CONTEXT: Matthew Henry breaks down this Chapter of Scripture as follows: The prophet, in this chapter, has his commission and charge renewed to reprove the sinners in Zion, particularly the hypocrites, to show them their transgressions (v. 1). It is intended for admonition and warning to all hypocrites and is not to be confined to those of any one age. Some refer to it primarily as those at that time when Isaiah prophesied; see 33:14; 29:13. Others to the captives in Babylon, the wicked among them, to whom the prophet had declared there was no peace 57:21. Against the terror of that word they thought to shelter themselves with their external performances, particularly their fastings, which they kept up in Babylon, and for some time after their return to their own land, Zec. 7:3, etc. The prophet therefore here shows them that their devotions would not entitle them to peace while their conversations were not at all of a piece with them. Others think it is principally intended against the hypocrisy of the Jews, especially the Pharisees before and in our Saviour’s time: they boasted of their fastings, but Christ (as the prophet here) showed them their transgressions (Mt. 23), much the same with those they are here charged with. Observe, I. The plausible profession of religion which they made (v. 2). II. The boasts they made of that profession, and the blame they laid upon God for taking no more notice of it (v. 3). III. The sins they are charged with, which spoiled the acceptableness of their fasts (v. 4, 5). IV. Instructions given them how to keep fasts aright (v. 6, 7). V. Precious promises made to those who do so keep fasts (v. 8-12). VI. The like precious promises made to those that sanctify sabbaths aright (v. 13, 14).
Here we find God charging Isaiah v.1 with declaring to My people their transgressionsAMP. Yet in v.2, God makes an unusual announcement when He declares they are a pretentious people: “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight [superficially] to know My ways,…
That brings us to our text for today and the matter of fasting. Calvin defines fasting as follows: “we do not understand it simply as restraint and abstemiousness in food, but as something else. Throughout its course, the life of the godly indeed ought to be tempered with frugality and sobriety, so that as far as possible it bears some resemblance to a fast. But, in addition, there is another sort of fasting, temporary in character, when we withdraw something from the normal regimen of living, either for one day or for a definite time, and pledge ourselves to a tighter and more severe restraint in diet than ordinarily. This consists in three things: in time, in quality of foods, and in smallness of quantity” (4.12.18). Basically, for Calvin this means, for certain periods of time, to avoid delicacies and eat more sparingly, “only for need, not also for pleasure.”
**** Caution EXTENDED (24 HR) FASTING IS NOT FOR EVERYONE ALWAYS ENSURE YOU ARE MEDICALLY FIT AND CLEARED TO DO SO ****
The Forerunner Commentary States: Fasting puts us in a proper attitude to submit to God. When we deprive ourselves of the necessities of life, we see how dependent we are upon God’s providence. This is why in a true, spiritual fast we neither eat nor drink anything for the whole 24 hours of the day (Deuteronomy 9:18; Esther 4:16). God desires such a humble spirit in us so that we can walk in harmony with Him (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 66:2).
In our main text for today v.3, we see God’s people fasting but for the wrong reasons. They cry out in almost a braggarts way about fasting with the expectation that God will answer them and deliver them. First God is NEVER obligated to fulfill our prayer requests. He is sovereign not us. Who are we to make demands of God? Second, God will not listen to the petitions of a prideful heart. James makes it clear what God expects: 4:8-10(KJV) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.