I have been looking for a good passage on Fasting for a good while now. I have found some great verses in the past. Jesus has probably been the best about how to go about your daily routine when fasting. But recently I found a very intriguing passage in Isaiah 58. Take some time to read and notice what these people that are being spoken against are doing.
Now let me point out how they were acting in a way that is not much different than American Christians today.
The first point to notice is that many people are not thinking about their actions. In verses 2-3, we see a people who seek to know God and His ways, yet when it comes down to the end of verse 3, the people are really just self serving and are only seeking to feel good about themselves. This must not be the point of fasting. If it was self serving, I highly doubt this chapter would even be in Isaiah.
So, whenever you fast, make it about moving out of yourself and into God AND others.
Now look at the end of verse 3 and on into verse 4. You may think to yourself, “What a messed up group of people!” But are we so different. I have seen so many people seeking to be close to the Lord fight with tooth and nail. It is not pretty, and it usually has to do with either the style of musical worship on Sunday morning or with confrontation due to tensions within the body. I wonder what the people Israel were doing to be called out like this, but I know for certain that the Church in this culture many times deserves this prophecy.
God wants to hear you, but are your action muffling your own voice.
Verses 6 to the first half of verse 9 paints a really nice rhetorical question. I could see the greedy of Israel sulking back after hearing these words, because they must have defied the kind of fasting that the speaker is describing. I wonder how we would react? How much true liberty to we create, encourage, and maintain?
Are you living in God’s freedom, or causing oppression in the world?
In the second half of verse 9 and on into verse 12. There seems to be reference to Israel (or Jerusalem) being in ruins. (Now that sounds like it could be Jerusalem). It occurred to me that this could be a passage written during a time that Jerusalem was destroyed or being destroyed. It would be no small wonder then that everyone was acting selfishly. I began thinking about that and about our recent economic crisis that we are still feeling the effects of. We obviously are not in the situation of being attacked and destroyed in the Ancient times of Israel (which was most unpleasant and probably meant something along the lines of death and slavery), I think that we can understand a portion of the financial panic they might have felt. How powerful is it that Isaiah says that in selfless giving we will be rescued by God. What a testament to the fact that God wants us to act out His will. Sure, he acts in phenomena, but He mostly uses creation and us humans.
So are you seeking to share and rescue humanity, or fighting for what’s yours and destroying humanity.
The final verses really connect loving God and loving people together as the same act. You cannot have one without the other. I have heard that the primary goal of Christians is to simply love God, and in a sense that is true. But it is only true if you consider loving God and loving others the same thing. I keep thinking of the two greatest commandments in the Law as stated by Jesus. Isaiah and Christ seem to be linking together in this thought. I would say that this would be a challenge of a lifetime from God to the American ideal: to accept that to participate in the great rescue of humanity and creation, we must make loving God and loving others the same goal and passion of Christianity.
So, are you seeking God alone, with selfish motives? Or are you hearing God calling you to reach out to those who need you?
I highly recommend studying this yourself.
Grace and peace to you guys.