8-26-2023 Why do we Fast?
As I read Isaiah chapter 58, Father had me focus on several verses, but also had me read the whole chapter to fully understand what was happening.
The first four verses speak of how Israel fasts and prays and honors the Sabbath, but as they do, it is for their own satisfaction. They ‘do’ the right things, but for the wrong reasons, personal gain. Then they wonder why God does not hear them.
Father starts explaining “His” fast in verse 5. First, He asks us to afflict our soul. That is to anah (H6031) deal harshly with, weaken or – submit – totally to Him.
Then to bow down as a bulrush (in the wind). Bulrush comes from the Hebrew gome (H1573) the papyrus plant which is very absorbent, and gome comes from gama (H1572) which is to absorb, drink, swallow. When we fast, we are to completely absorb ourselves in the Lord to take in what He wants us to know.
Father then says we should spread sackcloth, sprinkle it with ashes then ‘have a seat’. The word used for Sackcloth is saq (H8042) which is a porous cloth (like a burlap bag) so water can pass through, not spoiling any grain which it might contain. It is also used for mourning (showing remorse). The ashes (epher H665) carries the connotation of ashes being strewn around. I is also akin to apher (H666) which is using ashes as a covering (literally pouring them over oneself). We should cover ourselves in submission and receive a cleansing form the Lord as all the negatives in our lives wash down, to and through the sackcloth with nothing sticking (stays) to us as it passes on. Isaiah asks that if we fast in this way, is it acceptable to the Lord? Total submission, total surrender.
Then Father asks “isn’t this the fast I have chosen” (v6)? It will loose the bands of wickedness and unload our heavy burdens. All who are oppressed shall be set free and yokes shall be broken. So what does fasting do? We are freed from the sin that has us bound!
Should we feed the hungry? Take into our homes the castaways? Should we give clothing to the naked? Hide ourselves from our own flesh (that is not yielding to fleshly desires)? I think this is being honest with ourselves, who we are and not pretending we’re something that we are not. And a desire to help others to be free of their bonds. To me, that means cleansing our sins as we fast being totally honest, totally open with the Lord. Shedding the undesirable so the ‘new man’ can emerge and so, then, we might be able to help others.
So then what happens? The light will come on and we shall see as (just like) the rising sun brings light to the world, we will see the answer to that which we are fasting. We will heal quicker and our righteousness (in Jesus) will walk before us. Our reward? The glory of the Lord (v8) will lead our way.
Once we’ve cleansed ourselves and are living as Father intended, THEN He will hear us and answer our call. We cry, He will say “Here I Am”, when you have shed the yoke holding you down, quit pointing your finger (accusing others) and setting aside all prideful speaking (v9).
When our compassion urges us to feed the hungry and satisfy the needs of those afflicted, then the light will come out of nowhere and make the darkness of night like the noonday sun (V10).” There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). That is when we consider the welfare of others ahead of own.
Isaiah continues with God’s promises that He will always guide us. In times of drought He will satisfy our soul. We will be fully prepared for what comes our way. We shall be like a garden, fed by springs of water that do no fail (v11).
We shall be called that (he/she) who repairs things broken and our offspring shall rebuild the wastelands. We shall raise up a foundation for many generations and restore places where people can live safely (v12).
If you turn your foot which has strayed from the Sabbath, quit doing your ow pleasures on the Holy days and (now) call the Sabbath a delight, acknowledge that that which is holy of the Lord and that which honorable, as you honor Him, not seeking your own pleasures (what’s in it for me) nor seeking you own desires or speaking you own words (speaking your own mind, your words not considering their impact (v13).
Then delight yourself in the Lord and I will cause you to ride upon high places of the earth and feed you with the heritage of Jacob’s father ((Isaac)(v14). What was Jacob’s heritage? Canaan, the ‘promised land (Exod. 3:8).
Keep in mind that the Jews knew how to all the right things – even when their heart turned from the Lord.
Today, are we any different? Do we know what the bible says and impress people with our knowledge? But where is our heart? Are we content in delivering the Word of God or do we expect “Great preaching, brother!”, praises and compliments? Do we truly love God above all else (Mark 12:29-31)? Are friendly with those in our fellowship but ignore all others? Are we truly concerned about our brothers and sisters in the Lord, much less our ‘neighbors’? Paul tells us to ‘edify’ those around us (Rom. 14:19) and that means all with whom we come in contact. Treating each of them with dignity and respect.
When we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, we are confessing that He has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2) and that He is exactly who He says He is. Our Lord and Savior! As we love God, we discover that He truly loves us and because He loves us, He hears us! When one truly does not love, He has no part in God. Why? Because God is love! We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:1-11).
We love because we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and God is love! Image is the Hebrew word tselem (H6754) and means a phantom, illusion or resemblance, ergo a representative or image. God is Spirit (John 4:24) but we are flesh, made of the earth (Gen. 2:7). So, how are we made in the image of God. Back to 1st John. God is love and we love because we are the image of love so as we love others, we express our imagery of the Father.
So why do we fast? So we can be true exponents of God’s love. We also discover as we pursue this image we are changed into a new beginning – each day!