“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 him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6–7, NIV)
Fasting is a topic that often comes up in Christian circles. I don’t think an adequate discussion about the topic can take place without taking Isaiah’s words into consideration. In this section it is not Isaiah but clearly the Lord saying that He and the people of Israel have two differing views on fasting. The people of Israel are fasting for a moment in time and wanting to know why their sacrifice (fasting) hasn’t moved God to meet their need or act upon their cause. What they are saying is this, “God, I have done what You want me to do and now, you are not doing Your part.” Have you ever had that same message to God? God says to the people of Israel, “Is this really what it means to fast? To stop eating for a day so that you can show me the sacrifice you have performed, and then expect Me to jump through your wish list?” He tells them in the earlier verses, “So you fast for a day, but your life does not change. You still live unjustly and without faith.”
After all this, He goes into the two verses above. God says, shouldn’t fasting be about loosing the chains of anything that oppresses? Fasting should be about personal spiritual growth. It should be about seeking God’s face for spiritual deliverance. By the way, the Lord makes it clear in the verses above that fasting shouldn’t just be about us. It should be about our cries of injustice in the world around us. Fasting should be moments in time when we are seeking clarity about God’s will for the world around us. Fasting is reduced to divine manipulation if all it is is a hoop that we jump through so God will jump through the one we’re holding.
Fasting is deeply intimate. It should cause change in the one who fasts and in the world around that person. Read the verses above one more time and let God speak to your heart about fasting.