Isaiah 58 is one of my favorite chapters in the Old Testament. God tells the prophet Isaiah to speak to the people of Israel, because they are complaining that God is ignoring all the “humble” fasting they’ve been doing for Him. Hah! As you can read in the verses below, that is not quite the case. The part where God explains what a true fast is both convicts and encourages me. He is so straightforward about what we should and shouldn’t be doing, that it really leaves no room for question. I love this! I often wonder, what should I, as a Christ-follower, be doing? How do I know what is the right thing to do?
This year my main focus when reading the Bible is to glean instructions for practical application in my daily life. I want to use this blog to share what I find with the body of believers and to ask for your input on any questions that arise during my journey. Let’s get started; wahoo!
Here are the scriptures from my study on fasting and charity:
Isaiah 58:2-11 (True Fasting)
For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.
'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'" Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 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?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Matthew 6:1-2 (Charity)
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Matthew 6:16-18 (Fasting)
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Love it! I'm on board. Bring it on! I really like these passages too. I needed this challenge. This part especially:
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."
How different would our lives look if we really sought to live this out every day?
I've been studying in Galatians 3-5 this week but particularly in 5:16-26; as I've listened to both John Piper and Mark Driscoll interpretation of this passage, I have been convicted that anytime we "practice godliness" for a result, like the Israelites in the Isaiah passage, it is a work of the flesh, idolatry, and sorcery. For we are only producing fruit when we are LED by the Spirit. If we are truly seeking to be led, trust God, and love Jesus, these acts of charity and righteousness will flow out of us rightly.
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