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Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. Isaiah 58:10 NLT

I saw a big sign while driving by Wendy's yesterday afternoon. The word was broken into two words, one over the other–BREAK FAST. I don’t know if this was done so it would fit on the sign or for effect, but when we eat in the morning, that is what we’re doing; we break our fast. Sometimes, we may refrain from eating to lose weight or for a medical procedure, but it also can be done as a spiritual practice. We often hear about this fasting at Lent, but it needn’t be limited to then.

In the Bible, we hear a lot about fasting. To name a few, Moses, Nehemiah, David, and Jesus all practiced fasting. When we abstain from food, we turn our attention from physical desire to spiritual yearning. During that time, we typically think of food and eating to read and study scripture, self-reflection, and prayer.

By this time, you may be wondering what a verse that says, “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble,” has to do with fasting. The verses leading up to this are about how Israel was fasting incorrectly. They were going through the motions but weren’t doing it for the right reasons–for them, it was for the outward appearance of righteousness. Here’s the conversation between God and Isaiah reflecting the people’s attitude.

“We have fasted before you!” they (Israel) say. “Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!: “I will tell you why!” I (God) respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.” (v. 3-4)

That’s not what God was looking for then, nor what he’s looking for now. A true fast is to reflect on God's justice, mercy, and righteousness and put it into action. God continues, “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” (v. 6-7) Unsurprisingly, we hear Jesus preach these things hundreds of years later. They are core to God’s plan for humankind from the beginning.

God, thank you for making your desires plain to us. You don’t want the show of worship but earnestness in our prayers and actions. Take whatever falseness lies within us, forgive us those things, to not live a pretense of being godly but to demonstrate compassion, justice, and mercy. Lord, help us to be that light that shines in the darkness; may it be as bright as noon. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Pastor Tim

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