January 29, 2022
Pastor Shane Comellas
Isaiah 58: 2-9
Teaching your kids how to share is a tireless process for parents. A while back, I asked one of my daughters to share some of her dessert with her little sister and begrudgingly she handed her little sister the smallest piece that she could pinch off of the slice of cake that I had given to her. I laughed and then shared my dessert with her little sister by giving her a slice double the size of the one that I had cut for her. She protested and told me that what I did wasn’t fair. I reminded her that everything that they were eating was actually mine, even the smaller piece that she was no longer enjoying. I then moved the conversation towards the reason I had asked her to share her cake with her little sister in the first place by pointing to the nature of God who has lavishly given us so much and wants us to always have a generous heart like Him. Though I think they are slowly understanding this lesson, it is difficult for people of all ages to grasp.
In scripture we find a similar kind of conversation where the Children of God bemoan the fact that their time of fasting had not produced what they hoped it would, which was greater blessings. God reminds them that the purpose of fasting isn’t to get the Lord to do something, but to help to form in us a heart that reflects His nature.
For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves. Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? “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? 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?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.
These verses may not have been your choice for the conclusion of our 21 Day Fast. You probably were expecting something more like “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21). However, there is something vital here to remember. God isn’t impressed with our ability to turn off the media or cut sugar and skip meals if our efforts haven’t brought us deeper into what it means to be Christian or Christ-like. In the passage above, this idea is at the heart of the conundrum cited by the Israelites: “Why have we fasted and you have not seen?” God then responds essentially by saying if your fast hasn’t helped to transform you more into the embodiment of who God is, then your efforts have been wasted. Put differently, God is asking us to share. The goal then, is to carry the momentum of our time of prayer and fasting and to harness it in a manner that shares the redeeming and saving acts of God by loosening the chains of injustice, unburdening the oppressed, sheltering the wanderer, feeding those that are hungry, and clothing the naked. When we do these things, God responds in such a way that causes His favor, protection, provision, healing and presence to be among us in ways that become a light to the world around us and as “a city on a hill that cannot be hidden” (Mt.5:14). These actions “make room” for God to entrust us with more because we have created the space for God to work through us. I encourage you today as we conclude our fast to determine to allow your efforts to lead to the kind of life change that is visible to those around you. The promise of God in turn is that our prayers during our fasting and throughout the year will be answered.
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