This is the month of Elul. It is a time of preparation for the holy days that are coming. It is a time to fast and pray. That got me thinking about a lesson God gave me a few years back on fasting.
One day I was praying about jobs and income for my friends and myself. I remembered that the Lord promises His people will not go hungry, and all the provisions He gave to His people in the Tanakh whenever there was famine in the land.
Then I started thinking that maybe we should fast. That is right about the time I heard the guitar strings of God’s El-Kabong as He whopped me upside the head, letting me know my motives for fasting were wrong.
Take a look at Isaiah 58:4 – 12:
Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out, when you see the naked that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noon day. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
So what is fasting God’s way? What is the motive He wants us to have? We find the answer in verses 6 and 7 – to loose bonds, undo heavy burdens, set the oppressed free and break every yoke, to share our bread with the hungry and bring to our house the poor who are cast out, and to cover the naked and not hide from our own flesh.
Now, being a single woman living alone, I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking in a total stranger, but that might be speaking to my lack of trust in my Daddy. However, I do see that as believers, we have the Bread of Life to give to people who are hungry. And there are many people who are without the Savior. To me, this is as ‘cast out’ as you can get!
As to loosing bonds, undoing heavy burdens, setting the oppressed free and breaking yokes, we must look to the Master who calls us to follow Him. This ‘following Him’ means to walk in step with Him, to do what He does. Peter, in Acts 10, sums up what Jesus did. He tells Cornelius that, “Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” So we have a clear call – to do good and heal all who are oppressed by the devil.
What about covering the naked and not hiding from our own flesh? Think about it. Without Jesus’ robe of righteousness, we are naked before God. So it sounds like we are being called to cover the sins of those we find naked with the blood of Jesus and not hide our own sins from ourselves. This speaks of not judging those who are without Christ and in need of His robe of righteousness; while at the same time looking closely at our own nakedness, our own sin, when we do not have His robe to cover us.
It looks to me like this is the fast God calls for – to forget about self and to do good by loosing bonds, undoing heavy burdens, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke. It is about giving the Bread of Life to those who are hungry, and bringing to our Father’s house the poor who are cast out. It is about covering the naked with the same robe we have been given.
The fast of God is not about what we want or need or think we need. It is about bringing the lost to Christ, knowing how very lost we were before He saved us. It is about doing God’s work just like our big brother, Jesus.