“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen?”
This is God speaking. And a statement like this should get our attention.
God is about to tell us how he wants us to fast in pretty specific terms . . . but his message may not be what we expect.
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 them, 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[a] 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.
Wow. This is just an excerpt from Isaiah 58 — to get the full picture, read the entire chapter. It begins with a description of God’s people worshipping and fasting, but they’re not sensing God’s presence — they’re not hearing him answer. They sense something’s wrong.
And they’re right.
Though they fast and worship and, possibly with very sincere hearts, seek God, they also live in a way that’s contrary to God’s heart. They have no compassion for the vulnerable, they hoard and consume and build up wealth while refusing to aid the poor, to speak against injustice, to generously and sacrificially give to those in need.
Ultimately, fasting and true worship must be accompanied with justice and compassion — with a heart that loves the unlovable, with a broken willingness to give to others, with eyes that see oppression and work against it.
It’s difficult to know, in our culture, how to respond to a passage like Isaiah 58 because, if we’re honest, it speaks pretty directly to the situation of the western church.
How can we live out the true fast of Isaiah 58?
Recently I’ve been in contact with the organizers behind a new movement called 58:. Ten respected Christian organizations (including Compassion International) are inviting us to step up to the plate and powerfully live out the call of the true fast from Isaiah 58. Read more about them here.
Please consider watching this 8 minute video from 58: and praying about how you can personally respond. I found this video very inspiring and compelling.