A God-Honoring Fast
1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
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2 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.
3 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.
4 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.
5 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?
6 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?
7 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?
8 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.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 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:
11 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.
12 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.
The title of my message today is "A God-Honoring Fast"
Many people in the Bible have given up a basic human function, eating, in order to engage in a practice called fasting. We know from Scripture that Moses fasted, Elijah fasted, Paul fasted, and Jesus fasted. The children of Israel were commanded to fast on certain days, and the kings and leaders of Israel called the nation to fast and pray during times of repentance or times of great need for the nation.
We find that our nation is in a time of great need right now. Never before have we seen an immorality such as homosexuality endorsed and supported by our president. Abortion is still legal in our country. The financial crisis is getting worse. Families are breaking up. And with the continuing crisis in the Middle East and what seems like the break down of the Eurozone, the world seems like it is teetering on the brink of collapse.
At the beginning of last week, the Lord led me to call for a 165-day period of fasting and prayer for our nation leading up to Election Day. In light of that, I want to share with you a brief message based on Isaiah 58:1-12 in which God talks about the fasting practices of the nation of Israel. I believe this message will provide some insight into how we should approach any time of fasting in our lives
I. Why We Fail in Fasting
First of all, I want you to notice verse three of our passage "Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?" The children of Israel are here engaged in the act of fasting, yet they are not seeing the results that they wish to see. They are asking God, 'Look, we're fasting, but You don't even see it. We are afflicting our souls and humbling ourselves, yet You don't even notice.'
You may have felt this way sometimes, where you are beating our head against the wall, and doing all you can, yet nothing seems to come out of it. But God answers the questions of his people in verses 3-5: "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?"
God finds fault, not with His people fasting, but with the motive behind their fasting. Let's look at these verses more closely to find out what was wrong with the way the Jews were fasting
1. God says, "in the day of your fast ye find pleasure." The children of Israel were fasting for their own profit -- for what they could get out of it, and not for what God wanted to do in their lives.
2. God says, "ye fast for strife and debate". The children of Israel were fasting to see and be seen; they were fasting to appear more holy than their neighbor. This got so bad, that the text informs us that they came to blows because of it -- the Jews fasted "to smite with the fist of wickedness." Jesus commanded in Matthew 6:16, "when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast."
3. God says that the Jews fasted "to make their voices to be heard on high." This is akin to what Jesus commanded His disciples not to do in Matthew 6:7: "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." The children of Israel were not praying sincerely, but were praying just for show.
These are the reasons why we fail in fasting -- because we are not fasting with the right motives. Let's take a look at what our motives should be when we fast.
II. God's Way of Fasting
Let's look at verses 6 - 7 of our passage: God says, "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?"
We see from these verses that a fast that is pleasing to God is a fast that brings results. It is a fast of action. It is a fast of sincerity. It is a fast free of hypocrisy. Let's look at some of the things that should be included in a fast that is pleasing to God.
1. A fast that is pleasing to God involves "Loosing the bands of wickedness." A true fast involves the turning away from any sin or evil in our lives. We must allow God to reveal any wickedness in our hearts and then make a decision to turn away from it. Once we have allowed God to 'loose the bands of wickedness' in our life, we can begin praying for the bondage of sin to be removed from the lives of our family, friends, communities, and country.
2. A fast that is pleasing to God involves "Undoing the heavy burdens and letting the oppressed go free". So many people in our community are oppressed by the demons of drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, drunkenness, etc. During our time of fasting, we should be engaged in praying for these burdens to be lifted from people's lives. How do we do that? By pointing people to Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 11:30: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
3. A fast that is pleasing to God includes "feeding the hungry, caring for the poor and homeless, and clothing the naked." Not only should we fast and pray for spiritual breakthrough, but we should fast and pray for physical and material breakthrough as well. The difference is that we can play a part in the results of this aspect of fasting and prayer. While we are fasting we should be serving those who are less fortunate. Remember the words of Jesus to His faithful servants in Matthew 25:35-36: "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me." We should engage in these activities while we are fasting.
III. The Results of Fasting God's Way
So, what are the results of fasting God's way? The final verses of our passage give the answer: "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 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." When people pray and fast sincerely, things start to happen. Let's look at three specific results of a God-honoring fast.
1. God will bring healing, restoration and mercy. "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." Just like light appears when the sun rises after a dark night, after a time of fasting and "affliction", God will spread his rays of mercy and healing over his people.
2. God will begin to hear and answer our prayers again. "Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am." When we are living in sin and disobedience, God will not hear our prayers. But when we fast, pray, and turn away from our sins, God will again hear our prayers and answer or requests.
3. God will use us to rebuild our communities and our country. The Bible says, "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations." Matthew Henry writes that the latter part of this verse can be restated like this: "They shall raise up foundations which shall continue for many generations yet to come." God can use our prayer and fasting to lay a strong spiritual foundation that our children and grandchildren will be able to stand on and grow from. And this should be a prayer for all of us -- that our children and grandchildren will stand strong for God and Biblical principles.
In closing, I want to encourage you to join us in fasting and praying for our families, our communities, our nation and the world. But first, please examine your heart and make sure that you are fasting for the right reasons and with the right motives so that you can get the right results.
Now, you may be listening today and you may be in bondage to sin, like we spoke about earlier, and you may not know Jesus Christ as your Saviour. I want you to know that you can be saved and delivered from sin. Let me show you how very briefly.
John 3:16 reads, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
"For God so loved the world" means that if you are in the world, God loves you. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you have done, God loves you.
God loves you more than you love yourself. He loves you so much so "that He gave His only begotten Son." His only begotten son is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins and for mine, He was buried, and on the third day, He rose from the dead.
"that whosoever believeth in Him", whosoever means anybody of any race, any color, or any socio-economic status can believe on Jesus Christ.
"should not perish, but have everlasting life." if you believe on Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you will not perish in hell, instead you will have everlasting life in heaven with God.
The Bible also says in Romans 10:9 and 13: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.... For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Dear friend, if you are willing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, please pray with me this simple prayer: Heavenly Father, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
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