Bible Society of South Africa
Xanthe Galanis

Come to Me – Day 16

True fasting

Bible text(s)

4Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers?

Isaiah 58:4GNBOpen in Bible reader

2They worship me every day, claiming that they are eager to know my ways and obey my laws. They say they want me to give them just laws and that they take pleasure in worshipping me.”

3The people ask, “Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?”

The LORD says to them, “The truth is that at the same time as you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. 4Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? 5When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass, and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that?

6“The kind of fasting I want is this: remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. 7Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives.

Isaiah 58:2-7GNBOpen in Bible reader

The ancient Jews were, what we today might call, a “religious” people. They placed a lot of emphasis on ritual, ceremony and tradition. Their love of ceremony made them appear to be righteous to anyone who was watching (Isaiah 58:2). However, these religious practices had become the totality of their experience; they had lost sight of the spiritual side of their relationship with God. They loved the ritual, but not God or one another!

Isaiah 58 deals primarily with just one area of the Jews’ religious practice – fasting. The Jews undoubtedly observed the fast “correctly” with regard to the many external requirements. However, notice what else was going on, they were exploiting their workers and fighting among themselves. God looked beyond the correctness of their traditions and rituals, and saw the corruptness of their attitudes!

In the midst of this, Isaiah comes and tells them that their fasts are an empty ritual and do not please God at all. He goes on to explain what a true fast is, saying, “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 him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:7)

God wants us to be a people of action and compassion. A true fast is not just doing without; it is giving of yourself for others. A fast is to go without food, so that someone else may eat. It is to wear worn out clothing, so that you may give your best clothes to someone who has no clothing. It is to open your door to strangers and share your home with them who have no place to live. It is to make yourself available to friends and relatives, even when you do not want to.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.18.6
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