Isaiah 58: 5-7
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 - Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

Many people have a very wrong idea of fasting. They, like the Muslims think of it like a penance and they will impress God with it. The day they fast they think their prayers are confirmed.

In Isaiah 58 the Lord exposes the wrong thoughts in the minds of people with regards to fasting...
1) They feel God sees them or take greater notice of them when they fast (v3)
2) They feel fasting makes them humble before God (v3)
3) They feel the fast confirms their prayers and gets them their blessings (v3)
4) They feel all the efforts they put will be paid (v3)

This is what many preachers preach of fasting even today. That is why fasting does little change to people since they do not know the purpose of fasting. Fasting has great power and that power works not on God but on the person fasting, it causes the person to change from inside.

The Lord in verses 5,6 and 7 tells us its purpose and way to fasting:-

1) "A day for a man to afflict [be occupied with] his soul" - fasting requires us to be occupied with our inner man. It means to give attention to what we are inside.

2) "to bow down his head as a bulrush [insignificant]" - means to humble himself and know who he is and how insignificant he is without God choosing him. In the Bible Lord calls man a worm, a mere insect yet He chose this lowly being to be a part of Him and to be glorifies in Him.

3) "and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him" - means to repent, to reassess one's way of life and correct the wrong doings in one's life. It requires one to know how our sins and sinful ways would lead us to vanity and destruction.

4) "to loose the bands of wickedness," - requires us to change our wicked ways and give them up. Fasting should change us from within. It is actually not the fast but the building of our determination to change during fasting (period of reassessment) that changes us.

5) "to undo the heavy burdens, " - The Hebrew word translated as burden means bands or yoke or (mental or spiritual) slavery. It also means a bundle of hyssops. Incidentally hyssop symbolizes faith but a bundle of here hyssop does not mean greater faith but means ungodly beliefs. Faith is singular for it means believing in God and His Word which never changes; therefore believing in anything that is changing while believing in the unchangeable is disbelief or bundle of hyssops. We are burden because we have ungodly beliefs in other words faithlessness in us and faithlessness causes worries. During fasting we are to cast away our ungodly beliefs or worldly thoughts and solely trust God. Jesus said "come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". Before saying this Jesus told them who He is and what His authority is. He is telling us we have many beliefs and worries and works because we do not know Him and His authority. He asked us to give up on the worldly thinking and take up our mission in Him and He says it is light. Not that the mission is light (in fact it is just humanly impossible) but becomes light because He has given us a Helper.

6) "and to let the oppressed [brokenness] go free, - it requires us to overcome worldly sorrow and incompleteness. The Hebrew word translated as free literately symbolizes someone been set free of ones taxes, that is the kind of release we should have.

7) "and that ye break every yoke [pole or bar of yoke]" - we have seen movies where a captive has a long rod or pole put on his shoulders with his two hands tied around it at either ends. It is to bind the hands of the person. Hands symbolize work or deeds. The Lord is saying our fast should free us from the yoke of our works. Works can be a bondage for us if we believe in our works. It does not mean we do not need to do good works, but it says we should never think our works saves us. Good works are required of us bit do not save us. That is why in verse 7 we see an example of the things we are required to do as we fast. That does not mean only during fasting. It means fasting should be like an ignition for us to do good works while keeping in mind it is required of us but does not save us. Wrong works or evil works can un-save us but good works do not save us.

When we see these points put by the Lord in Isaiah 58 we see fasting is less towards God and more towards ourselves. Fasting is what sets us on track and clears the wrong things in us. Fasting helps us build ourselves in the Lord, it helps us build faith and helps us separate ourselves from worldly things. True fasting change us. During fasting one does not necessarily require to refrain from food and water only; during fasting one can refrain from anything that gets one to do the things listed above. Daniel fasted even though he ate and drank but that fast transformed him.

Without doing the above points, fasting can do the opposite effects on us. It can make us self-righteous, proud before God; it can also make us think great in the works of the flesh.

[ Prayer Starter ]
Lord, we pray You teach us and guide us to fast correctly. Help us not be self-righteous and depend on the works of our hands. Help us to be transformed from inside...

This prayer we make in Jesus' Name, Amen.

[ Reference ]
Matthew 11:27-30
27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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