“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:6-7
January is a month for cleanses, and detox. Most everyone indulges from November through December and now it is time to start the year fresh and clean. Before the days of Whole 30 a few January’s in a row Chris (husband) and I did the Daniel fast. It had us eating mainly vegetables, nuts, and fruits. It was a time to refocus on what was important – a reset for our bodies and minds.
When I was in Missionary Training School we were encouraged to fast. When you feel the hunger pains it drives you to think about why you are fasting, to focus your mind on God. A classmate of mind likened fasting to Christian dieting when she jokingly said she was going to quit eating chocolate and call it a fast because that sounded better. At the time, and years later, we laughed at this. Maybe it is funny because it is also close to the truth. This is the danger with any spiritual ritual, it can become a box we check for the sake of achieving or earning something. The very nature of a fast is for us to get something from God – insight, wisdom or a feeling of nearness. We want clarity, cleanness, cleansing. The very premise of a fast is denial and yet we enter it ready to receive something in exchange for what we have given up.
When we look at Isaiah 58 verses 6 & 7 we see God calling for a different kind of fast. This is God’s response to the people’s cry earlier in verse 3 when they are accusing Him, ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’. We checked the boxes they say, did what you asked us. Why aren’t you holding up your end of the deal? He comes back seeing through their lists and rituals looking directly at their hearts. No he says, you seek your own pleasure and oppress all your workers. Then in verse 6 he gives a mandate for a new kind of fast, one that looks much different then the one they were engaging in. A fast to;
Loose the bonds of Wickedness.
Let the Oppressed go free.
Share your bread with the hungry.
Let the homeless into your house.
Cover the naked.
Not to hide yourself from your own flesh.
This fasting is heart of the matter fasting. This fasting is true denial, not of the momentary pleasure and satiation of eating but more uncomfortable. The giving up of our ways, caring about another’s freedom like we care about our own, sharing our bread and our home and our clothing. Living open handed with our material things. This goes deeper than a little denial for a period of time. This is a constant, sacrificial lifestyle of denying oneself and then going the extra mile by giving to another.
The first part of the first verse of Isaiah 58 grabs my heart, makes me sit up and listen. It screams pay attention – this is important!
“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet…”
God has something to say to these self righteous, list accomplishing, box checking, self justifying, pride filled people.
“…declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.”
He has something to say to me too, and you if you choose to listen. Cry aloud, do not hold back, lift up your voice like a trumpet and tell my people, my people, their transgression and their sins. He goes on to say that they act as if they want to know him, they act as if they were righteous and delight in seeking him but they don’t. They have forsaken the judgement of God and have turned to their own pleasures.
I am driven to my knees heart and head bowed before my awesome God and sovereign Creator. I hear the cry echoing in the chambers of my soul, the trumpet jarring me out of my self centered delusions that God has somehow failed me when in fact I am the one who fails him and in his infinite grace he allows me to come back to follow. This chapter is a stern rebuke, yes. But don’t miss what it is also – a second chance. A teachable moment. An opportunity for redemption. God says you are centered on yourself and you think you are righteous, but here! Here is what you can do. This is what is truly acceptable to me. He said it then to His People and he says it now to hearts turned towards his in true humility.
Do you hear the cry? Do you feel the trumpets vibrations? The call to a true fast, a true lifestyle of denial. Seeing and sacrificing for those around us the way that the Three in One God denied his rights and sacrificed for us.
The question is : What is our answer?
January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. In the United States we contribute to Sex trafficking through our pornography addictions, allowances of sexual exploitation and dehumanization of people in our culture. We also contribute to labor trafficking through what we purchase and our insatiable needs for a deal and convenience. Together labor and sex trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide. The sale of humans is the fasting growing industry today. This month you can begin to do something about the millions of slaves that we employ through our ignorance by becoming educated and involved. Follow Stories Foundation for highlighted organizations, information on why human trafficking happens and how together we can begin to change the tide.