Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?
The Outward Appearance. A new breed of panda bears was recently introduced. They are much smaller than the pandas we usually encounter at the zoo or while watching a nature program. They look exactly like their "mothers and fathers" of the larger world but they remain quite small throughout their life's span. These pandas can actually be taken in as pets and are harmless to children. Many have decided to bring this new breed of panda into their homes because these are actually dogs that are specially groomed to look like a panda bear! And, the finished result is what we call panda dogs. Their outward appearance is quite deceptive at first glance.
photo credit: Martin LaBar (going on hiatus) via photopin cc
The Offering. Isaiah, as God's mouthpiece addresses the southern kingdom of Israel: Judah. He describes their fasting before God and tells the nation that they fast and "humble" themselves, yet they drive hard their workers, they fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist, and they do not care for the poor or the oppressed. (Is. 58:6-7) Judah gave the appearance of being spiritual; however, it was undoubtedly clear that the people were lacking a change of heart before God, evidenced by how they mistreated others.God recognized the heart attitude of His people and knew the motivation behind their fasting. He did not change; as He told Samuel "for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Sam. 16:7)
The Omniscient God. So where does this leave us? If you have a personal relationship with God, you know that we serve an all-knowing God. Our service remains secondary to the attitude and motivation of our heart. We are reminded that God cannot and will not be manipulated. Judah fasted but did not receive the attention from God that they desired. (Is. 58:3) It is not our deeds that win God's favor; rather He desires a pure heart that beats with love for Him.
God desires humble hearts before we serve Him with a host of deeds.