SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4 (EGW)

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Chapter 58

A Wide and Extensive Vineyard Opened—The piety and advanced spiritual knowledge and growth of a church is proportionate to the zeal, piety, and missionary intelligence that has been brought into it, and carried out of it to be a blessing to the very ones who need our assistance the most. Again I urge you to consider Isaiah 58, which opens a wide and extensive vineyard to be worked upon the lines which the Lord has pointed out. When this is done there will be an increase of moral sources and the church will no more remain almost stationary. There will be blessing and power attending their labor. The selfishness that has bound up their souls they have overcome, and now their light is being given to the world in clear, bright rays of a living faith and godly example. The Lord has His promises for all who will do His requirements. [Psalm 41:1-3; 37:3; Proverbs 3:9, 10; 11:24, 25; 19:17; Isaiah 58:10, 11 quoted.] 4BC 1148.7

The Word of God is full of precious promises, as the above (Manuscript 14a, 1897). 4BC 1148.8

In our work we shall find a high profession of piety and much outward exactness bound up with great inward wickedness. The people represented in Isaiah 58 complain that the Lord allows their services to go unnoticed. This complaint is the expression of hearts unsubdued by grace, rebellious against the truth. Those who receive the truth which works by love and purifies the soul are loyal to God, honoring Him by obedience to His law, which is holy, just, and good. The spirit of true fasting and prayer is the spirit which yields mind, heart, and will to God. 4BC 1148.9

Ministers of God have been guilty of the sin of disregarding a “Thus saith the Lord.” They have led the members of their churches to observe rites which have no foundation in the word of God, but are in direct opposition to His law. By perversion and misrepresentation of the Word of God, they have caused the people to commit sin. God will reward them according to their works. Even as did the priests and rulers in the time of Christ, they have caused the people to err. Christ says of them as He said of the Jewish leaders, “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Manuscript 28, 1900). 4BC 1149.1

1. The Only Course of Safety—My brethren, you need to study more carefully the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. This chapter marks out the only course that we can follow with safety.... 4BC 1149.2

The prophet receives this word from the Lord—a message startling in its clearness and force: 4BC 1149.3

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” Though they are called the people of God, the house of Jacob, though they profess to be linked with God in obedience and fellowship, they are far from Him. Wonderful privileges and promises have been given to them, but they have betrayed their trust. With no words of flattery must the message be given them. “Show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” Show them where they are making a mistake. Set their danger before them. Tell them of the sins they are committing, while at the same time they pride themselves on their righteousness. Apparently seeking God, they are forgetting Him, forgetting that He is a God of love and compassion, long suffering and goodness, dealing justly and loving mercy. Worldly policy has come into their business and religious life. Their hearts are not purified through the truth. God looks on their outward ceremonies of humility as a solemn mockery. He regards all religious sham as an insult to Himself. 4BC 1149.4

The people of whom the prophet spoke made a high profession of piety, and pointed to their fasting and to other external forms as an evidence of their piety. But their deeds were tainted by the leprosy of selfishness and covetousness. They had nothing except that which they had first received from God. He bestowed His goods on them that they might be His helping hand, doing what Christ would do were He in their place, giving a true representation of the principles of heaven (Letter 76, 1902) 4BC 1149.5

1, 2. An Unmuffled Message—Our work now is to rouse the people. Satan with all his angels has come down with great power, to work with every conceivable deception to counterwork the work of God. The Lord has a message for His people. This message will be borne, whether men will accept or reject it. As in the days of Christ, there will be the deep plottings of the powers of darkness, but the message must not be muffled with smooth words or fair speeches, crying peace, peace, when there is no peace, to those who are turning away from God. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” [Isaiah 58:1, 2, quoted.] 4BC 1149.6

The whole chapter is applicable to those who are living in this period of the earth's history. Consider this chapter attentively; for it will be fulfilled (Manuscript 36, 1897.) 4BC 1149.7

1-4. Sins of Israel Are Sins Today—[Isaiah 58:1-4 quoted.] ... The house of Jacob, at the time this warning was given to Isaiah, appeared to be a very zealous people, seeking God daily, and delighting to know His ways; but in reality they were filled with presumptuous self-confidence. They were not walking in the truth. Goodness, mercy, and love were not practiced. While presenting an appearance of sorrow for their sins, they were cherishing pride and avarice. At the very time when they were showing such outward humiliation, they would exact hard labor from those under them or in their employ. They placed a high estimate on all the good that they had done, but a very low estimate on the services of others. They despised and oppressed the poor. And their fasting only gave them a higher opinion of their own goodness. 4BC 1149.8

There are sins of this same character among us today, and they bring the rebuke of God upon His church. Wherever such sins are found, seasons of fasting and prayer are indeed necessary; but they must be accompanied with sincere repentance and decided reformation. Without such contrition of soul, these seasons only increase the guilt of the wrong-doer. The Lord has specified the fast He has chosen, the one He will accept. It is that which bears fruit to His glory, in repentance, in devotion, in true piety. [Isaiah 58:6, 7 quoted.] 4BC 1150.1

In the fast that God has chosen, mercy, tenderness, and compassion will be exercised. Avarice will be put away, and fraud and oppression will be repented of and renounced. All the authority and influence will be used to help the poor and oppressed. If this were the condition of the world, it would no more be a proverb, “Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter;” “he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey” (The Review and Herald, October 13, 1891) 4BC 1150.2

1-5. A Reformatory Influence From God Needed—[Isaiah 58:1-3 quoted.] The people here described realize that they have not the favor of God; but instead of seeking His favor in His own way, they enter into a controversy with God. They ask why, since they observe so many ceremonies, the Lord does not give them special recognition. God answers their complaints: “Behold, in the day of your fast, ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.” These fasts are only outward show, mere pretense, a mockery of humility. These worshipers, while mourning and lamenting, retain all their objectionable traits of character. Their hearts are not humbled, nor cleansed from spiritual defilement. They have not received the softening showers of the grace of God. They are destitute of the Holy Spirit, destitute of the sweetness of the heavenly influence. They manifest no repentance, nor faith that works by love and purifies the soul. They are unjust and selfish in their dealings, mercilessly oppressing those whom they regard as their inferiors. Yet they charge God with a neglect to manifest His power to them, and exalt them above others because of their righteousness. The Lord sends them a message of positive reproof, showing why they are not visited by His grace (Manuscript 48, 1900). 4BC 1150.3

5-7. Christians Not a Band of Mourners—We have everything to be thankful for. Never ought Christians to move along like a band of mourners in a funeral train. God does not require this of His followers. He does not ask them to spread sackcloth and ashes under them. “Is it such a fast that I have chosen?” He asks; “a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” God tells us what kind of fast He has chosen. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” This is the fast He wishes us to observe. [Isaiah 58:7 quoted.] In these words our duty is outlined. God shows us where we should place our treasures. As we follow in the path of self-denial and self sacrifice, helping the needy and suffering, we shall lay up treasure before the throne of God (Manuscript 31, 1901). 4BC 1150.4

Outward Signs Alone Are Valueless—The outward signs of fasting and prayer, without a broken and contrite spirit, are of no value in God's sight. The inward work of grace is needed. Humiliation of soul is essential. God looks upon this. He will graciously receive those who will humble their hearts before Him. He will hear their petitions and heal their backslidings. 4BC 1150.5

Ministers and people need the work of purification in their souls, that God's judgments may be turned away from them. God is waiting, waiting for humiliation and repentance. He will receive all who will turn unto Him with their whole heart (Manuscript 33, 1903). 4BC 1150.6

Help Those Suffering for Truth's Sake—[Isaiah 58:5-7 quoted.] God's cause embraces every needy, suffering saint. We are not selfishly to single out a few relatives and friends and help them, letting our work end here. All the needy who come to our notice are to be helped, but especially those who are suffering for the truth's sake. If we neglect this work, God will hold us accountable. Shall we not as a people who work righteousness, follow the conditions God has laid down, and be doers of His Word (Manuscript 145, 1899)? 4BC 1151.1

6. No Yokes to Be Placed—The Lord has not given man the work of putting yokes on the necks of His people, binding them in such a way that they are not free to look to Him and to be led and guided by Him. It is not the Lord's design that His people shall be made amenable to their fellow-men, who are themselves wholly dependent on God (Letter 76, 1902). 4BC 1151.2

8 (see EGW comments on Zechariah 4:12). God Needs Human Agencies—We are to put into practice the precepts of the law, and thus have righteousness before us; the rereward will be God's glory. The light of the righteousness of Christ will be our front guard, and the glory of the Lord will be our rereward. Let us thank the Lord for this assurance. Let us constantly stand in a position where the Lord God of heaven can favor us. Let us consider that it is our high privilege to be in connection with God—to be His helping hand. 4BC 1151.3

In God's great plan for the redemption of a lost race, He has placed Himself under the necessity of using human agencies as His helping hand. He must have a helping hand, in order to reach humanity. He must have the cooperation of those who will be active, quick to see opportunities, quick to discern what must be done for their fellow men (NL No. 23, p. 1). 4BC 1151.4

A Visible Righteousness Required—Note the inspired promise of the prophet to those who do all in their power to relieve distress, both physical and spiritual. [Isaiah 58:8 quoted.] 4BC 1151.5

As Christians we are to have a righteousness that shall be developed and seen—a righteousness that represents the character of Jesus Christ when He was in our world (Manuscript 43, 1908). 4BC 1151.6

8-14. Characteristics of True Reformers—Here are given the characteristics of those who shall be reformers, who will bear the banner of the third angel's message, those who avow themselves God's commandment-keeping people, and who honor God, and are earnestly engaged, in the sight of all the universe, in building up the old waste places. Who is it that calls them, The repairers of the breach, The restorers of paths to dwell in? It is God. Their names are registered in heaven as reformers, restorers, as raising the foundations of many generations (The Review and Herald, October 13, 1891). 4BC 1151.7

9, 10. Compassion Causes Light to Rise—[Isaiah 58:9, 10 quoted.] All around us are afflicted souls. Let us search out these suffering ones, and speak a word in season to comfort their hearts. Here and there—everywhere—we shall find them. Let us ever be channels through which may flow to them the refreshing waters of compassion. To those who minister to the necessities of the hungry and afflicted, the promise is, “Then shall thy light rise in obscurity.” 4BC 1151.8

Many are in obscurity. They have lost their bearings. They know not what course to pursue. Let the perplexed ones search out others who are in perplexity, and speak to them words of hope and encouragement. When they begin to do this work, the light of heaven will reveal to them the path that they should follow. By their words of consolation to the afflicted they themselves will be consoled. By helping others, they themselves will be helped out of their difficulties. Joy takes the place of sadness and gloom. The heart, filled with the Spirit of God, glows with warmth toward every fellow being. Every such an one is no longer in darkness; for his “darkness” is “as the noon day” (Manuscript 116, 1902). 4BC 1151.9

11. God's Guidance Gives Clear Discernment—Of him who walks in the way of life everlasting, using his blessings to bless others, the prophet Isaiah declares: “The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” 4BC 1151.10

These blessings we need. We need the water of life that flows from Jesus Christ, which will be in us a well of water springing up into everlasting life. “The Lord shall guide thee continually.” When we are guided by the Lord, we shall have clear discernment. We shall not call righteousness unrighteousness, nor think that things that the Lord has forbidden are right. We shall understand where the Lord is working. 4BC 1152.1

Many have not understood this. There are some who I know have been led astray by the enemy. But God wants to make you a partaker of the divine nature. He wants no yoke of human authority on your neck, but that you shall look to Him who is able to save to the uttermost every one that comes to Him in righteousness and truth. We have no time to tamper with the enemy; for we are very near the close of this earth's history (Manuscript 43, 1908). 4BC 1152.2

12-14 (Revelation 11:19; 14:9-12). Sabbathkeepers Repair the Breach—[Isaiah 58:8-14 quoted.] Where do we find the people who are thus addressed? Who is it that shall build the old waste places, and raise up the foundation of many generations? Where are the people who have had light from heaven to see that a breach has been made in the law of God? 4BC 1152.3

In the Revelation, John says, “The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament.” Revelation 11:19. John saw in vision the Lord's people looking for His coming and searching for truth. As the temple of God was opened unto His people, the light of the law of God, which was in the ark, shone forth. Those who receive this light are brought to view in the proclamation of the third angel's message. 4BC 1152.4

This angel is seen flying in the midst of heaven, “saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.... Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” 4BC 1152.5

This is the people that are repairing the breach in the law of God. They see that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment has been supplanted by a spurious sabbath, a day that has no sanction in the Word of God. Amid great opposition they become loyal to their God, and take their position under the standard of the third angel (Manuscript 48, 1900). 4BC 1152.6

As the end approaches, the testimonies of God's servants will become more decided and more powerful, flashing the light of truth upon the systems of error and oppression that have so long held the supremacy. The Lord has sent us messages for this time to establish Christianity upon an eternal basis, and all who believe present truth must stand, not in their own wisdom, but in God; and raise up the foundation of many generations. These will be registered in the books of heaven as repairers of the breach, the restorers of paths to dwell in. We are to maintain the truth because it is truth, in the face of the bitterest opposition. God is at work upon human minds; it is not man alone that is working. The great illuminating power is from Christ; the brightness of His example is to be kept before the people in every discourse (Letter 1f, 1890). 4BC 1152.7

Whole-souled Men to Stand in the Gap—I write this because many in the church are represented to me as seeing men like trees walking. They must have another and deeper experience before they discern the snares spread to take them in the net of the deceiver. There must be no halfway work done now. The Lord calls for stanch, decided, whole-souled men and women to stand in the gap, and make up the hedge. [Isaiah 58:12-14 quoted.] 4BC 1152.8

There is a decided testimony to be borne by all our ministers in all our churches. God has permitted apostasies to take place in order to show how little dependence can be placed in man. We are always to look to God; His word is not Yea and Nay, but Yea and Amen (NL No. 19, pp. 2, 3). 4BC 1152.9

13, 14. See EGW on Exodus 20:1-17, Vol. 1, p. 1103. 4BC 1152.10