Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 14, Isaiah 58, Matthew 1&2
Fasting means abstaining; deliberately depriving ourselves of something. It is usually undertaken as an act of submissive worship. Jesus criticised the religious leaders who “disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others,” deliberately making themselves “look gloomy” [Matt. 6 v. 16]. Jesus classes them as “hypocrites”.
What provoked our thoughts on this was the message that God gave through Isaiah in the chapter we read today.. The prophet is told to “declare to my people their transgressions” [58 v.1]. The Almighty observed that “they seek me daily and delight to know my ways as if they were a nation that did righteousness” [v.2]. The people question why God was not responding to such worship with blessings, asking “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves and you take no knowledge of it?”[v.3]
The answer is in the next verse, “Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure.” It was a ritual they went through, their attitude and motives were entirely wrong. It did not change their ungodly behaviour, “you fast only to quarrel and fight,” [v.4] was the response.
Does our participation in acts of worship and studies together have a good effect on our behaviour? Is such participation totally genuine – from our hearts? It is important to see how Isaiah records that God is looking for other kinds of fasting, ones that are praiseworthy from his perspective as he observes them being practiced.
These are the significant words. “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose (abstain from) the bonds of wickedness … Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house … “ [v.6,7] If you do these sort of things, this sort of fasting, abstaining/depriving yourself so that you can help others in need; then “the LORD will guide you continually … and you will be like a watered garden” [v.11] How our world has become a spiritual desert, it has no time for “the water of life”(Rev. 21 v.6) as we read yesterday. How much is this spirit affecting you?
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