Isaiah 58: 1-9
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in stricking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for only bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and aches? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
“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, clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh in blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
God has honored the fasting of his people throughout the bible for various reasons: seeking God before battle, preparing for worship and prayer, in repentance, on behalf of others’ welfare, to humble ones self, or for their protection. In this passage it appears the people want to have God do what they want without them being the people he has chosen for them to be in humility and with concern for others. God tells them he will answer them when they loose their chains of injustice and selfishness. Yes, God does honor fasting and prayer but we must humble ourselves and walk in the light of his love and righteousness toward others.
Father help us to see the needs of others around us and to help provide their needs–whether food, clothes, shelter, facing injustice or just need to see the light of your love for them through each of us. Help us to humbly seek your righteousness in prayer and in fasting to worship you. We ask in Jesus’ name, amen.