Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the Lord? Isaiah 58:3-5
Fasting is a form of sacrifice. While it is not easy to fast, after doing it regularly, it may not be as difficult as it used to be. This can lead us to be happy with the habit of fasting rather than focusing on our spiritual growth during the fast. In the book of Isaiah, we see that the Lord was not impressed with people’s fast. Sackcloth, ashes, and affliction did not move Him.
We have a tendency to focus on sacrifice rather than our disposition. Sacrifice can be external works to show our desire to follow God. While making sacrifices is part of our walk with the Lord, it is not the basis of our relationship with Him. Otherwise, we run in the danger of performing for God all over again.
In the above passage, God saw people’s strife and doing what pleased them while they were still fasting. I wonder what they were debating about!? Could it be that they thought since they fasted they had the right to speak from the position of authority and challenge others? Fasting is not meant to make us feel more spiritual than others. It is also not meant to be a vehicle of competition. God was not pleased with their attitudes.
One of the ways that we can deny ourselves is to take the opportunity on our fasting days and work on our weaknesses. For example, if you have a tendency to gossip, be intentional to stay out of conversations that could lead to gossip. If you have a tendency to be harsh and domineering, practice gentleness and flexibility. If you worry too much, practice praising and worshipping the Lord and staying in faith. If stress is your weakness, meditate on scriptures that give you rest and allow Him to be your peace. If social media is a weakness, get off of it during your fast and meditate on the Lord! If heaviness is something you struggle with, be intentional about joy and finding things that make you laugh. If you have a tendency to easily get offended, make it a point to guard your heart and forgive quickly without holding any grudges.
The Lord cares about our heart condition more than the sacrifices we make in fasting. We can use our fasting days to not only deny our flesh from food but feed our spirit man with what pleases Him. We all have areas of improvement. Ask the Lord to show you an area that you can work on when you fast next time. I will continue with this subject in the next devotional.