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?
Isaiah 58:6-7 (NIV)
In my previous post the purpose of fasting was questioned and we saw that Jesus pointed out that we should not practice our righteousness before others to win either their praise, or God’s favour. What was important was what was the true reason for fasting; something only known between God and the individual.
Returning to Isaiah 58, the prophet takes up the topic of fasting. God previously pointed out (verse 5), what was unacceptable about the people of Israel’s fasting. Now in verses 6-7 God addresses what he finds acceptable in fasting.
Notice that what is said would have sounded odd to readers in Isaiah’s time. People then, just as now, equated fasting with something undertaken on a particular day, perhaps wearing particular clothes, but certainly involving giving up food for a time.
Isaiah says that the type of fast God finds acceptable should not be centred on us (inward-looking), but should be focused on others (outward-looking). It should involve giving sacrifically – of our time (to fight injustice) – of our resources (food, shelter and clothes) to help those in need.
God’s parting comment on fasting in these verses from Isaiah is that we should not ‘… turn away from your own flesh and blood’. God recognises that some people find it easier to help those outside their home community. What he wants is the same care for those close to us, as we might give to those outside our family circle. You’re probably thinking that God got it the wrong way round. But there it is in black and white, attributed to God, so it must be there for a purpose. Ask yourself if you have any family members in need that you have effectively ignored. Perhaps God is asking you for an acceptable fast, by providing for their needs.
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