction and contentment with true nourishment of Light and comfort (verse 10).

These are incredible blessings!

Verse 11 continues adding upon these blessings, with rich symbols that can be defined:

And the Lord shall guide thee continually
(by the Holy Spirit’s correction, instruction, and guidance)
and satisfy thy soul in drought,
(with enough nourishment even when there is no other place or way)
and make fat thy bones:
(by marrow, which manufactures blood and is the symbol of our mortality –
meaning blessings and prospering for mortal/temporal things/experiences as well)
and thous shalt be like a watered garden,
(nourished and thriving, physically and spiritually)
and like a spring of water
(having the source of life within me:
my premortal spirit alive in me, as part of me,
able to work to remember all I was trained in and taught premortally
and the covenants I have made
and mortally
whose waters fail not.
(revelation and inspiration
from His Spirit
that does reveal all things
and help me remember
and teach me to become
who I promised to be
who He created me to be)

These are powerful blessings and promises and gifts for us, truly vouchsafed and endowed to us from on High (see also April 1963 Conference, p. 29).

But we cannot claim any of these blessings if we are not caring for people, both physically (Aaronic) and spiritually (Melchizedek).  When we make covenants in the temple, and sustain these priesthoods, even become a part of them (girls, too), this is what we covenant to do.  This is why we are endowed with power from on High, that we may use this authority and power to care for His children – even bring more to the temple, that their ancestors and their generations not yet born may also be liberated and free to make and keep sacred covenants, and by so doing rescue their own families (verse 12).  Only by doing these things for others do we become strong, and only by serving others do we develop the powers for self-control.  Skousen refers to verse 13 about both fasting and honoring the Sabbath (not just on Fast day!) (p. 704):

To “turn away thy foot” from the routine labors of the regular work week and cease from personal pleasures or recreation in order to make the Sabbath meaningful is very pleasing to the Lord.  The Lord wishes to have His people make the Sabbath a delightful day, a day of rest, a day of service to the needy, the shut-ins, and the downhearted.  It is also a time to renew our covenants by honoring the Lord, partaking of the sacrament, studying the scriptures, and meditating on the great blessings which come to us when we are obedient to the commandments of the Lord.

When we keep the Sabbath, and establish our fasting on service to others, the Lord is pleased to pour upon us the blessings He has promised and is waiting to give (verse 14).

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Isaiah 58: The Law of the Fast (and Sabbath) — 2 Comments

  1. What do you suppose the end of verse 7 means “that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” I’ve been pondering this scripture but haven’t come up with anything for that part??