SCRIPTURE - Isaiah 58:3-7
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
This troubling passage is a conversation between God and His people, the Israelites. "God, we've been fasting to honor you! Why don't you care about what we have been asking for from you?" God's response: "Yeah, you may be fasting by definition, but though you fast, you are still divided and hateful amongst yourselves. Do you really think what I want from you is just one day where you ‘humble’ yourselves and then go back to everything as normal once you're done? No, the fast I want from you is a community that fights against injustice, cares for the oppressed, cares for the needy, and loves one another." Wow. That’s a lot.
You may ask, "So, should we still fast? It doesn’t seem like God cares about it too much." This passage tells us that God cares more about a community transformed by His love than ritual food deprivation. If that's the case, can a fast help us transform a community? If we do it right, it does.
When we fast, we limit our food to intentionally feel discomfort in our bodies. We should ask God to use our experience with hunger and discomfort to change the way that we see and feel about people in need, who are oppressed, or who are lost. We want to be emptied of ourselves and filled with the heart of God for the world around us. A true fast shapes us to care about what God cares about.
Ask God today to use the discomfort you feel during your fast to remind you of the pain He feels when others aren't experiencing His love.
"God, help me see the world the way you do and to care about what you really care about. Help me remember that your heart is for people around the world and around me to know the fullness of who you are!"
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