by Brad Montsion.
Fasting is not a very popular topic in the churches across our nation. When was the last time you ever heard of a fast being called? The problem is that we live in a society that expects God to deliver everything we ask for without doing anything on our part. We expect heaven to be the only part that moves. We continue to do things our way, yet we expect God to change.
The Bible makes it clear that God does not change. We are the ones who need to change. The church in Canada and the United States must make tremendous strides to become what God wants us to be.
The nation of Israel had much the same problem as we have today. They could easily see what they wanted God to do but failed to see what God wanted them to do. It’s important to see that the sovereignty of God is like a train track. If only one track is in place, the train will never move. If one track is removed while the train is heading along, the result will be deadly.
So what are the true parts of a biblical fast?
THE MAN-PART OF FASTING
I admit I’ve had times when someone has called me to fast, but I was either not ready or not in agreement that the time was right. If God is in it, we will soon know because the desire will be birthed by his Spirit.
Isaiah was called upon by God to declare a fast for the nation. Israel’s facade had reached the limits of heaven. “They seem eager to know my ways…They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them” (Isaiah 58:2-3).
But God is not deceived by outward appearances. He has the ability to look within the heart of each of us. He knows what truly goes on in our minds. He recognizes the depth of our commitments and whose will is guiding our lives.
My greatest experience in biblical fasting took place in the late 1980’s when I was serving as minister of Christian Education in Fort McMurray, Alberta. It was during a time of ongoing trials for the church and, therefore, for all of us as ministers.
Our senior pastor, Jim Humphries, wisely called the church to a time of fasting. It was to last for seven days. Everyone was encouraged to fast as many of those days as they possibly could.
For me, it took about three days before God began to speak to me. When he did, it was not what I expected. I was hoping for some deep revelation of biblical truth that would impact my life forever. Instead, I found that just a few words entered my mind, requiring further reflection.
The bottom line was that God was calling me into a deeper walk of truth with him. I was not to look at others as much as I was to allow God to search my soul. I found it difficult at first to surrender my will to his, yet it proved best for both myself and those whom my life touched.
It’s interesting that we often want God to do things for us but become frustrated when God expects something in return, even if his expectations will bring further blessing.
The Israelites were fasting but seeing little results. They began to point the finger at God. Little did they realize that they were pointing three fingers back at themselves. God made it clear that their fasting was hypocritical. Isaiah 58 says that they fasted but…
1. They did as they pleased (v. 3).
2. They exploited their workers (v. 3).
3. They were full of quarrelling and strife (v. 4).
4. They would get into fistfights (v. 4).
5. They would humble themselves at the time of the fast but then resume their wickedness (v. 5).
God had a better plan if the people really wanted to see the hand of God work for their behalf. God has a way of having us walk very practically in a wicked world. Our lives have to reflect what our Lord would have us do. There are often social needs that concern God:
1. To share our food with the hungry (v. 7)
2. To provide shelter for the poor wanderer (v. 7)
3. To clothe the naked (v. 7)
4. To offer help to our close relatives (v. 7)
God places conditions upon His blessings. Everyone wants to be blessed, but often we feel that God must do everything. We must be careful to do what God calls us to do:
1. Don’t oppress others (v. 9).
2. Don’t point fingers (v. 9).
3. Don’t talk maliciously (v. 9).
4. Don’t refuse to help the hungry or oppressed (v. 10).
5. Don’t do as we please on the Sabbath (v. 13).
6. Don’t speak idle words (v. 13).
These are all what I call “the man-part of fasting.” These are things we should do and should not do. Fasting goes much beyond sacrificing meals. God wants to do more than just cleanse our bodies. He also wants to cleanse our soul and spirit in the process.
THE GOD-PART OF FASTING
If we are faithful to do our part, we can be assured that God will be faithful to do his part in at least three ways:
1. He will reveal his glory (Isaiah 58:8). God will cause his glory to shine in and through our lives. Others will notice the change. Like Moses, our lives will reflect the glory of God. Some may not even be able to be around us. We will become a light in a dark place. Our lives will dispel the darkness of sin. We must remember that this is God that is doing this.
2. He will share his guidance (Isaiah 58:11). People are crying out today for guidance. Hundreds of thousands of horoscopes are sold every day. Those customers should be looking to the God who made the stars, not the stars themselves.
People want guidance on where to live, what job to do, which mate to choose, where to be educated, and where to shop. Everyone would like the opportunity to know ahead of time what will happen so they could make the right decisions. God can and will help us if we keep our heart right before him and seek his guidance.
3. He will unveil his grandeur (Isaiah 58:11-12). God has also promised to make us like a “well-watered garden.” We will be involved in the fixing-up business as the “Repairer of Broken Walls.” Anyone can break something. It takes the grandeur of God to restore what is broken, such as a broken past.
One of the blessings of all this is a great joy (Isaiah 58:14). There will not be times of want, because we will feast on the inheritance of Jacob-a land flowing with milk and honey.
How Does God Do His Part?
If you are wondering how God will do all this for you, the answer appears in this chapter. Through the right kind of fasting God will:
1. Loosen the chains of injustice
2. Untie the cords of the yoke
3. Set the oppressed free
4. Break every yoke
God is able to identify what the yokes are and then completely destroy them so they cannot place anyone else in bondage. Both the Assyrians and Babylonians were famous for their yokes of bondage. Their evil minds conjured up many kinds of oppressive tortures. They used the yoke to mock God’s people. Through a Biblical fast these yokes were destroyed. God’s people were released, and their land was returned to them.
No wonder there was great joy in the city. When God breaks something, it is broken to never be used again. God was systematic in destroying the yoke. Fasting can and does release the hand of God to accomplish His will for His people when it is done His way.
Fasting is worth every effort we put into it. Let God instill in your heart the need to fast according to his Word. Don’t fast just because someone else is fasting and wants you to join them. Don’t publicize it, either. Your reward will come in seeing the hand of God released in your life.
God has “a chosen fast.” We need to choose his kind of fasting so we can accomplish his purpose.
Brad Montsion is pastor of Fountaingate Christian Assembly in Cornwall, Ontario.