Here we are at the beginning of lent and many Christians and followers of Christ are fasting for these 40 days before Easter. It’s great. A believer I know who lives in Europe was talking to a man who follows a different religion. The follower of Christ explained that he was fasting for Lent. The man replied, “I have never met a Christian who does that. Are there other Christians who fast and pray?”
There are a lot of us. The question I asked in my last post was, “Can you fast and pray and still not be heard by God? Can you give up everything but water and still not hear from God?” The answer is yes, you can fast for 40 days and not be heard by God. Why?
Here is the reason. In the text that follows God is talking to people in Israel, followers of God who lived before the time of Jesus. This is what He says:
2 They seek me day after day;
they want to know my requirements,
like a nation that does what is right
and does not reject the law of their God.
They ask me for just decrees;
they want to be near God.
3 They lament, ‘Why don’t you notice when we fast?
Why don’t you pay attention when we humble ourselves?’
Look, at the same time you fast, you satisfy your selfish desires,
you oppress your workers.
4 Look, your fasting is accompanied by arguments, brawls,
Do not fast as you do today,
trying to make your voice heard in heaven.
5 Is this really the kind of fasting I want?
Do I want a day when people merely humble themselves,
bowing their heads like a reed
and stretching out on sackcloth and ashes?
Is this really what you call a fast,
a day that is pleasing to the Lord?
6 No, this is the kind of fast I want.
I want you to remove the sinful chains,
to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke,
to set free the oppressed,
and to break every burdensome yoke.
7 I want you to share your food with the hungry
and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people.
When you see someone naked, clothe him!
Don’t turn your back on your own flesh and blood!
8 Then your light will shine like the sunrise;
your restoration will quickly arrive;
your godly behavior will go before you,
and the Lord’s splendor will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call out, and the Lord will respond;
you will cry out, and he will reply, ‘Here I am.’
You must remove the burdensome yoke from among you
and stop pointing fingers and speaking sinfully.
10 You must actively help the hungry
and feed the oppressed.
Then your light will dispel the darkness,
and your darkness will be transformed into noonday.(( Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006; 2006.))
So, God wants good behavior and fasting. It is not that God thinks we can live our lives without doing anything wrong. ((1John 1:9-10)) He does, however, want good behavior. Specifically in this passage He told them to stop their violence, “arguments, brawls, and fistfights.” He also talks about them pointing fingers and speaking sinfully. He tells them to help the hungry oppressed. That is the kind of good behavior that should accompany fasting and prayer.