A Fast That Pleases God

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A Fast That Pleases God

Category:Lent Devotions

Isaiah 58:5-7

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?
“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[a] go free,
    and to break every yoke?
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?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “fast” or “fasting”? We usually associate not eating with fasting, and rightly so. Fasting is abstaining from food for a period of time. Most of us fast for a short period of time every day, breaking our fast in the morning. Some people fast for longer periods of time for health reasons, something that has become quite the trend lately.

Fasting or giving something up for lent is also quite popular, but why do we do it? In the book of Isaiah we find God asking some rhetorical questions that I think may help us when we consider our approach to fasting seasons like Lent.

God speaks to Israel through the prophet Isaiah:

God speaks to Israel through the prophet Isaiah:
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?

Denying oneself, fasting and sitting on sackcloth and ashes, was a declaration of sorrow, mourning and repentance before God; so why would he ask these rhetorical questions as if doing this weren’t right? As I read the whole chapter, it seems like the people of Israel were trying to get God’s favor through fasting, while living their lives as they wished and treating others as they saw fit. He goes on to say:

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?

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?

God wants to renew our minds and give us soft hearts that long for his will to be done. Fasting, humbling ourselves and setting time aside to seek God are very important disciplines that can lead us closer to God if we are seeking him and giving ourselves fully. Our fasting is true fasting and acceptable to him when we allow him to do his work in us and we are willing to bring forth fruit.

Our father in heaven, we love you. We long to see your kingdom here and your will done on earth as it is in heaven. Please soften our hearts where they may still be hard and lead us as we seek you today. In the name of Jesus, Amen.