ISAIAH 58:6-9: “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” (The Message)
OBSERVATION: Am I fasting for those in need? Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is lost in most of the church. And just like those to whom Isaiah was addressing, for those who do fast it many times becomes a spiritual exercise that is directed at getting something from the Lord for oneself. When we face extreme difficulty, or a great need – we may turn to fasting and praying for direction, asking the Lord to provide us with an open door. There is nothing wrong with this, but if our fasting is only this, it will become an action that is unacceptable to the Lord.
When we think of fasting we think of giving up food for a period of time. The Israelites loved to do this, and it became a show for them. Jesus addressed this in His Sermon on the Mount.
- “When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.” (Matthew 6:16-18 The Message)
Fasting is to be between an individual and God, never a show of religious piety to impress others. And fasting is also to be an action of love and compassion toward others. This is what the Lord, speaking through Isaiah, was saying to Israel, and is also saying to us! If fasting is denying ourselves of something so that we can seek God, fasting for others is denying ourselves so that we can truly love God – as we love others!
Isaiah, speaking the Word of the Lord, makes fasting a very tangible act of love! There is no question about the fast that the Lord desires. Here is the list from these verses in Isaiah:
- Break the chains of injustice
- Get rid of exploitation in the workplace
- Free the oppressed
- Cancel debts (this was directed a loans with interest that were made to their fellow Jews)
- Sharing your food with the hungry
- Opening your home to the homeless (providing shelter)
- Putting clothes on the shivering
- Being available to your own families (both in time and provision)
The Jews were complaining that they were humbling themselves before God, fasting regularly, and God was not listening to them. God’s answer – “You are being very religious, but you have forgotten to love.” This sounds very familiar to something Jesus said to the Church of Ephesus.
- “I see what you’ve done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can’t stomach evil, that you weed out apostolic pretenders. I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out. But you walked away from your first love—why? What’s going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you’ve fallen? A Lucifer fall! “Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste, for I’m well on my way to removing your light from the golden circle.” (Revelation 2:2-5 The Message)
Hard work and religious piety are important – but they can never replace tangible love! God did not look down from heaven and shout with a megaphone – “I LOVE YOU!”
- “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” (John 3:16 The Message)
Beloved – if God so loved us, we should also love one another! (I John 3:16). With the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, with the hungering around the world, with the poor in our own Nation, and with all the injustice and oppression we see every day – WE ALL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENTER INTO THE FAST THAT THE LORD DESIRES!
The question is – WILL WE?
Lord, give me a compassionate heart for the lost, the oppressed, those who are victims of injustice, for the hungry, the poor, and the needy. Let my compassion be a tangible expression of worship through generosity in both my finances and my practical assistance. May I stand up for the truth, and may I truly love others – like You loved me!
In Jesus Name!
(If you want to make a donation to help Foursquare Disaster Relief who is giving aid to both the Texas Gulf Coast, and now to Florida, go to http://www.forsquare.org/fdr . God Bless!)