Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.
~Isaiah 58:3, NLT
Don’t get into the rat race: even if you win, you are still a rat.
The Jews that Isaiah addresses in chapter 58 are very religious. They observe days of fasting where they deny the flesh and sleep on ash beds but this spiritual discipline as become a mere ritual: they don’t even think about what they are doing. Isaiah said, “Your fasting is absorbed with self-interest, you are not doing it for God and that is why He is not impressed.” Then Isaiah gives them a list of things they are not doing that would be far more pleasing to the LORD than ritualistic religious observance.
I had a man tell me several years ago; “There is one thing you can say about the Jews, they take care of their own.” I said, “You might want to rethink that: if you study the Old Testament, you will discover the opposite is true. The Jews were horrendous at taking advantage of each other.” Nehemiah, Isaiah, Amos and practically all the prophets speak of Israel’s propensity to oppress their fellow Jews. Jews are famous for getting the big end of the stick and this goes back to the father of the tribe. Jacob was a cheater. He took advantage of his dim witted brother and deceived his dim sighted father. He didn’t have his father or brothers interest at heart, Jacob was looking out for Jacob. Jews are known for prospering at the expense of others.
Here is a list of things Isaiah suggested they might do if they were sincere about following the laws of God. Give liberty and freedom to those you have enslaved. Share your food with the hungry. Give the homeless shelter. Stop evading your responsibility of take care of your own kin like you aged mother and father. Stop perverting justice; be fair to your neighbor and stop going to court simply because you know you can win. Have mercy on the wretched among you. You will note that all these things have something in common: they all relate to LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR AS MUCH AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. If you want to prosper at your neighbors expense, your heart is not right with God. You cannot be right with God and be wrong with your neighbor.