Below is a post I wrote on Facebook on May 24th, 2009. I was 20 years old. It is wonderful how God knows that I am the most effective person to persuade future me. Perhaps 7 years did not hold what I thought they would, but I am willing to love God without my terms. I am grateful for His pursuit of me.
When people talk about fasting, the first thing I think of is abstaining from food to spend time praying. I think of the people in the Bible described as putting on sackcloth and ashes and looking tortured, or of the kind of monks that torture themselves to be “truly penitent.”
However, this morning when I opened up to Isaiah 58, I got an entirely different picture. (see text here).
Verses 2-4 describe Israel as “eager to know my [God’s] ways,” yet they aren’t following God’s ways. They have the same initial concept of fasting as I did, yet it doesn’t really affect their lives. Instead, on the same day they are supposed to set aside for God, they pretty much do what they want, quarrel, and treat other people poorly.
I think of all the times not spent in prayer that I’ve argued with my siblings, or snapped at people for nothing they have done.
” 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.”
Ouch. You ever have those days where you feel like God isn’t listening? I have found time and again that usually that means I have some sin in my life I haven’t dealt with. Even time spent praising God can be silly if your heart isn’t in the right place or there is someone with whom you have unfinished business (think Matthew 5:23-24).
So what does fasting mean, if we’re to fast to grow spiritually? We are challenged in verse 5 to consider our standard definition of fasting, with what God actually intends for us to gain from fasting in verses 6-7:
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
wow. These are some bold statements. “loose the chains of injustice,” “set the oppressed free and break every yoke.” They’re not even proper statements, but questions, begging Israel, begging anyone who professes to follow God to evaluate how we are living.
Are we living for the kind of freedom God provides? Is it a lifestyle or a lip service? Is this choice to follow God reflected in your daily life? Are you ignoring your own family when it comes to serving others?
That alone should challenge our mediocrity, but one of many amazing things that God does is to promise benefits to living this way.
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
God sincerely wants to be there for you- He loves You unbelievably, but He doesn’t want to love you on your terms, when it’s convenient, or in the ways that you might like because He wants to EXCEED all of your expectations! The question is, are you willing to let Him work in your everyday life?