Fasting for the Right Reasons
Today we start with a very long reading from the Living Bible on a prophetic message to God’s people.
Isaiah 58 Living Bible (TLB) 58 Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast; tell my people of their sins! 2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and are so delighted to hear the reading of my laws—just as though they would obey them—just as though they don’t despise the commandments of their God! How anxious they are to worship correctly; oh, how they love the Temple services! 3 “We have fasted before you,” they say. “Why aren’t you impressed? Why don’t you see our sacrifices? Why don’t you hear our prayers? We have done much penance, and you don’t even notice it!” I’ll tell you why! Because you are living in evil pleasure even while you are fasting, and you keep right on oppressing your workers. 4 Look, what good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5 Is this what I want—this doing of penance and bowing like reeds in the wind, putting on sackcloth and covering yourselves with ashes? Is this what you call fasting? 6 No, the kind of fast I want is that you stop oppressing those who work for you and treat them fairly and give them what they earn. 7 I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don’t hide from relatives who need your help. 8 If you do these things, God will shed his own glorious light upon you. He will heal you; your godliness will lead you forward, goodness will be a shield before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9 Then, when you call, the Lord will answer. “Yes, I am here,” he will quickly reply. All you need to do is to stop oppressing the weak and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Your sons will rebuild the long-deserted ruins of your cities, and you will be known as “The People Who Rebuild Their Walls and Cities.”
Isaiah 58 starts by describing how some people fast for the wrong reasons, with the wrong priorities, and in the wrong spirit. It then goes on to describe the right reasons, priorities, and spirit, which allow for a fast to be acceptable unto God. In the prophet Isaiah’s time, the people grumbled that they had fasted, yet God did not answer in the way they wanted (Isaiah 58:3-4). Isaiah responded by proclaiming that the external show of fasting and prayer, without the proper heart attitude, was futile (Isaiah 58:5-9). Here is a list of the Right Reasons as described by the prophet Isaiah.
Here is a Summary of what God asks of you when you fast,
- Stop oppressing those who work for you - You should take care of those that work for you or live under your roof in a fair way without exploiting or oppressing other people.
- Share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute - This is a complicated thing to do in your own home so bring them to your spiritual home, the local Church in case you don’t want to take chances with people you don’t know.
- Clothe those who are cold, and don’t hide from relatives who need your help - Again we see a central point in taking care of other people’s physical needs
- Stop oppressing the weak and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors - God hates gossip and rumours so part of your fast is to make sure you stop causing trouble to others because of your judgements.
- Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! again we see that we are to meet the humanitarian needs of others.
Isaiah 58:10 …Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Your sons will rebuild the long-deserted ruins of your cities, and you will be known as “The People Who Rebuild Their Walls and Cities.”
Very often we fail to understand that God’s promises are many times conditional to our obedience. A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute trust. The promises of God in the Bible are numerous and yet many have a condition attached that must be fulfilled if we are to possess the blessing that the promises offer.
In the life of every believer God has given instruction for us to yield our will to His will and to give our lives and our bodies as living sacrifices unto His service. In turn for our obedience, God moves into our heart and dwells there, making each of us the Temple of God.
God is merciful and He wants us to draw close to Him. He is waiting for us to look to Him in repentance and then walk on in faith and obedience to His call.
Let’s see how Solomon received the Promises of God
2 Chronicles 7:17-18 “As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, and do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man as ruler in Israel.”
God says, “If you walk before me, if you do as your father David, if you do what I will tell you, and if you do what the Bible tells you to do”…THEN I will grant you your requests and more!
Personal Fast and Corporate Fast
Fasting can be done individually, like Jesus, Moses and Daniel did; a whole church can be called to fast, or a city (Jeremiah 36:9). In times of strife, an army or a whole nation can be called on to fast. However, unless we are called to collectively fast for a specific purpose, we should fast and pray in secret and tell no one except the Lord.
Matthew 6:16-18 ‘Whenever you fast do not be like the hypocrites, for they put on a sad countenance so that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full already. When you fast, perfume your head and wash your face so your fasting may not be noticed by men but by your Father, Who sees you in secret, will reward you in the open’.
When we do a corporate fast we don’t need to keep it a secret. Fasting is serious business to God and we must not take it lightly.
Joel 1:14 ‘Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders… and cry to the Lord’.
When we are called to a collective fast, the group needs to fast all at the same time, but nobody should be forced to fast. Fasting has to be from the heart or the Lord will not accept it. A call to fast by a Church leader can be listened to or ignored. You should know however that Spiritual leaders should equip the Church and prayer and fasting are a Spiritual discipline. Nobody should be coerced to fast but we are members of a spiritual body. When a leader calls a fast it is for your own benefit to listen since God will speak to us through his servants. Fasting should be done with joy and gladness, cheerfully in love, truth and peace, then followed by a feast and fellowship.
Paul Fasted After His Conversion
Acts 9:1-9 Saul was a man who persecuted Christians. He had gotten permission from the Jewish leadership to go to Damascus and arrest any who claimed allegiance to Christ. Along the way to Damascus Saul (whose name was later changed to Paul) had a personal encounter with the Lord. We call this [his conversion on the road to Damascus.
Part of his encounter with God involved a bright light which left Paul blinded. Paul was in Damascus for 3 days without sight. He also did not eat or drink (Acts 9:9). This could have been because of repentance or shock for everything that had recently transpired. Either way, Paul sacrificed food and drink for 3 days in exchanged for a relationship with the Lord.
When Satan managed to deceive Eve, and in turn Adam to disobedience, sin entered into their nature. This sin came between them and God like a veil, separating them from the source of life. Spiritually speaking, they were dead in their trespasses and sins. ( Ephesians 2:1 ) Sin had entered the world, which was cursed, and all living creatures also had to die a physical death. The sin that entered Adam and Eve’s nature was passed on to all their descendants. This “.
Sin is anything that goes against God’s will and His laws. To commit sin is to transgress or disobey these laws. The lust to sin dwells in human nature. To help His people stay on the right path, God gave them laws that spelled out His will for them. These laws are hard to keep and we can easily break them but Jesus Christ came to show us a better way to obey God trusting in His grace. Just by doing this we can please God and we will be fasting “the right way”.