May 25th 2010

The Fast I Have Chosen

“Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. 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? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.”

Isaiah 58:3-8 (KJV) 

Here God, condemning ritual fanaticism, is pointing out that the observances He requires are fighting oppression, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless. He affirms this again in the New Testament. We can read in Matthew 25 Jesus speaking of the Son of Man coming in his glory, verses 35-36 (NIV), “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Amazed, they asked him when did they do that and he replied in verse 50, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” 

God does not value formal religion, which is splendid and inspiring, while the hungry wait outside in rags. “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day, stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:14-16 NLT). 

He says to us that kindness, humanity, and generosity are the basis of the faith He wants to see. These are the basis of pure and genuine religion in the sight of God (James 1:26-27 NLT). 

Prayer

Father, help us to remember that robes and fasts, days and incense, hymns and prayers, are empty shells without the compassion that is the deep heart of God. God is love; and love is first, last and always, the centre of His Truth.

Amen 

Study by Keith Le Flem

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