Key Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-14
It's a New Year, 2024! Fasting is common with Christians; it may have become a trend. Congregants have become accustomed to starting the new year with their specific type of fast. The fast is implemented to achieve the desired results within the timeframe of the fast. The 21-day Daniel fast is most common among Christian churches and believers.
While fasting is a spiritual discipline, the motive must align with biblical principles set by God. God’s Word is clear about what He expects and the type of fast that pleases Him. That is the purpose of this essay.
To Isaiah, God says, “Cry aloud, do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isaiah 58:1 AMP).
Like then, like now, no one wants to hear about what they are doing wrong. However, to those God has called to be His mouthpiece, must obey His instructions and say whatever He commands. This will cause criticism, and you will be unpopular.
Isaiah and many other prophets in the Bible did not back down from speaking the truth—what God commanded. The one thing people do not realize is that whatever God says concerning His people is for their good.
Consider the word God commanded Isaiah to address:
· The superficiality of their relationship with God (Verses 1-2).
Although they were seeking Him daily, pretending to delight in knowing His ways, they were unrighteous and had turned away from God’s requirements as His chosen people. Reality? They were hypocrites! They had turned away from God, but delighted in His nearness. While they were against Him, they wanted Him to be for them. (Verses 1-2)
· Their expectation despite their insincerity and hypocrisy (Verses 3a).
They questioned God’s non-responsiveness to their fasting… “Why have we fasted, and You do not recognize it? We have afflicted ourselves and You are not impressed. (Verse 3a). God did not respond to their fasting because it was for show; it was to please themselves. Their motive for fasting was wrong—it was tradition, pretense, not sincerity of heart. It was pleasurable, not grief for sinful behavior. There was no change in character and behavior.
· God’s expectation and response to their question (Verses 3b-5).
Isaiah confronted their behavior and answered their question of why God did not respond to their fasting. There was no change in their behavior. They continued their unrighteous acts—they oppressed their servants. They abused one another by quarreling and fighting. If you expect God to hear and answer your prayers, there must be a heart change that aligns with God’s way of doing things. Fasting is NOT about looking the part.
· God’s chosen reasons for fasting (Verses 6-7).
Isaiah poses God’s reasons for fasting in question form: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: (Isaiah 58:6a NKJV)
1. Loose the bonds of wickedness. People are imprisoned spiritually and physically restrained because of injustice, oppressive systems. Fast to open the way and be released from the wickedness that holds people captive. (Self-included).
2. Undo the heavy burdens. Many are weighed down with the cares of life. Fast to set free from the yokes that have them enslaved mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
3. Let the oppressed go free and break every yoke.
4. Feed the hungry, provide shelter to the homeless, and clothe the naked.
· The rewards of God’s chosen fast (Verses 8-14)
God always rewards faithfulness and obedience to His commands. He makes it clear what will result from fasting His way and what He will do. When fasting for God’s reasons listed above (#1 through 4) these are the results:
Revelation breaks forth.
Restoration (healing and wholeness) springs forth quickly.
Righteousness (justice) will lead to peace and prosperity.
God’s Presence as a rear guard that protects and defends.
Answered prayer when you call, and present help when you cry.
Jesus gave instruction on fasting. "And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. (Matthew 6:16 NLT).
The primary purpose for fasting is to be subject to the will of God and discipline us to deny our flesh control. It is a spiritual discipline for spiritual reasons. Fasting should never be a trend for Christians. When annual fasting becomes a trend to satisfy the flesh and ego, but no spiritual discipline that causes transformation, it can easily become an idol.
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