True fasting

Isaiah 58:1-12

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
3 Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
6 Is 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?
7 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?
8 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 reward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
11 And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Bible Gateway) says, “This prophet was to cry aloud and warn the people of their sins.  The people seem to think that they are doing the right things by fasting.  They seem right in their own eyes, but God says that they are hypocrites.  They fast and then cry to God and ask why he hasn’t seen or heard them or done favors for them.  God does reply and says that their fastings are for strife and contempt and even though they are reaching towards heaven they aren’t pleasing God.”

God requires not the sacrifice of animals and not the sacrifice of Cain.  What is pleasing to God is to give our bread to the hungry.  To shelter those that are homeless and to give to the poor.  These are the things that Jesus did while on the earth and He does them now through us!  That is part of true fasting.  It is giving up of our time, money or services to those in need and at that point we are setting the captives free and breaking the yokes of our people.

David Limbaugh “Jesus on Trial” p. 236 & 237 says “Jesus affirms the authenticity of the Hebrew canon and instructs His disciples to honor it (Matthew 5:17-18).

Matthew 5:17-18  (KJV)
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

He and His disciples use the phrase “it is written” more than ninety times, signifying their unqualified affirmation of the Bible’s authority.  In fact, He declares it to be imperishable (Matt 5:17-18).  He declares it to be inspired:  “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’?” (Matt 22:43).  He says the Bible in unbreakable:  “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).  He affirms the Old Testament as the Word of God (Matt 15:3, 6; 5:17-18). He pronounces that it is supreme over tradition (Matt 15:3,6), and that, in effect, it is inerrant (Matt 22:29). He affirms Scripture’s total truthfulness:  “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

Isaiah chapter 58 is a eye opener due to the fact that there are warnings and promises together all in one chapter.  It is true that God needs to be honored, feared and loved.  We are His children and He admonished those that He loves, but we are not to drink only milk.  We are to grow strong in the Lord and be held accountable to Him as well.  The Holy Spirit comes to comfort but often times He comes to reveal first and then the comfort comes.

Is it possible to think that we are pleasing to the Lord and not actually be?  Yes, it is possible, so we need to ask the Lord for wisdom and to reveal anything that He wants us to change.  Can that be a scary proposition?  Sure, but think of the benefits of holding fast to our faith.  Our behavior needs to be becoming of the Lord so that when we fast towards Him we are not hypocrites.  The Lord longs for us!

As I think about how to bless the Lord and how to give to him,  I see the people on the street begging and I question should I help them. You know the ones that we see on every other street corner and we think “Oh, they must need money for alcohol or drugs”.  I have seen one person carry a sign that says, “I just need money for cigarettes!  Thanks”.  In our society today we have the fear of being duped or tricked, cheated so we don’t want to give money to someone who is begging for it on the street. But I feel like the Lord is saying to me to help these individuals.  In the New Testament it says to give to the poor, help those in need and it would be the same as helping Jesus himself.  So I have to be wise and think about what I can give them. (Please pray to the Lord how He wants you to give of our time and/or money.  It is different for each person of course.)   I have decided to give them a Bible, some flyers and a little bit of money.  With travel becoming more prevalent we have an opportunity to bring Christ to those on the street no matter what their situation is.   But I’ve decided that the Lord wants me to help these people to bring Christ to them through kindness.  Either way it is an opportunity that can’t be missed in reaching the lost.

Isaiah 58 he talks about the meaning of true fasting.  Not just denying yourself food or something else, but maybe denying your prideful thoughts, anger or putting yourself above others and give to someone who you think doesn’t deserve it.  Denying yourself of getting somewhere quick, but instead taking the time to help these people.   In Isaiah the Lord says a good fast is to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke,  to set the oppressed free,  to tear off every yoke, to share bread with the hungry,  to bring the poor shelter,  to cloth the naked when you see him and to not ignore your own flesh and blood. Powerful words I think! In this culture it is very important to read the word of God, to be attentive to his voice, to seek his forgiveness for any sins and pray for his wisdom to fill our spirit.

God sets forth promises in Isaiah 58 that if we help set the oppressed free, the Lord will always lead us, strengthen us, make us a watered garden like a spring whose water’s never run dry and the Lords glory will be your rear guard and much more. How great our God is to give us promises and show such love that if we obey him we will be pleasing to him. The people in Isaiah 58 asked God,  “We have fasted,  but God why have you not seen?” I think in this chapter God is saying a true fast is to help the poor with a humble spirit through out the whole week and to treat people impartially.

The people went on to say we have denied ourselves, but you have not noticed!  And the Lord replied “You fast with contention and strife”. We can’t act nice, but they extract hard requirements onto others in return.

Many great promises are in this chapter!

1. Your light will appeared like the dawn and your recovery will come quickly.

2. Your righteousness will go before you and the Lords glory will be your rear guard.

3. When you call the Lord will answer you,  when you cry out, He will say I am here.  If you help get rid of the yoke among us and the finger-pointing, malicious speaking and if you offer yourself to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted ones then your light will shine in the darkness and your night will be as the noon day).

4. The Lord will always lead you satisfy you in the drought  land and strengthen your bones.

5. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water’s never run dry.

6. You will be called the repair a broken walls the restorer of streets where people live.

Our country was founded on Christian values.  That is actually how a lot of hospitals started not only from the Catholic Church but from the Protestant Church.  Our nation in it’s infancy sought to be like Christ  in opening the hospitals to the poor and sick.  The streets are almost untouched or at least the organizations that do help street people can’t reach then all, but we can together!  So next time you encounter someone who puts their hand out,  have a Bible ready or a flyer.  Don’t let pride rule the day, but instead let love win!   We could do this together and make a difference.

With our reward in mind and a thankful spirit we should be thanking those we help.

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