Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-63:14
In the 58th chapter of the book of Isaiah, God tells the prophet to start shouting as loud as he can, raise his voice like a trumpet alarm and call out the people for their many sins and total rebellion against God.
So–that sounds terrible and terrifying, doesn’t it? What were the people up to that was so awful? Mass murder? Child abuse? Sexual immorality? Turns out, God’s fury is focused on the people’s obsession with…fasting:
Day after day they seek me out. They seem eager to know my ways. They ask me for just decisions. They seem eager for God to come near them. And then they say, ‘why have we fasted, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?’
What. In. The. World?
How can it be wrong that people seek God in worship? Why is God offended that they desire to know more and have greater intimacy? Isn’t a passion for fasting a good thing?
No. Not like this.
Through Isaiah, God tells us that if fasting, praying or any ‘task’ of faith becomes a substitute for justice–something we do instead of living faithfully towards our neighbors–it’s anti-faith:
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?
The truth is–there is a kind of fasting that delights God and makes us more faithful. And there is a kind of fasting (and praying and worshipping) that actually separates us from God. God sent the prophet Isaiah to us because we have got to learn the difference! The awe-full good news is that even and especially when we become obsessed with the wrong thing, God send the prophets to wake us up and lead us back home!
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