The section of Scripture below has been used many times to promote fasting, but consider diligently that God is really looking for justice.
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
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[a] 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.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Is. 58, NIV
This is a rich section of Scripture and there are many ways we could go with it, but I want you to see that God is looking for justice. This is the real focus of the passage.
Although many use this section of Scripture to promote the idea of fasting, the point here is that the people were fasting in the traditional sense [going without food] but it was not doing any good. Fasting is important in the Christian life; however, it is part of a bigger picture. These people thought that by fasting they were impressing God and could not understand why God was not listening to their prayers. God was not looking for fasting, He was looking for justice in their actions with others.
Let’s be honest, these people had a great outward show. They appear to be earnestly seeking after God. They were doing all the religious things. Many of them were probably self-deceived and thought they were doing right, pleasing God and worshipping in the correct way [Matt. 7:21-23]. They were confused because God was ignoring them. Weren’t they doing everything God had asked?
They thought they were obedient, but God said they were in rebellion. In fact many times in the prophets God spoke harshly to His people who were great at religious performance, but poor on obedience. God cannot be deceived nor can He be bought. He is looking for justice.
So what are we saying? That it doesn’t matter if we read our Bible, pray, fast, praise and worship, etc? Of course not. All those things are an important part of our relationship with Jesus Christ. They are vital, but they have to be built on the foundation of what God is looking for…
In Micah 6:8 God lists the 3 foundation things He is looking for:
1. Do Justly,
2. Love Mercy
3. Walk Humbly With Your God.
The above verses relate mainly to the first one, do justly. If you look at Is. 58 what God is looking for is a people who will act with integrity. He wants them to have compassion on others and do the right thing…to live with integrity.
When Christians go “church shopping” they often look for a minister who is talented at preaching, or a praise and worship service that fits their style, or programs that met their family’s needs. Before they even consider those they should be looking to see if the men and women in charge are people of proven integrity, men and women concerned with and looking for justice. Integrity that hasn’t been proven is only a theory. Anyone can talk a good program until the pressure is on. But when you can find a church with a leadership of proven integrity founded on the Word of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ - treasure it. Don’t let it slip through your fingers.
It has been said that the Christian army is the only army in the world that shoots its own wounded. Unfortunately, there is often more truth in that statement than we like to admit. I am sure Jesus does not take pleasure when His bride begins devouring herself. Not a pretty picture.
That, of course, does not mean that differences do not arise between churches and even within churches. We are imperfect human beings with imperfect understanding. In our differences we have to operate with respect, honour and integrity. If we don’t God is not listening to our praise and worship - no matter how emotionally satisfying it may be to us - He is not impressed with our sermons, prayers, Bible study or fasting.
“Do justly” is a major but often overlooked theme in Scripture. If we would progress in Christian maturity and together become a bride that Jesus can delight in, we need to pay attention to those two words. God is looking for justice and we should be too.