The Fasting God Desires
“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.”
In the time of Isaiah, the Israelites were doing all sorts of religious activities, such as offering sacrifices in the temple or observing the required fasts. But God was not pleased with their religiosity because they were neglecting justice and mercy. The “fasting” God desired for his people included freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, and caring for the material needs of the poor.
God continues to be honored in our deeds of compassion and justice. As James writes in his New Testament letter, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (1:27). We don’t do such deeds in order to earn God’s salvation, but rather as a response to his grace. When we care for the poor in God’s name, he receives our actions as worship that honors him.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: In what ways are you honoring God by caring for the poor or seeking justice for the oppressed? What might you do this week to respond to Isaiah 58?
PRAYER: Merciful God, help us to engage in the kind of “fasting” that you desire. May your church be on the front lines of caring for the poor and seeking justice for the oppressed. Forgive us, Lord, when we get so wrapped up in our “religious stuff” that we fail to seek justice and love mercy.
Show me, dear Lord, how I can be regularly involved in caring for the poor and seeking justice for the oppressed. May this sort of “worship” become a regular part of my life, for your sake and glory. Amen.