Is not this the fast that I have chosen?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen?

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Isaiah 58:6-8Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
Isaiah 58:6-8

Fasting takes on many forms for many reasons, most of them physical, some of them spiritual. In the Books of the Law, God had dictated various fasts for various spiritual reasons, but by the time God was speaking through Isaiah the prophet, the Jewish people had largely forgotten the spiritual reasons and were fasting just because it was the thing to do at certain times of year during certain observances. If there’s anything God hates almost as much as sin itself, its empty ritual! Fasting wasn’t the only directive that the Jewish people had turned into empty ritual, but God addresses it here in a way most even today, do not expect.

bannersIn general, we are used to the idea of fasting FROM something for a period of time. We fast from dinner to breakfast in the morning, it’s why the first meal of the day received the name it has. We fast from food for various health reasons. During Lent, various believers from various persuasions within the Christian faith will fast from TV or coffee or the Internet for 30 days as their preparation ahead of Passover and Resurrection Sunday.

But in this passage, God puts fasting in a different light. He calls a fast TO something, and that something is the care and nurturing of the poor and needy around us. This passage reminds me of Micah 6:8 where God says:

Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

and again in James:

James 1:27  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

God does not call us to be social justice warriors, throwing around virtue signals that marginalize one group over another. God calls us to put others ahead of ourselves, and see to it that their basic needs are met. This is actually a good way to beat back depression if you battle with that. When you are focused on meeting the needs of someone else, it gets you out of your head and onto productive action on behalf of others. Such a focus change can also be a mood boost, lifting you out of any debilitating funk you might be in for any reason. This is why reaching out to bless others may result in you being the one that is blessed instead. I’ve heard this observation so many times over the years! But you don’t have to wait till you’re depressed or in a funk to obey God’s directive to reach out to others around you. God calls us to be His hands and feet to a lost and hurting world.


God’s concept of fasting TO good works, meets the needs of those you reach out to, and gives you a mental, emotional, social, and spiritual boost at the same time. God never ignores your needs. But to make them first and foremost in your life is turning them into an idol, and God will not stand beside an idol!

Perhaps this year, when you consider fasting from food or from potential sources of spiritual idolatry, consider using the time you would have been preparing food and eating, or partaking in an activity you chose to forgo, and using that time and effort instead for personal devotions and service out in the community.

And one tiny sidenote about today’s passage: the word “rereward” in the KJV here, is translated as “rear guard” in other translations. In military terms, telling someone that you “have their six” means you have their back. God says in the Psalms:

Psalms 139:5  Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

Many times God says in His Word that He goes before us, but He also comes behind us.

Isaiah 30:20-21  And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:  21  And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.

Be comforted that God has your back and will protect you as you go out to make a difference in the lives of those God places in your path.

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