The Benefits of Fasting Pt. 2 [Living a Fasted Life Pt. 3]
In case you’re just joining the series, I would encourage you to reviewing the “Living a Fasted Life” series. The why and the benefits (part 1) help to lay the right foundation for what we are going to continue exploring here based on the Scripture that can be found in our core text in Isaiah 58.
We previously identified 7 key reasons why one must/should fast and we have been exploring the benefits that these give us as covenanted by God. Let’s jump straight in and review the remaining four reasons:
1) To break strongholds
2) To deliver from habits (untie the ropes)
3) To free the oppressed
4) To liberate the burdened
5) So we can share The Word
7) Reconciliation with one another
“…and to tear off every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6 – HCSB)
If there was ever any way to sum up The Bible (yes, the entire Bible), it would be a series of stories all about liberation/deliverance/salvation born of a deep love that God has for us. It should be no surprise to us then that God has this as the centrepiece of the fasting covenant. If there is any one way to describe God, it should be “The Great Liberator” – it’s in His very nature. Not only in the rescuing from Sin & Death angle but across all aspects – just look throughout the entirety of The Bible.
Well before the “Let my people go” of Exodus, we have seen God show himself as the liberator of Lot (from Sodom & Gomorrah), of Jacob (from Esau & Laban); of the house of Israel [Jacob] through Joseph and Egypt. Read through the book of Judges or the Chronicles of the Kings and it is more of the same. No matter how you look at it, God is VERY keen on making sure that we are free of the enslavement and yokes of the wicked. While this looks like it is closely related to point #3 (freeing the oppressed), when you look at the covenant that it generates, you’ll see a completely different set of benefits (and there’s a good reason why):
If you get rid of the yoke among you,
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking
and if you offer yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.”
Isaiah 58:9 -10 – HCSB
So far, we have not encountered such a demand on ourselves like this. Unlike freeing the oppressed where God will move on our behalf, here we have a situation where God wants us to examine our character, our habits, put the work in and take on His personality as liberator! Wow! And what do we get in return? – God’s promise to be just like Him! Before we go deeper into this covenant, I want to take a few moments to take a closer look at what it means to “get rid of the yoke among you”.
** I should add a disclaimer that what I am about to discuss next is nothing against deliverance services – I think those are a matter of spiritual understanding, which I hope to help with momentarily. **
There is an interesting scripture in Zechariah 2:7 that says:
“Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.” (KJV)
This scripture gives us hope [and assurance] that it is possible for us to deliver ourselves, especially when we consider this scripture to be an instruction from God and the precursor to the famous “apple of His eye” verse. Now that we know that we can deliver ourselves, at any time, from any yoke that is present in our home/marriage/career/enterprise/children/family/etc, it’s important to look at the type of things that fasting should help us consider.
When we are looking for these yokes, it is critical we look at the things we do (finger-pointing) and the things we say (malicious speaking). These are not to say that we literally finger point or speak maliciously about others but rather to let us know that what we do and say (and how we do and say those things) are of great importance to The Lord – and to our well-being. If I had more time, I’d explore 1Cor. 10:10-11 in relation to the entire book of James (especially the 1st 3 chapters) but needless to say, I’d recommend reading them.
Having said all this, delivering ourselves is only half of the solution. When we are fasting, we must also actively seek out ways to “offer ourselves to the hungry” and “satisfy the afflicted one” – in simpler terms, we must actively find ways to SACRIFICE. Like I said earlier, God’s entire agenda is about liberation. If we want to be like Him, we must be like Him (like what I did there?)! It is a simple 3 step process we must do to ourselves:
“…then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.”
What a beautiful promise from The Lord to us. It’s important to note that this isn’t something that He gives to us, but rather a consequence of our sacrifice. This is the process of sowing and reaping in action. If we desire to have our lights shine in darkness, whether that be to take The Gospel to unknown places, or to be influential in our various circles, the promise is there to be seized. It is within our control – no mysticism, no “special [monetary] offering”, no chasing gifts – it’s already here for us.
As if that wasn’t enough, look at that added bonus: our night will be like noonday. Wow. Some of us have some pretty dark nights in our lives – imagine the way we could handle life if such a promise was realised in our darkest hours. Perhaps it would read something like Job 11:18-20.
GOING VIRAL (#5):
“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,” (Isaiah 58:7 – HCSB)
We all hunger and we are all hungry – for various different things but at the root of them all is a deep seated hunger for God. The question really is whether or not we know and realise it! Jesus told us something important when He was speaking to the Jews of his time:
” I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” – John 6:51 (HCSB)
If we know, according to John 6:35 that nobody who comes to the bread of life (Jesus) will ever be hungry then those of us who have received the bread have a mandate to share that bread with those who do not – “the hungry“. Fasting is a time to look at who we can share Jesus with, and how. How can we make this bread sharing go viral? What are we able to offer?
It’s no joke when you remember that God has exalted His word above His name (Psalm 138:2), especially when you realise that His name is above EVERYTHING! It should then come as no surprise what the covenant secured by the fasting practice is:
“The Lord will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.”
Isaiah 58:11 – HCSB
What more can we possibly want? Not only will God lead us but He will always lead us. Those scriptures like Job 22:29 & Isaiah 41:18 that talk about God enabling process and progress against the natural orders (in this day and age – think global recessions), those don’t come because we wished or cried our way into His remembrance. No, those come because we learned to share and spread The Gospel.
Finally, look at that wonderful promise we have to cap it all off – God will strengthen our bones. In [and through] Him, we will be able to attain the things that truly strengthen our bones like good news (Proverbs 15:30) and the fear of The Lord (Proverbs 3:7-8) as well as prevent them from decay like the rottenness brought about by jealousy (Proverbs 14:30) or a broken spirit (Proverbs 17:22).
OPEN DOORS (#6):
“to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,” (Isaiah 58:7 – HCSB)
This may have been a verse that many initially struggled with because the systems that we have grown up with tell us that strangers are enemies till they can prove themselves otherwise. It tell us that opening our doors in an act of fellowship to others is a dangerous act that leaves us open to attack and when we are used and abused, it will be our fault.
The worst part is that we take this mentality and not only do we apply it to our various environments but we also bring it into the church – making it such an unfriendly and unwelcoming place. We hopefully know the story of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and I am also hopeful that we may have read Jesus’ description of the actions of the just and upright in Matthew 25:35-40.
Fellowship is not just a matter of helping those in need, but rather, it is a state of heart – a careful consideration of those who we know are in need of a home and those who are deemed to be naked. Questions we may want to ask ourselves:
When was the last time I encouraged somebody with [and in] The Word?
When was the last time I invited somebody to church?
When that brother/sister did something wrong, did I hold my tongue?
When we are well equipped to help those who need our help find a good home and help those who are places of insecurity become stable in Christ (this also applies to moral indiscretions), then can we expect God to fulfil His promise to us:
“You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.”
Isaiah 58:11 (HCSB)
Who wouldn’t want to be like a watered garden – lacking no good thing and being fruitful at the right times of their lives? If you look at Genesis 2:10, you’ll notice that the first garden to be watered was Eden and in it’s watering, it was able to output a greater amount than itself (vs 11-14). When we fast, we are able to alter our environment to not just sustain us but to offer such abundance as to be able to bless others.
Additionally, we, the spring, the life-givers, are promised to never run dry simply because the life-giving source is within us. In us can be found He who gives living water – He who has promised us that should we drink of the water He offers, not only shall we never be thirsty again but that our springs will bubble up [John 4:14] and you know what happens when something bubbles up… it flows outwardly.
ONE LOVE (#7):
Here we are at last, the 7th reason that we fast. What a fitting conclusion to God’s agenda it turns out to be also, so perfectly in line with His character and true to all that He has in store for us:
“and not to ignore your own flesh and blood” (Isaiah 58:7 – HCSB)
There is no simpler way I could possibly explain this. If we are of one body [in Christ], purchased with the same price [the blood of Christ] and call ourselves joint-heirs with Christ all looking onto the same Father and thereby allowing me to call you my brother and my sister then this makes definition of my “flesh and blood” all the more meaningful. Not only am I meant to remember my physical flesh and blood but the onus is also on me to remember my spiritual flesh and blood.
In the same manner that we should leave our offering at the altar if we know that somebody has offended us so as to go and make peace with them, it is equally important to remember that if we choose to fast and continue to hold malice, bitterness, strife, the things Paul addresses in his letter to Timothy (2Timothy 2:14) then we can expect our fast to be self-serving at best. It will be no more than a hunger strike.
Even if the fast starts off that way – with you unable to see eye to eye with one of your own – let it not end that way. Use it as an opportunity to kill all the ungodliness in you. Deliver yourself! Encourage yourself in The Lord as David did (1Sam. 30:6) – use The Word to do it.
If there’s one thing we cannot afford to do, it’s to miss out on this covenant:
“Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.”
If you are willing to restore the broken bonds within your family, God will grant you more of that same ability to rebuild ruins – the places that should be standing but have been decimated, He will grant you the grace to restore foundations, for we know that when foundations are faulty, nobody is safe!
Look at that final promise in all its glory. The works that we do with this seemingly small act will make us repairer of broken walls – not only will we exercise self-control (Proverbs 25:28) but we shall be able to impact that into the lives of others. Our influence will be great and greater than we can ever imagine. To repair and to restore are some of the greatest responsibilities in The Kingdom – there are no cowboy builders in this Kingdom and when you consider the level of skill and Wisdom God gave Bazelel and Oholiab (Exodus 31) to be able to build what He wanted, imagine how much He will impart into us should we tap into this covenant.
What a truly incredible Father we have in God. He is ever so thoughtful and considerate and ever so willing to position us to receive the best of him.
In our concluding part to this series, we will look at how to live this thing we call a “Fasted Life” – how do we put these 7 points into a coherent and practical guide for daily living?
Till next time, make sure you don’t forget: God is rooting for you and waiting to help you – He wants you to win!!