I will never forget the night God woke me up to show me Isaiah 58. I still have written in the margin of my Bible, “I was awoken in the night for this.” Is ‘awoken’ even a word? It was on May 5th, 2006. Not sure the significance of the day I just know that God wanted me to see how serious He is about helping the poor and needy.
Isa. 58 contrasts man’s version of fasting with God’s version of fasting. Man is all like, “God, why haven’t you noticed and seen our fasting? We humbled ourselves and you’ve not noticed.” (vs. 3) And God is like, “You do as you please on your day of fasting and it all ends in quarreling and fighting. You can’t fast like that and expect to be heard. Fasting is not just a one day event.” (vs.4)
God explains his version of fasting (vs.6-7)
- Loose the chains of injustice
- Set the oppressed free
- Share your food with the hungry
- Provide the poor wanderer with shelter
- Clothe the naked
- Don’t turn away from your own flesh and blood
I feel like God’s heart is bent towards the weak, vulnerable and marginalized. My theology tells me he loves us all the same. It also tells me we are all weak and in the same need of God. But somehow I can’t get away from seeing/feeling that there is a very tender place in the heart of God for those who are poor, needy, abused and vulnerable on this earth.
God turned the entire fasting system upside down by laying out his version of fasting which had nothing to do with prayer, food, memorizing or quoting scripture which is what we tend to think of with fasting. Of course there’s a place for that. But it’s extremely interesting that when God uses the term fasting he uses terms like feeding, clothing, sheltering, freeing.
God explains what happens when we participate in his version of fasting (vs. 8-11)
- Your light will break forth like the dawn
- Your healing will quickly appear
- Your righteousness will go before you
- The glory of the Lord is your rear guard
- You will call and the Lord will answer
- He will be there when you call for help
- Your light will rise in the darkness
- Your night becomes like the noonday
Wow, that’s some pretty powerful rewards for caring for the poor. For providing shelter for the wandering. For freeing those entrapped. For sharing your food. For clothing people. For remaining faithful to your family.
Are you needing a break through in your life? Do you need healing to appear quickly? Do you need to hear from the Lord? Are you longing for light to break up the darkness?
Then consider putting into practice true fasting – the version God lays out in Isaiah 58. It’s well worth the sacrifice. And let’s be honest – it will be a sacrifice. Suddenly giving up rich foods for a few days seems more palatable. But God never calls us to something he won’t equip us for.
Lord, show us how to take care of each other. Strengthen us to do your will. To fast the way you want us to. To love the way you love. We stand in need of you daily.