Many “Christians” are loud and cause a lot of ruckus, like children, in their search for peace. Peace comes only in the stillness of God and not in our struggles for it. The more we fight for it, the further from it we become. Peace is when we give in to the hope of God, and that is what the book of Isaiah is all about – peace.
In the study of Isaiah 58, the Oxford Bible Commentary illuminates what God says with this statement: “religious practice is worse than useless if not accompanied by true social justice.” This is what God says about fasting – a discipline that many of us consider to be one of the most spiritual acts we can attempt in our physical lives. But fasting is “worse than useless if not accompanied by true social justice”. This is because God hears those who come to Him, who are near to Him, and not those who shout at Him.
Fasting is “worse than useless if not accompanied by true social justice”.
In the book, The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis, he describes two ways of being near to God through a brilliant metaphor. He describes a town under a cliff. One can stand at the top of the cliff and be very close to the town by proximity, but they cannot reach the town this way. However, there is a path that goes around the cliff into the town, one can be on this path and be further from the town in proximity yet closer by approach because the path will eventually lead into the city. Fasting allows us to imitate God by caring for others, bringing us closer to Him in proximity, whilst also humbling us which causes us to be less like Him in proximity but far closer to Him in our approach. A true fast then, leads us closer to God by proximity and through approach.
The immediate context to Isaiah 58 is the chapter directly preceding it (chapter 57), where (in verse 20) God says that those making all the ruckus and shouting are wicked, for the wicked make noise like a roaring river. Preceding this, in verse 13, God sarcastically tells us to call out to our idols for help, then reiterates that the righteous are in refuge in the mountain. This reminds me of Elijah, where in God’s refuge (in the mountain), Elijah heard God only in the still small voice – not in the earth quakes or storms, in other words – God is not in all the noise.
Elijah heard God only in the still small voice – not in the earth quakes or storms, in other words – God is not in all the noise.
Then, in chapter 58, God reveals His vision for the true fast. In verses 1-5, God explains that He will not hear the shouts (even from His people). God claims three things are distorting the noise offered up to Him, in His people’s fasts: shouting, idleness, and extravagant rituals. God says that His vision for fasting starts with giving up our own pleasures.
God claims three things are distorting the noise offered up to Him in His people’s fasts: shouting, idleness, and extravagant rituals.
The climax of God’s vision for fasting then comes in verses 6-11. This is the doing part of worship (remember fasting is only an expression of worship, and should come naturally). God says that He does not hear those participating in a giving up ritual, but He is concerned with those who fast because of a giving heart with concern for others. God wants someone who wants to invest in the needy. God’s vision for fasting is one where we take our own food, money, time, and lives and invest all of this in the needy who are all around us. When we fast in this way, God promises restored health, protection, and access to Him in prayer, as a result. When we imitate God by giving and humble ourselves by denying our own needs, then we are close to God and He will hear us.
God’s vision for fasting is one where we take our own food, money, time, and lives and invest all of this in the needy who are all around us.
Finally, in verses 13 & 14 of chapter 58, we see the final point being expressed by looking at another ritual – observing the Sabbath. Fasting is an opportunity to love other people; observing the Sabbath is an opportunity to show our love for God. Doing these acts as rituals make them “worse than useless” but doing them out of a heart of giving – a heart of worship – makes them invaluable practices.
We come near to the ear of God through acts of self-denial and love towards others.
Both fasting and observing the Sabbath are ultimately acts all about denying ourselves for God and for others. Jesus says that all the laws and prophets hang on these two principles – they hang like one hangs on a cross is what Jesus states (Matthew 22:40). When we love, we are close to God then He will hear us. We come near to the ear of God through acts of self-denial and love towards others. Fasting is vital to one’s spiritual life and it is all about giving up and giving to. So, again, I challenge all of my readers to join me this week (or whatever week you read this in) in starting a habit of fasting. God wants His people to be near His ear and that starts this week by starting this habit with me. Do it, and you will not forget this lesson or the blessing that God will give you!!!!
The point is: We should all fast by taking from ourselves and giving to others!!!!”
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 Longman, Tremper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Vol. 6. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2006. Print.
 Barton, John. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.
 “Dr. Constable’s Expository (Bible Study) Notes.” Dr. Constable’s Bible Study Notes and Commentary. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.