Our Scripture reading for today is Isaiah 58:1-14 which reads: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Allow me to share with you some important points regarding this verse from Matthew Henry’s Commentary:
We notice from this passage, (4.) They are inquisitive concerning their duty and seem desirous only to know it, making no question but that then they should do it: They ask of me the ordinances of justice, the rules of piety in the worship of God, the rules of equity in their dealings with men, both which are ordinances of justice. (5.) They appear to the eye of the world as if they made conscience of doing their duty: They are as a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinances of their God; others took them for such, and they themselves pretended to be such. Nothing lay open to view that was a contradiction to their profession, but they seemed to be such as they should be. Note, Men may go a great way towards heaven and yet come short; nay, may go to hell with a good reputation. But, He intimates that this was so far from being a cover or excuse for their sin that really it was an aggravation of it: “Show them their sins which they go on in notwithstanding their knowledge of good and evil, sin and duty, and the convictions of their consciences concerning them.”
We will continue discussing this verse in our next broadcast.
Our fasting quote of encouragement today is from Andrew Bonar. He said: “Fasting [is] abstaining from anything that hinders prayer.”
Our fasting devotional today is part 3 of our series titled “IS FASTING A COMMANDMENT?” from Richard J. Foster in his book “Celebration of Discipline”.
The most natural interpretation of the days when Jesus’ disciples will fast is the present Church age, especially in light of its intricate connection with Jesus’ statement on the new wine-skins of the kingdom of God which follows immediately. Arthur Wallis argues that Jesus is referring to the present Church age rather than just the three-day period between his death and resurrection. He concludes his argument, “We are therefore compelled to refer the days of His absence to the period of this age, from the time He ascended to the Father until He shall return from heaven. This is evidently how His apostles understood Him, for it was not until after His ascension to the Father that we read of them fasting…It is this age of the Church to which our Master referred when He said, ‘Then they will fast.’ The time is now!”
There is no way to escape the force of Jesus’ words in this passage. He made it clear that he expected his disciples to fast after He was gone. Although the words are not couched in the form of a command, that is only a semantic technicality. It is clear from this passage that Christ both upheld the Discipline of fasting and anticipated that his followers would do it.
Now, let’s take this moment to break up the fallow ground in our lives. Hosea 10:12 states, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.”
The great evangelist Charles G. Finney preached a message titled “Breaking Up the Fallow Ground – An Outline for Repentance”. In this sermon, he listed 26 sins that we as Christians should confess and repent of. The eleventh and twelfth sins he lists are: a Neglect of social duties and a Neglect of social duties. He urges us to confess this sin in our lives by saying: “In how many instances you have hurried over your private duties, and have not been fully responsible in preforming your duties, nor honestly made up your accounts with God; how often have you entirely neglected to watch your conduct, and, having been off your guard, have sinned before the world, and before the Church, and before God!”
Let’s go to the Lord in prayer right now and confess this sin and others before God.