Summary: #1 of 4 sermons on biblical fasting.
You Call This A Fast?
I. False Fasting
1. Deceive God
2. Serve Self
3. Make a Fast Shekel
1. Exploitation of workers
2. Quarreling and strife
3. External humility
4. Unrepentant mourning
II. True Fasting
1. Exercise justice
a) Loose the chains of injustice
b) Set the oppressed free
2. Relief to the poor and needy
a) Sharing food
b) Providing shelter
c) Clothe the naked
3. Main point is to be in tune with God
1. Love of God will shine
2. Complete restoration
3. Enveloped by the presence of God
4. Prayers will be answered
This morning I’d like to begin a short series of messages on a subject that is bound to elicit an emotional response from just about everyone here. It’s a topic that is sometimes shrouded in mystery or regarded as pertaining to only an eccentric or fanatical brand of Christian. There are many misconceptions, misunderstanding and misgivings concerning its benefits or relevance for the modern disciple. There are extremists on both sides of the issue, which has led to much ignorance and silence on the subject. But I want to assure you, today, that it is a matter worth our investigation and incorporation into our lives.
What am I talking about? Well, if you have your bulletins handy, then you already know. I’m going to be preaching a series of messages entitled, A Primer on Fasting. It will consist of 4 sermons. Our message this morning will look at fasting from an OT perspective. This passage will give us a glimpse of God’s attitude toward fasting and reveal what He desires to be accomplished through this discipline. Next week we will look at fasting from a NT perspective. We will give consideration to Jesus’ teaching on fasting as a Kingdom principle. I’ll conclude this series with 2 messages of a topical nature designed to answer many of the common questions people have regarding what fasting is all about.
This morning we’re going to take a look at God’s attitude toward fasting and His desired results. I think that you’ll be surprised by what you discover. True fasting is more than merely abstaining from food. It’s more than appearing to be humble before God. It’s more than yearning for answers to prayer about some great personal need or a need in the life of another. It’s more than a time of seeking blessings from God. True fasting causes one to be moved to action on behalf of others as the result of a deep-seated love for God. When we engage in true fasting, we can rightly expect blessings from God and we become blessings to others. I invite you to take you Bibles and turn with me to Isaiah 58:1-9.
In this passage, Isaiah is speaking as the mouthpiece of God. As God’s spokesman, Isaiah tells the people what God sees and what He thinks about what He sees. He begins by letting them know how he regards the flurry of their religious activity. And God’s assessment is that what they are engaging in has little to do with what He considers to be acceptable worship. They have the external form correct enough, but there is no internal substance to validate their actions. In other words, God’s judgment of their activity “for Him” is, in v. 1, actually rebellion for it completely misses the mark and is therefore unacceptable. The people were guilty of participating in false fasting.
Why does God accuse them of rebellion? What is the basis of His indictment against them? The answer is found by observing the objectives of those practicing this type of fasting.
The first objective of those who practice false fasting is to deceive God. In v. 2, God lets the people know that He is not fooled in the least by their charade of devoutness and humility. Their act amounts to nothing in His sight because He sees the intent of their hearts. “They seem eager…” but the truth is not hidden from God’s eyes. They showed outward evidence of wanting to do God’s will, but it was merely skin deep. They set out to fool God, but ultimately only succeed in deceiving themselves into believing that God is going to participate in their masquerade and turn a blind eye to the true nature of their lives.
The second objective of those who practice false fasting is to serve self. In the first half of v. 3, Isaiah records the complaints of those who had “piously and earnestly” fasted before the Lord. They complain that God hasn’t taken any notice of their actions. You can hear them crying out, “Look, God, we’ve done what You’ve required, what more do You want? Why aren’t we being blessed? Why are You ignoring us? Aren’t we doing it right?”