This chapter is about fasting. I have to admit, I hate fasting. I’m terrible at it. I can barely fast for a day. I’ve known a couple of people who could fast really well. I knew one girl who would fast for forty days at a time about once a year. She went all out too, drinking only water the whole time. I don’t know about you, how often you fast and for what reasons but reading this chapter clarified some things for me. I hope it does the same for you.
Verses 1-3 read,
“Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.”
I saw myself clearly in these verses. I do seek God. I do love getting to know Him. I ask Him regularly to reveal my sin to me and to rid me of it. And then I ask God, why with doing all this doesn’t He heal me? Why do I pray and fast and I don’t see the results I hoped for?
God’s answer is right here. My motivation is wrong. I fast, I pray, and I seek God for myself, not for His people, not for justice, not for the poor, but for me. Motivation is only one problem we might have with our fasting ad prayers not getting results. Verse 5 reads,
“Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?”
Have you seen this? Everyone knows the person is fasting. She parades her humility. The girl who fasted for forty days let everyone know she was doing this amazing thing for God. I was awed by her self-control, by her unpretentiousness, and righteousness. It shouldn’t have been that way. Her fast and her prayers should have been between her and God. I should have been awed by God’s great power, not hers. I should have been floored by the good works she did through God, not letting her rest while the rest of us did the works because she was too weak.
God doesn’t want us flaunting our own goodness. He wants us to do good things for people because He loves them so very much. We should want the same things that God wants. Verses 6-7 describe what the Lord wants more than our piety.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
Earnestly seeking God means aligning our hearts with His and wanting what He wants. The motivation is no longer on me becoming better, healthier, and closer to God but on loving God fully and therefore loving the world the way He does. It is no longer about looking good to the world but about being who God made you to be. When your motivation is love and justice, God promises some amazing things. Verses 8-12 read,
“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 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,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
God will answer you when you call. He will be with you. He will help you do the good things you want to do for the lost, broken, and poor. Through Him you will meet needs, heal, and bring people to the Kingdom. You will be healed and strong too.
Rather than seeking what delights me, I need to seek what delights the Lord. Instead of praying for my own healing, my own provision, and God’s will for my life, I need to be out there loving people for Him, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and meeting the needs of the lost. I need to be loving others as Jesus loves me. That love is active and concrete. That love doesn’t consider himself but sacrifices for others. Keeping the Lord as my priority in every aspect of my life is my goal. As Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”