Isaiah 58:6-9 says, “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.”
OK, just to be clear about this, we didn’t exactly feed 5,000 people.
OK, nor did we do it with loaves and fishes.
When the prophet Isaiah was speaking the Word of the Lord, the people of Israel were not worshiping and fasting in order to please God, but to promote their own agenda. They were going through the motions of worship and fasting. They weren’t honoring God in their actions. God shot back with an angry note about true fasting and true worship, one where he is the center of everything. He envisions a world where his followers don’t just show up on Sunday mornings for the sake of being seen, but show up in order to honor God and love neighbors.
While we didn’t hand out clothes to the naked or break anyone out of jail, we did spend a few hours at our local food bank. In our defense, even God didn’t do it all in one day. Curtis and I manned the frozen food sections and handed out cat treats to those with cats. (Yeah….I know…..nothing in there about feeding cats, either. And I looked!) Sophie and her friend Bailey (who tagged along), were up front, handing out cheese, bread, and fresh vegetables from someone’s garden.
We met and talked to some of those neighbors that we rarely see. We won’t see them sitting beside us in our pews on Sunday. We won’t meet them in the grocery store. But they are neighbors none the less. Curtis met a nice older lady who just had open heart surgery three weeks ago. She was very grateful “to such a nice young man” who helped her to her car and loaded her groceries for her. One man had “driven” a couple of miles across town in his wheelchair. It took me and Curtis to load him up so that he could make it back across town without losing half his food. I’m still not sure how he made it home with the ice cream sandwiches!
God made some amazing promises in those verses. Pretty soon, my light will break forth and my healing will appear. Righteousness will go before me, and God himself will have my back. I’m not sure what all these promises look like in real time, but I have no doubt of their reality.
Unless, of course, God really does want me to fast.
In that case, I’m in trouble.