Most of us could generate a lengthy list, with little imagination to fit the old aphorism, “There is no right way of doing a wrong thing.” Today, we’re going to look at the reverse of that pithy phrase because God gave an explicit warning about the wrong way to do the “right” thing. In the last three posts, we established through Scriptures that fasting is the right thing for Christians to do.
We are going to direct our attention to the longest passage about fasting. The prophet Isaiah shares an entire chapter about true fasting, found in the book of Isaiah, it is filled with contrasts describing what is pleasing to God and what is not.
“Cry out loudly, don’t hold back!
Raise your voice like a ram’s horn.
Tell my people their transgression
and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 They seek me day after day
and delight to know my ways,
like a nation that does what is right
and does not abandon the justice of their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments;
they delight in the nearness of God.”
3 “Why have we fasted, but you have not seen?
We have denied ourselves, but you haven’t noticed!”
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast,
and oppress all your workers.
4 You fast with contention and strife
to strike viciously with your fist.
You cannot fast as you do today,
hoping to make your voice heard on high.
5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Isn’t this the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer;
when you cry out, he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,
10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.
11 The Lord will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose water never runs dry.
12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.
13 “If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath,
from doing whatever you want on my holy day;
if you call the Sabbath a delight,
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
seeking your own pleasure, or talking business;
14 then you will delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride over the heights of the land,
and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
The Wrong Way
Verse two illustrates an insincere seeking to know God. The same hypocrisy is described in Isaiah 29:13 and quoted in part by Jesus in Mark 7:6. Verse three is Israel’s words to God. We get a glimpse of their arrogance and their motive seeps through. True humility does not make demands of God. He is all-wise and sovereign we are not. The first part of this chapter is a picture of their pious acts, that God finds detestable.
The Right Way
Beginning in verse six the text shifts to the right way to fast. As you read verses 6 through 8, we see the focus is on others through acts of justice, alleviating oppression, feeding the hungry, helping the poor and homeless, etc. The last portion, verses 9 to 14, tells of the standard of a true fast and the blessings that coincide with it when fasting is done in a way that brings honor to the Lord.
Dear Reader, I hope I’ve piqued your interest in Biblical fasting because there is much more to be excavated from Isaiah 58, I’ve mentioned only a few points here.
A Free Gift
The double-sided bookmark pictured here is a resource tool I created. One side lists the genres of Biblical literature. Learning about genres has transformed my understanding of Scripture. The Bible is a collection of sacred texts, called books, in one volume. There are 66 books yet, for most of my life, I naively approached studying the Bible as one singular book. The opposite side of the bookmark contains tips on how to study the Bible more effectively. This bookmark is a gift for all who want it. Click the button below to download a free printable, containing three bookmarks per page. The bookmark measures 2.875 x 11 inches (7.3 x 27.9 cm). To make them sturdier I had mine laminated, after cutting them apart.
Dear Father God, thank You for showing us Your precise expectations. You are holy, righteous, just, and full of mercy and grace. You deserve the best of everything we offer to You. Holy Spirit, help us to offer fasting and prayer that is pleasing and honorable. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, grandmother, great-grandmother, foster care parent, and trauma survivor. I enjoy sipping tea, writing devotionals, prayers, short stories, and unburdening my heart to the Lord. Check the About page if you want to read more of my story.
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