Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, August 26 Edition: Fastin' and Sabbathin'

Isaiah chapter 58 has something to say about both. First, the fasting:
"Cry loudly, do not hold back;
Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression,
And to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness,
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
'Why have we fasted and Thou dost not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and Thou dost not notice?'
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
Is it a fast like this that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one's head like a reed,
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is this not the fast which I chose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free,
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry,
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry,
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of streets in which to dwell."
And then, the sabbath:
"If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor it, desisting from your own ways,
From seeking your own pleasure,
And speaking your own word,
Then you will take delight in the Lord,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
Compare this with Jesus's words, quoted in Matthew chapter 6:
"And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who is in secret will repay you."
And the apostle Paul, from Romans chapter 14:
One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord,for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one of us dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
Among the words of the prophet, and the apostle, and the Lord Himself, one might superficially see conflict. I would suggest rather that there is underlying unity. It isn't so much what we do that's important, but why we do it. Does a fast consist of simply not eating? Or is it a deliberate -- and, in some ways, almost an arbitrary -- putting-aside of our own ways and purposes in favor of God's? Is it to piously parade our practice to enhance our reputation among each other, or to actually hide our devotions so that only God can see them? Is what what we eat, or what day (if any) we observe; or is it that we direct our practices to God, with gratitude?

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3 comments:

Queen of Pith said...

I never understood why people would boast that they were going to fast. Makes no sense to me. If you are going to fast, do so in private - it is your personal thing with God, not something to brag about.

akaGaGa said...

Good post, Jim, and pertinent to me. Since I've been saved, I've viewed the Sabbath the same way you state: directing our practices to God, with gratitude, regardless of what those practices may be or when they occur.

Of late, though, I've been re-visiting the idea of setting Sunday aside completely for God. As much as we try to do everything for Him, dealing with the practicalities of our busy lives seems to get in the way.

I think there may be value in setting aside a complete day as a check: Nope, not gonna clean the toilet, 'cause this is God's day.

I don't know if I'll actually do this, but it's definitely been on my mind.

Thanks for posting.

Jim Wetzel said...

Lisa, I've fasted a few times, and never really felt as though anything happened as a result, either to me or to what I was fasting "about." Clearly, you're right, though -- it's not for public show.

Jean, I'd guess that if it's been on your mind, there's a reason for that. It might well be that the Spirit is having a word with you.