Isaiah 58:6-9 NIV

6“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

You are now on day 4 of your fast, and it is likely that you are still in your ‘honeymoon’ period – excited to be dedicated to the task, expectant of what God is going to do, committed to seeing it through. But there are going to be days ahead, perhaps soon, where this fast is going to get difficult for you. It is not going to seem as easy as it might today, and you are going to be tempted to compromise or simply give up. In response, you will likely dig in your heels, and push through because of the commitment you made. The danger, however, is that you may end up making the fast the focus rather than the God who called you into it.

This passage from Isaiah should be an encouragement to us all as we look forward to the remainder of our fasts. The people in Isaiah’s day had turned their fasts into religious acts and prescribed ritual. What had always been a call of God to his people to open them further to God’s heart and character became tradition and religion. The people began to divorce their fast from their lifestyle, making the fast something they did in religious observance, but forgetting that it was suppose to draw them closer in relationship to God and one another. Their fast became a means to an end, a ‘tick the box’ in their religious obedience. Outwardly they looked the part, inwardly they had missed the point.

Don’t allow your fast to follow suit. Its not actually about the outward fast itself, its about what God is doing in your character and what he is speaking to your heart that counts. If all you do is not eat meat for 21 days but fail to draw closer to God through the experience, your fast was pointless (except maybe as a diet!). God lays out in this passage what true ‘fasting’ looks like – loosening the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, breaking yokes, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked. In other words – understanding God’s heart and living out that heart in your lifestyle. Learning about what breaks his heart, and opening your heart to be broken with his. Focus your 21 days around that journey, and I believe you will have no issues accomplishing your fast.

Reflect on the reasons why you started on this fast. Was it because the church leadership encouraged you to do so? Or did you think it would be a good detox? What are the reasons you are fasting, and if God shows you anything you need to confess to him do so. Then ask him for his heart, and open your heart to him.

Father, thank you for inviting me into this sacred journey of fasting before you. Help me not to make this fast a religious act, but a relational encounter with you. Open my heart to what is on your heart, and change me. Amen.