Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Fruit of the Fast God Desires

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. 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, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:8-12)
Israel was in a scrape (Isaiah 58 probably addresses them during their time of exile and captivity in Babylon) and they wanted the Lord to come and deliver them. They thought they could manipulate God by the emptiness of fasts and rituals when their hearts were far away from him — and from each other. (Is This What You Call a Fast?)

But God desired a fast that was altogether different, one in which yokes were broken, the oppressed were set free, the hungry were fed, the naked clothed, the stranger welcomed and the poor give shelter. This is faith expressing itself through love. It is a fast God honors because it expresses the heart of God, who is love, and it is the nature of love to give and to serve. (The Fast God Desires)

In this next section, verses 8 through 12, God speaks about the change such a fast brings — and it is really a “night and day” difference, beginning with the light of morning:
  • Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear. It will bring forth a new day for you and your healing will begin.
  • Your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. This righteous fast of faith working through love will prepare the way before you, and God will back you up all the way. It will be a revelation of his glory.
  • Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. God always responds to those who call on him in faith and whose hearts are turned toward him.
  • Your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The new day God promises will continue and increase, regardless of the darkness in the world. It will shine in the night and make it like noonday.
  • The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. God is always ready to take care of us completely and in every way, even in a drought time. When we are turned toward him and our hearts are aligned with his, we are ready to receive his guidance, provision and strength.
  • You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. This is a picture of prosperity and blessing, like the man in Psalm 1, who follows the instruction of the Lord and becomes like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in season, its leaves always fresh and green — and whatever he does prospers!
  • Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age-old foundations. This is exactly what Israel was seeking by their empty ritual. God longed to do it for them, but only if they would keep his chosen fast of loving and caring for their neighbor as themselves. And then,
  • You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. God is speaking not just to individuals but to a people and a generation. The more we live out the fast God desires, the more we will become repairers of the broken and restorers of the good and ancient paths that lead to righteousness and peace.