Isaiah 58:3 – You Seek Your Own Pleasure

Gary W. Ritter

(Isaiah 56-58; 1 Thessalonians 3)

Israel had a problem. The people thought they were righteous before God in the way they sought Him.  They were performing rituals and sacrifices that seemed right in their own eyes as to what would please the Lord.  Somehow, they made a left turn and followed a way that led, not to Him, but to other gods and the lifting up of themselves.  It resulted in great deception in their lives and displeasure on God’s part, as Israel should have known better.  Hear what the Lord accused them of in Isaiah 58:2:

Yet they seek me daily

    and delight to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that did righteousness

    and did not forsake the judgment of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments;

    they delight to draw near to God.

Two little words are the key in this verse: as if.  The things they did had the appearance of holiness.  They thought that in their worship they were growing closer to God.  Instead, when the people gathered before the Lord, they did it for themselves and not for Him, as Isaiah 58:3 says:

… Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure… 

Their fasting, their sacrifices and offerings, were all directed wrongly.  What was their problem?  A huge issue was their sexual immorality coupled with their pursuit of pagan gods as Isaiah 57:4-5 notes:

… Are you not children of transgression,

    the offspring of deceit,

you who burn with lust among the oaks,

    under every green tree,

who slaughter your children in the valleys,

    under the clefts of the rocks?

A central part of their transgressions included the sacrifice of their children.  It wasn’t pretty, and God hated what they did.

As a result, once more, the Lord had to remind them what pleased Him.  He outlined that in Isaiah 58:6-7:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

    to loose the bonds of wickedness,

    to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

    and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

    and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover him,

    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Many times Yahweh had revealed His character to His wayward children.  It was hard.  Micah 6:8 summarizes God’s instructions:

He has told you, O man, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?

This is exactly what He’s saying here in Isaiah.  God is nothing if not consistent.  And here’s the thing.  The Lord wanted desperately to pour out His blessings on His Chosen People, but He absolutely refused when they chose to rebel against Him, His love, and His goodness.  If they had obeyed Him, consider briefly what He would have done, as seen in these several verses in Isaiah 58:

v8 – Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing shall spring up speedily… 

v9 – Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ … 

v10 – … then shall your light rise in the darkness

    and your gloom be as the noonday.

v14 – … then you shall take delight in the Lord,

    and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;

What comes before thenIf…   But Israel wasn’t willing and all the blessings of God had to remain for a later time.

In reading this I couldn’t help but make the comparison to a certain segment of the church today.  I’ve been quite critical of the movement within Christendom known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).  There are many aspects of NAR that are surely non-Biblical.  One of them is an emphasis on experiences that people might have, supposedly through the move of the Holy Spirit.  NAR churches place a great emphasis on charismatic gifts.  The problem as I see it is that they seek those gifts in greater measure than they seek the Lord Himself.  One such spiritual gift they emphasize is healing.  Obviously healing has a place, a very important one.  But the question has to be asked on where the emphasis is put in interaction with others.  Is it on Jesus?  Or is it on the experiential aspect, i.e. the healing?  When Jesus appointed His apostles, Mark 3:14-15 shows the order of precedence in which they were to operate:

And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.

First and foremost was preaching the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ that would cause people to enter the Kingdom of God.  And, oh yes, Jesus also gave them authority to cast out demons (and heal the sick).

I think this is what God wanted Israel to learn.  She had to first seek Him and then all things would be given to them (Matthew 6:33).  There isn’t any difference today in how God wants us to conduct ourselves and in how He will respond.

What is the priority?  Healing is important.  Feeding the hungry is vital.  Yet, these are earthly benefits.  The eternal benefit of salvation is most critical.  It seems to me that this is an area in the NAR arena that is perhaps lost because the main focus is misdirected.

God doesn’t change.  As much as many people try to separate the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament, they do so in vain.  His very Word assures us of this in Hebrews 13:8:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Our task needs to be to keep the main thing the main thing.  Just like Israel wandered off into the wilderness of heresy and worse, so today it’s very easy with various ear-tickling teachings for us to seek those things that have lesser value in God’s eyes and can actually lead away from Him.

How do we self-correct?  Only through the Word of God.  We must seek Him daily through Scripture in a persistent, disciplined manner.  It’s in reading our Bibles with a reverent spirit that we grow and mature in Him, knowing the difference between right and wrong, whether in our actions or in doctrine we believe.  Such pursuit of Christ in our lives results in God saying to us, as He says in Isaiah 57:15:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

    and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Don’t we want more of God dwelling with us?  Shouldn’t we desire this high and holy God to be near in everything we do?  This is His promise.  It’s ours for the asking.  All we need to do is follow hard after Him.


As I’ve mentioned in the Author Note of previous articles, the Lord put it on my heart this year to write a daily essay relating to my practice of Reading Through the Bible in a Year.  Last year, that resulted in my producing the Awaken Bible Study Notes, a 4-volume set correlating with each quarter’s readings.  This year in my writings, truly through the grace of God, I’m producing the 4-volume Awaken Bible Commentary and Reflections series.  Volume 1, which covers January – March (Genesis 1 – Judges 5; Matthew 1 – Luke 7), is now available on Amazon in both paper and Kindle e-book formats at this link:

Awaken Bible Commentary and Reflections series Volume 1

If these daily writings have been a blessing to you, I hope that you’ll acquire this first book and the subsequent ones as I finish editing them.  My intent in all I write is to bring God the glory and to make His people think.  As in the Study Notes from last year, the Commentary and Reflections delve into the prophetic and supernatural nature of God’s Word, a combination you simply won’t find elsewhere.  They attempt to show the parallels to our times and the peril from the past when God’s people turn away from Him and His commands.  Scripture is very much a blueprint for today. Gary W. Ritter is a lay pastor, Bible teacher, and prolific author.  His Whirlwind Series comprises three books: Sow the Wind,Reap the Whirlwind, and There Is a Time.  These books are contained in the collected volume of the Whirlwind Omnibus.  Gary has written many other Christian thrillers that will challenge you, and which you can learn about at his website: www.GaryRitter.com.  Recently, Gary wrote a novella for the new Kindle Vella platform called Tribulation Rising: Seal Judgments – The Coming Apocalypse.  This seven-part short work can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B099Z462WD.  You can also watch Gary’s video Bible teachings on Rumble at his Awaken Bible Prophecy channel:

7 thoughts on “Isaiah 58:3 – You Seek Your Own Pleasure

  1. Mark V

    I’m reminded of two circumstances,”Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.For on Him God the Father gas set His seal.” Jn.6:27 “Then Jesus answered, ‘Were there not ten cleansed, where are the other nine?'” Lk. 17:17 In the first, they weren’t really concerned with Jesus but in the free food. In the second, only one gave thanks and praised God. Miracles rarely lead to salvation then(Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum) what makes them think they will fare better than Jesus Himself today?

    1. rlinaz

      Mark V, your comments made me think about the Millennial Kingdom and that people will STILL not believe in Jesus and follow Him, even then, when Satan is bound in chains and The Lord is their Ruler. Clearly we can’t blame Satan for all of our sins. Yes, he initiated our fall but our sins are now ‘baked in’ to our very being, it is just crazy how sin-filled we are.

      Can you imagine Jesus curing your leprosy and not praising Him and giving Him glory?!

      In this reading of Gary’s message I feel convicted because I don’t bring the homeless into my home. I faithfully tithe, and our church has a ministry for the hungry and the homeless, but I don’t bring them into my house to live with me. I now wonder if perhaps I demonstrate the kind of ingratitude of those healed lepers.

      1. The idea of bringing the homeless into our homes is something that’s at a whole other level these days. Sadly, many have severe psychological problems. Who knows what you’d be getting? If someone was going to consider that, it seems like it would be best if the person in question was well-vetted by a reputable organization. Even then…?

  2. rlinaz

    Thanks Gary, that has been exactly my concern. As a single woman who works, it seems very risky to me. I just don’t want Jesus to look at me and ask “Why didn’t you…?” Granted, when I am face to face with Him I’ll likely realize many ways I didn’t do all I could have and regret them :(.

    I’m grateful we don’t/can’t earn our salvation.

    1. Amen to that, Robin. You may have seen me use this term: believing loyalty. That’s what God wants from us. It’s been the same from OT to NT. That’s what David had. He sinned, but he never gave loyalty of any kind to any other gods. It’s why the Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart. True faith in Christ is also believing loyalty where He alone is Savior and Lord. No fence sitting – no double-mindedness. Christ alone through faith alone through grace alone.

      1. rlinaz

        Thank you Gary, and yes, I agree the five solas are foundational to a solid relationship with our Triune God.

        The description of David as a man after God’s own heart, is the very one I long to have God apply when He describes me. Only God knows our hearts; even though we fail him and sin, wanting to please Him and repenting, having a tender heart…these are all conscious facets in my walk.

        Nothing, nothing in this world compares to my Lord.

  3. Mark V

    My thoughts were in support of Garys teachings that the Word God is what pierces the soul “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” I believe that miracles still exist and have their part but not focal point of the mininistry. Many churches believe that miracles ceast to exist anymore- a Berean Church actually has that in their statement of faith. Many churches are more focused on works than the Word. Again, works are good but if you leave out the Word then all you have given is perishable food.