Summary: In the sight of God, fasting is not just denying oneself the pleasure of food but actually meeting the needs of others.
Memory Verse: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6 NKJV
According to The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, fasting in the Hebrew language is called “sum,” which means ‘to "cover" the mouth’; In Greek the word is “nesteuo,” which means, to "abstain." In English, the word ‘fast’ means abstinence from food or drink.
Functions / Occasions of Fasting:
Fasting is used to express inner sorrow and great distress as in the case of Hannah who fasted when she was childless (1 Sam. 1:17);
Fasting is done at times when one is mourning for the loss of a beloved person, as in the case of David mourning for Abner (2 Sam. 3:35).
Fasting is used to apeace God or secure forgiveness (1 Kg. 21:2-29).
We fast for strife, debate, and wicked purposes (Isa. 58:4)
Duration of Fasting:
There are several choices as to the length of fasting period. The Bible shows examples of: One day (2 Sam 1:12); Seven days (1 Sam 31:13); 40 days (Exo. 34:28); etc. Usually the decision is made by God, His messenger or self (depending upon the instruction given or received).
Acceptable Fasting in God’s Sight:
Isaiah 58 states the mind of God pertaining to what type of fasting is acceptable before Him. To God, mere abstinence from food or drink (either prayer is added or not) for the purpose of achieving something for self is not quite the fasting God is looking for. This is not the fast that brings the miracle, favor or upliftment. God is expecting the type of denial which benefits others such as “the oppressed,” “the hungry,” “the bound,” “the sick,” etc. and honors “the Sabbath.”
Isa. 58:6-7 makes it clear that the kind of fasting acceptable to God is:
• To loose the bonds of wickedness
• To remove heavy burdens from people
• To let the oppressed go free
• To break yokes
• To share our bread with the hungry
• To shelter the homeless
• To cover the naked
• To support your family members in meeting their needs
Clearly here we see that God is asking for fasting which is prompted and followed by justice, kindness, charity, release of the oppressed, feeding the poor, doing hospitality, helping your relations and observing the Sabbath (not for one’s own pleasure but worshiping God on this holy day).
Advantages of fasting God’s way (Isaiah 58: 8-14)
• Your light will break forth
• Your healing will spring forth speedily
• You will call and the Lord will answer
• The Lord will guide you continually and never allow you to starve
• You will become like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail
• You shall be called the Repairer and Restorer
• God will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth.
One may ask, ‘how could I take care of others when I have my own issues to deal with?’ The answer to this is that God wants us to trust Him and care for others. He in turn will take care of our own needs.
He promised in Exodus 23:25 saying, “And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” (KJV)
Further the word of the Lord says, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” (Romans 15:2-3 NKJV)
The Lord wants us to see things the way He does. When we realize what true fasting is and we begin to practice it, we will be free of issues and spring forth into goodness. From the Isaiah 58 scripture we gain understanding that our own personal problems will be solved if we get busy taking care of others. May we begin to walk in the grace that God has given us to function in this area of our Christian journey.