The Chosen Fast
I often have people come to me frustrated and even furious at God because they feel that they have met the requirements, but that God has not lived up to His end of the bargain. We all have been there to varying degrees. Some people go so far as to say that they have come to hate God.
This study has helped open my eyes to reality. I pray that the Holy Spirit will also lead both you and me into truth. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). In the past, I did one study of verses six through twelve and a separate study of verses thirteen and fourteen, then ignored the first five verses. However, we should see as we go through this study that we are to take the chapter as a whole and not as three separate pieces as I have done in the past.
This study begins with God's instructions to Isaiah, the prophet of God. "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1). I can personally understand Isaiah being reluctant to speak boldly about the topic. After all, who wants to confront your own people with the truth when they may become angry at you. However, God tells Isaiah to "cry aloud". Have you ever shouted so loud that your throat became irritated. This is the picture! He is to let go and make his voice like a trumpet.
He was to reveal the people's transgression. We should note that the word "transgression" is singular and means a "revolt" or "rebellion". He was to reveal to the house of Jacob their sins. The word "sins" is in the plural form. The nice little word "sins" literally means "offenses". The people were in a state of rebellion against God. The expression "the house of Jacob" gives us two pictures. First, the word "Jacob" means surplanter. Second, God was pointing to the genealogy of the people. God was saying that He wants Isaiah to point out the particular "offenses" of this clan of people.
It is interesting that God the addresses the complaints of the people. "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours" (Isaiah 58:2-3). May I suggest that you reread the verse over again and this time aloud. I have clients come to me with all their problems and continue to complain about all that God has not done for them.
"I pray and read my Bible every day. I want to know God's will for my life. I have tried to live a righteous life and do what God has told me to do. I have prayed long and hard about this situation. I have even fasted for some time about it. I have been to various churches and had people to lay hands upon me and pray for me, but it hasn't done any good. I have tried various types of self discipline, but God hasn't paid any attention to my prayers. I question if God will ever hear my prayers."The person is ANGRY because he has outwardly performed, but God has not danced to his music. Is the person sincere? Yes, to some degree, but sincerely wrong. Dead works don't produce life! One may say, "But I did it FOR God.!" This is where God's reality check enters, "Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours" (Isaiah 58:3). God says that (1) you choose your own day to fast, (2) you do it for your own pleasure, and (3) you demand that others do the work for you while you are observing the day. Here is the blunt example: You chose your own day to observe the Sabbath, take in all the sports, shopping, and then go out to eat having others to fix the food for you.
Furthermore, God says, "Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?" (Isaiah 58:4-5). People go to church griping about everything, debate over who wrote the book of Hebrews or something else, and cut each other down because the other people don't believe the same way they do. God says that you are just going to church to get God's attention. God's question is, "Is this the fast that HE has chosen?" Have you really set apart the day? Do you just do this as an outward show and call the day as being acceptable unto the LORD?
What is the chosen fast? "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6). It is to untie whatever holds you to do wickedness, including the unforgiveness that you hold toward others. Jesus came to destroy all the works of the devil (I John 3:8). The fast is for the purpose of undoing the heavy burdens. If you are like me, it seems hard to stop working. It seems difficult to set aside a day of rest. The fast is to let the oppressed (literally the bruised) go free. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18). The fast is to break EVERY YOKE. I don't know what holds you in bondage, but the chosen fast is meant to set you free!
"Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" (Isaiah 58:7). Here we see that we are to take our eyes off ourselves which may seem difficult to do especially if we are working seven days a week. If we fast one day, we can refocus our attention on helping others with food, shelter, and clothing. In fact, if we fast one day, we can use the money which we saved to minister to others.
In the next two verses, we see some benefits. "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am" (Isaiah 58:8-9a). Your light shall begin to shine as the light at the breaking of the day. Darkness shall suddenly disappear. Your health (or healing) shall spring forth rapidly. Are you sick because you are trying to work seven days a week? Then this is the way to get healed quick! Next, you will gain a reputation of doing that which is right. Also the glory of God will be your rear guard. Remember the cloud and pillar that stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians (Exodus 14:19-20). Furthermore, when you pray, God will answer your prayers. When you cry out to God, He will make His presence known unto you.
God gives more instructions for Isaiah to give to the people in the next couple of verses. "If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday" (Isaiah 58:9b-10). God wants for you to stop demanding that others perform for you. He wants you to stop ordering other people around with your fingers, telling them to do nothing, nothing that you can't do for yourself. You may just like to be in the center of attention and in control. You are to minister to the physical needs of others ... "draw out thy soul to the hungry." However, you are also to minister to the emotional needs of others ...."satisfy the afflicted soul." Literally, this means that you are "to fill to satisfaction" the "depressed" soul.
If you meet the prerequisites, God will bring twelve benefits into your life. (1). Your light to rise in obscurity (out of darkness). (2). Your darkness (gloominess) shall be as bright as the light at noon. God continues the list of benefits in the next several verses. "And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in" (Isaiah 58:11-12).
(3). The Lord will guide you continually. That sounds pretty good to me :-). (4). He will fill your soul (mind, will, emotions) to satisfaction in a time of drought. (5). He will make your bones fat. The bones are the manufacture of the blood cells. Healthy bones produce healthy blood cells for the rest of the body. (6). You shall be like a watered garden (alive, growing, and productive). (7). You will be like a spring of water, gushing up by it own power. (8). You will be like a spring that does not go dry. (9). You will build up the old waste places. Wherever your life has been wasted, God will make a blessing from it. (10). You will raise up the foundations of many generations. The generational curse will be broken. You will build where others stopped short. (11) You will gain the name, "The repairer of the breach". (12) You will gain the reputation of being the one who got back on the right path of living as one should live.
At this point, God draws Isaiah to the basic topic, the Sabbath. We have the tendency to try to start a new topic here, but this is not what God intended. God doesn't provide any transition for a new topic. Instead, He dovetails the Sabbath into the previous discussion, making the whole of the "chosen fast" the Sabbath observance. "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it" (Isaiah 58:13-14).
God begins with the requirements. (1). We are not to do our own pleasures on the Sabbath. We should also note that God calls it HIS holy day. It is not any day that we choose, but the day that He has chosen. (2). We are to call the Sabbath a delight. It is to become a day that we look forward to embracing. (3). It is to be "the holy of the LORD." The word "holy" means to be set apart. In the American society, there is no distinction between the Sabbath and any other day. If anything it is desecrated by doing business, entertainment, partying, and drunkenness more than another other day (Friday after 6:00 p.m. to Saturday at 6:00 p.m.). (4). We are to call the day honorable (that is worthy of honor). (5). We are to honor the LORD on the Sabbath. If the president walked into the room, you would naturally stand up and give attention to him. We should give our attention the LORD on the Sabbath. (6). We are not to do "our own thing" or "our own plans" on the Sabbath. (7). We are not to indulge ourselves in our own pleasures on the Sabbath. (8). We are not even to speak our own words on the Sabbath. We should seek God as to what He would have us say. We should see that there is a sense of self-restraint or self-discipline in observing the Sabbath. Observing the Sabbath is a type of fasting from the desires of the flesh.
Jesus said, "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Once we deny self and even die to self, we are free to follow Jesus. We become free to "delight thyself in the LORD." We are to make God our "light." Then God will do two things. (1). He will cause us to ride upon the high places of the earth. This means that He will exalt us to positions of recognition. (2). He will feed us with the heritage of Jacob. The picture is of a good shepherd caring for the flock by providing green pastures for them. "But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people" (Leviticus 20:24). We must see what God gave to Abraham, He gave to Isaac, and then to Jacob. "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3). Now we have access to the promise through Jesus.
God gives the final word, "...
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it" (Isaiah 58:14).
God said it. It shall be accomplished. "So
shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return
unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall
prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). Amen.
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