Two weeks ago I wrote about fasting and how we are to have Godly motivation in our hearts as we endeavor to seek God’s will and His purpose in our lives. In the second portion of this theme I would like to focus in on a chapter in the Old Testament that has the title “true fasting”. It is found in Isaiah 58 and challenges our hearts in how we devote ourselves to the Lord and what our response should be when our motives are pointed out.
In the first five verses Isaiah speaks and points out how the nation of Israel acted as a people who appeared to desire God’s ways as it states in verses 2 - 4.  “For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it?

Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.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.”

What we see is not too different from our own behavior at times. We expect God to answer our prayers and yet we live as we please and then one day we decide to dedicate a day or even a period of time to the Lord and inquire of God when our expectations are not met. Then in verse 5 a question is asked of the Israelites; “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?” In verse 6 we are informed of what God’s idea is of true fasting; “to loose the chains of injustice and to set the oppressed free”. The following verse carries on with this theme, “to share food with the hungry and provide shelter and clothing for the poor and to show mercy to our loved ones”. The instructions are clear as communicated through the prophet Elijah. So often we put on a show or pay lip service to others to make it seem like we care about them or a situation. The reality is that often they are only words and actions that benefit our reputation. The giving of our time and material possessions are the true reflection of a heart that is correctly engaged with God’s purposes.

What follows in verse 8 is a promise that God shares with us through the prophet Isaiah. When God is obeyed and honored through serving with integrity, a promise is stated in verses 8-9; “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness 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.”  As the verses unfold in this chapter, beautiful metaphors are used to express the results as stated in verse 11; “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” As the chapter begins to close the encouragement is to honor the Lord during the days He has set aside. The nation of Israel was to keep the Sabbath day by their actions but also they were challenged not to speak with idle words, in other words, useless conversation. The last part of verse 14 is directly related to the Jews as their inheritance was the land of Israel and the promises related to their nation which were made to Jacob their patriarch so many years before. As we consider the opening and closing phrases of the final verse the initial phrase  says “then you will find your joy in the Lord”; the outcome is God’s promise to us. We will find joy in His presence as we follow His guidance and provide for the needs of others. True fasting can be found in the sincere prayer of a person who is seeking God’s purpose in any given situation. That teaching is supported in other scriptures as we saw in Part 1 of this article. Ultimately what we need to read and understand is that God desires that fasting be the attitude of us going without, not to coerce Him to do something for us but rather to sacrifice so others will be filled and nourished in every way. As the chapter concludes it simply says “The mouth of the Lord has spoken”. Is He speaking to us? Are we listening?  



By: Pastor David Jones

(Bible portions from the NIV)