I did a search of fasting in Scripture today, and ran across this portion in Isaiah. The more I read God’s word, the more I am impressed with His desire that we take care of people. Feed their bodies and their souls; clothe them in their nakedness; help them find rest when they’re weary.
Another thing I am always reminded when I read through Scripture is the insistence on good motives. So many times we get caught up in the traditions of our faith without making them meaningful. In Isaiah 58:3-5, the people asked Him, “We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’
When you have lived a life in the presence of God, and then become involved in the rote-ness of the faith rather than the relationship with our God, you miss that closeness. These folks in Isaiah are crying out. They’re like, “Hey, we’re uncomfortable here. We’re fasting and wasting away, God. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? We want your presence!”
What I see is that a common thread throughout Scripture is that God isn’t impressed with acts that are self-serving. He wants behavior change. Listen to what he responds in verses 4-7: “What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”
Motives vs. Method is a big deal to God. I could site verse after verse after verse. God is more interested in the heart of the matter than the matter. So, in this time of fasting, I need to spend time checking my motives. Am I still quarreling and gossiping and ignoring the plights of the less fortunate? If so, I might as well go eat a bacon cheeseburger.
Quotes from New Living Translation.