Nobody likes to be called out for their failures and shortcomings. Nonetheless, this was exactly what the prophet was called and sternly warned to do in Isaiah chapter 58. The chapter bursts forth with a serious warning and fearsome command to the prophet not to hold back but boldly declare the sins and transgressions of his people. Isaiah 58:1 –
Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
Such is the calling of the prophet – to go where others might fear to tread in calling out God’s people in their transgressions and sins. This is the prophet’s mandate from God – to speak on His behalf even those things that are unpalatable to others.
Fasting, principally, is not a means of having our way with God and our wishes fulfilled by Him. It is a means of seeking more of God in our lives in more ways than one; it is a tangible demonstration and expression of a hunger and desire for God Himself and for those things that matter to Him.
Fasting is an exercise in self-denial, a temporary denial of the legitimate biological needs of our body in order to focus and intentionally give priority to matters spiritual. It is a statement of intent demonstrating our desperation for God and His intervention in our lives, a profound and tangible way of getting Him to notice our needs and hunger for Him and His ways.
However, it is not only our desisting from food that is going to capture God’s heart and attention but also prioritising His will and desire over ours and desisting from all unrighteousness – especially in our relationships with one another. Isaiah 58:3b
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
As always, God is never after or interested in the outward exercises and external appearance of godliness – Isaiah 58:5b
Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
God desired His people to practically address the issues of justice and righteousness amongst themselves, on the horizontal level. This, for God, is central to the success of their fast. These were issues He could not ignore or neglect as they fasted before Him. The vertical element was not without its horizontal counterpart.
Without this condition fulfilled, without this element addressed, our self-denial is incomplete and will not succeed in capturing God’s attention. Once they adequately addressed that, God would effortlessly respond and reply to their quest for Him through fasting (Isaiah 58:9):
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
Consider what God may be asking you to address in your life concerning righteousness and justice – in particular in relation to your brothers and sisters in Christ.