Lent – Day 24 – A Fast Of Doing
“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? 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?” Isaiah 58:5-7
Over the 40 days of Lent we position ourselves to reflect on the 40 days of Christ’s fasting and prayer in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. We also consider the spiritual discipline of fasting and prayer as expressed in Isaiah 58.
True fasting is not so much about what we don’t do as it is about what we do. Each thing Jesus said was the fast that God has chosen for us is a fast of actions.
1) to loose the bands of wickedness. The bands of wickedness are the things that bind us to sin and focuses our attention on things that rob us of life— selfishness, greed, lusts, fornication, unforgiveness, strife, lying, stealing, false witness, all things base, tawdry and salacious and vile. Whether our transgressions and sins of human frailty are minor or major in our estimation, we need the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to renew our minds, renew our hearts, and renew our desires and passions. The pathway to these things is through confession, repentance and a determined, committed adherence to knowing and living the Word, being obedient to God, keeping the commandments of Jesus.
2) to undo the heavy burdens. The heavy burdens that weigh us down, rob us of energy and zeal, keeping us occupied with things that dissipate our strength, leaving us powerless in the face of things that come to buffet and challenge our love of God and our walk of faith in the world.
3) to let the oppressed go free. We let the oppressed go free when we help to lift their burdens, when we come along side them to help them bear their loads, when we remove the obstacles that keep them under the domination of the evil one. In short when we preach the gospel and empower people with the Word of God to be born again and become new creations in Christ Jesus.
4) to break every yoke. To break every yoke we must know and seek the anointing of the Lord, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit through acknowledgment of the blood of Jesus as our all-atoning sacrifice that breaks the bondage of sin over our lives and frees us to live as Jesus’ sacrifice paid for us to live.
5) to deal your bread to the hungry. The things that you deny yourself to enjoy during a fast, particular food, give to the hungry, be a blessing to those who have so much less than you.
6) to bring the poor that are cast out into your house. This is not always the most practical or the safest thing to do in our present culture, but it is nevertheless the commandment of the Lord both practically and in spirit. Most of us do not live in places where we are surrounded by many poor people who have been cast out but we all can help those who are providing shelter, food, clothing and counsel for the homeless.
7) to see the naked we cover him. The destitute are obvious. Being naked is not an ethereal idea. It is a concrete reality that is discernable, measurable and obvious to all. Our response is simple, see the need and fill it. There is also a nakedness of exposure to weaknesses of the flesh and the unborn spirit. When people's shortcomings are obvious we don’t need to magnify them but rather we do what we can to minimize and shield them from the ridicule and judgment of others. That's the way of love.
8) to not hide from our own flesh. This simply means that we don’t neglect our responsibility to our families and those who depend on us for their provision.
This is the fast God has chosen, a fast to release bondages and the things that prevent us from living and worshiping God in freedom and liberty, to unburden us from the cares of this world and the stresses and anxieties we allow to entangle us, to let those who are oppressed go free, to bring into our care those who are poor and cast out, to cover the one who is naked, and to give special attention to those of our own household.
God’s chosen fast is a fast of doing good, not just a fast of not doing bad.
Being a doer of the Word of God is the measure of our faith and our love of God.