Bible Study (Adult)
The Fasting God Chooses: Isaiah 58:6-12
Isaiah observed that the people of Israel were fasting in vain. The spiritual discipline God desires should draw us together and encourage our hunger to be united in his peace and answer the call to love mercy and do justice.
Overview: In this passage, the prophet Isaiah receives a corrective word from the Lord about spiritual discipline and its impact on the mission of the people of Israel. We will examine this word to discern instructions about our own spiritual discipline and how our spiritual hunger should lead us into unity for what God desires—that we would love mercy and do justice.
Read out loud Isaiah 58:6-12. What would you say is the tone of this text?
“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen” (v. 6)
Fasting is understood to be an intensive time of seeking the Lord. In this passage the people of Israel are being faithful to participate in fasting as commanded in Leviticus 16:29-34, yet they seem to be missing out on what God desires. What impact is the Lord seeking from their time of fasting? How can we approach our spiritual discipline in a way that opens us toward ministry of mercy and justice?
“Untie the cords of the yoke” (v. 6)
Unleashing the binds of injustice and oppression requires outside intervention in order for release to occur. What conditions might cause people in Isaiah’s day to be bound in injustice? (See Jeremiah 34:8-22.)
“Is it not to share your food with the hungry” (v. 7)
What relational encouragement is the Lord offering when he says the people should interact with the hungry and the poor?
“If you do away with…the pointing finger and malicious talk” (v. 9)
These two actions generally occur at a distance. People point at or talk about people who are removed from their midst. How might the people of Israel have distanced themselves from those who are oppressed?
“Then you will call, and the LORD will answer” (v. 9)
Explore again the blessings the Lord promises to his people in verses 8-9 and 10-11. List these blessings into your own words. Why do you think the Lord would promise such blessings?
The Hungry Church United
Fasting should create spiritual hunger that unites us with what God desires. How can you encourage your church toward a time of collective fasting?
“The LORD will guide you always” (v. 11)
Examine the blessings and assurances God offers his people when they unite in his purposes (see vv. 8-12). Compare with the assurance Jesus offers in Matthew 28:18-20. How do these blessings and assurance encourage the mission of your church?
“You will be called the Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” (v. 12)
Reflect as you can on the origin story of your church. What spiritual hunger was there when your church was planted? How has the area you’re serving changed since then? Are there any passions from the past that your church can reclaim today?
Thank the Lord for his unchanging word.
Praise him for his unchanging passion for all of his image bearers.
Ask for his forgiveness for where we have not grown in our spiritual hunger.
Seek his blessing of unity among our church for mission.
Commit to encouraging spiritual hunger through prayer and fasting.
Dedicate yourself to promoting ministries that demonstrate love of mercy and desire to do justice.