It could be that there’s more to fasting than we might have thought…
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? 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. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashed under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?Isaiah 58:3-5
In this chapter of Isaiah, God is dealing with a people who weren’t fasting with the right motives in their hearts. It had pretty much become just another ritual and God wasn’t ready to accept a fast that didn’t come from a heart of sincerity… a heart of obedience.
Instead, they were fasting for selfish needs, which was wicked in God’s sight. They had chosen to glorify themselves and God said…ENOUGH WITH THE IMAGE.
Those in Isaiah’s time were much like the Pharisees that Jesus dealt with, putting their trust in rituals that had no spiritual depth at all.
REAL fasting brings great POWER before the Throne of God:
Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.Matthew 17:21
Not far past that is another example of empty fasting mentioned in Luke chapter 18. Jesus told the parable about a self-righteous Pharisee that made it a point to highlight the fact that he fasted twice a week.
Is Not This The Fast That I Have Chosen?
In Isaiah 58, neither Isaiah nor God was putting down the act of fasting. It was the emptiness of their RITUAL that was displeasing to them. The next few verses talks about the RIGHT kind of fast:
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? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou shalt cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?Isaiah 58:6-7
The fast in which we deny ourselves and stand ready to help others… this is the RIGHT fast. Not one in which we are only seeking our own.
Yes, of course, we fast to come against many things that come against us and our loved ones, but not in the same way that the people in Isaiah’s day did. We deny ourselves to see bands of wickedness LOOSED…Heavy burdens UNDONE…The oppressed MADE FREE…Every yoke BROKEN…
A Bigger Vision
The vision was so much bigger than “sackcloth and ashes” and God wanted them to understand that.
Yeah, it’s easy to go without food for a day… to turn off social media and take a sabbatical… to set aside favorite hobbies for strict study and application of the Word… if we think WE are going to be blessed.
It’s a little harder, and requires much more focus, to fast for the wicked… the burdened… the oppressed… and those yoked down heavily.
Deny ourselves for us? Sure.
Deny ourselves for others? That’s God’s vision!