The historic echo chamber of fleshly wisdom of the world has and continues to unveil man’s utter foolishness to address the substantive conflicts of each subsequent day to provide everlasting results. Man’s search for worldly salvation and peace always quickly turns into individual, partisan, or national self discovery. Moreover, religious groupthink is so malleable. Religion is simply fleshly wisdom masquerading with disfigured faces for a mask and piety as its garb. Whether it be unmasked or not, fleshly wisdom’s sum is division, destruction, and dissolve. The antidote – “fasting”.
The Bible reveals various kinds of fasting, yet fundamentally fasting is deprivation. God’s fast is deprivation with purpose. There is willful and forced fasting. Forced fasting results from suffering and persecution (2 Cor. 11:27). Willful fasting, beyond proposed health benefits, is typically known as religious fasting. The willful forfeiture of food, drink, or some pleasure is the basic tenet of religious fasting. Christian fasting has its own cause and goal. The cause – God’s Word. The goal – to learn more of our continued dependency in Christ. In general, the cause and goal are noble. I agree with the cause; however, does the goal meet God’s fast? Before we get to that let’s briefly discuss causes and goals of fasting that come short of the aforementioned measure of nobility.
During the Lord’s earthly ministry, in His foundational sermon on the mount, Christ provided doctrine to the multitudes as rain from heaven and as distilling effects of dew (Deut. 32:2). Christ’s authoritative doctrine (Matt. 7:28-29) was the wisdom from above (Jas 3:17). Why was this wisdom from above? First, it is Christ that cometh from above, from heaven (Jn. 3:31). Jesus, although made of a woman (Gal. 4:4; Isa. 7:14) in no uncertain terms proclaimed, “…I am from above…I am not of this world” (Jn. 8:23). Secondly, Jesus Christ is the Word (John 1:1). He is that wisdom “set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was” (Pro. 8:23). Christ always was and was from ever the earth was, therefore, wisdom from before the earth was is the wisdom from above. Moreover, Christ’s sermon exposed the leaven of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:11) with all its filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness (Jas. 1:21). Christ’s sermon was the commencement of His public ministry with the engrafted word. One of the issues the Lord corrected was the Pharisees fasting (Matt. 6:16-18).
Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees fasting. The cause of their fasting was – self. The goal – the reward of public approbation. The Pharisees wanted to be seen of men. According to Jesus in Matthew 6:16 the Pharisees “disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.” They weren’t even depriving themselves. They simply put on a shew and a fair shew of the flesh it was. Temporal reward by their fellow man. The height of their fasting had reach a new low. Their fast no longer met the criteria of their fathers that Isaiah indicted back in his day.
“Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.”
Their self affliction for the commendation of men, worthy to be judged, was not only reproved, but corrected in rhetorical fashion.
“Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?”
Isaiah 58 is paramount to the Son of God providing correction of the doctrine of the Pharisees concerning the fast, to unshackle and loose the fast from their false doctrinal grip, and proclaim God’s fast in line with Isaiah 58. The Lord as recorded in the rest of Matthew 6:16-18, but also the rest of the chapter will teach us how to view riches, possessions, and goods. All of it taught on the backdrop of discussing the fast. Such teaching freed them from hoarding their possessions, freed them from their ungodly carefulness in serving mammon. All of this put together would be the foundation to teach God’s fast as detailed in Isaiah 58:6-8
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
The chosen fast of God isn’t to be mistaken with the willful, but ungodly religious fast. I suggest to you that God’s fast is willful, but isn’t that of learning more of your dependency in Christ, but rather a shewing of your dependency in Christ. What does that mean? God’s fast is particular and not a time of learning through knowledge and self-experience or self-deprivation. God’s fast is particular for a time of proving what you are to already know through selfless-experience and selfless-deprivation that leads to selfless-help. God’s fast is gospel. God’s fast is grace. God’s fast is charity. Consider 2 Corinthians 8:9,
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
God’s people whether believing Israel in time past and in the time to come, or the body of Christ today are called to this fast. The Body of Christ is called to condescend to men of low estate, not just think of our own things, but esteem the things of others more highly than our own. God’s fast isn’t simply a readiness of the will, but a performance of God’s grace understood to those in need.
We are to loose, undo, free, and break the burdens, bands, and yoke of the oppressed. Although their are many lines of oppression today some are fabricated. These lines need the discerning eye from God’s Word to see if such lines are actually fault lines that shift and move and not the stable lines revealed in God’s Word. Nonetheless, oppression looks different and comes from various sources; however, sin is the greatest oppressor of them all. We are to fast. We do so by proclaiming the gospel that offers the forgiveness of sins to those dead in their sins. We do so in the church by restoring one in a fault. We do so in the world by abhorring evil and being given to hospitality. We do so by bearing burdens, not pleasing ourselves, but having their reproaches fall on us and so fulfill the law of Christ. We do so by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
We are to deal, bring, see, and cover the hungry, poor, and naked. We do so as if we nourished and cherished our own flesh. We are not to hide from these people and even if our enemy hunger we feed them, if they thirst we give them drink. We shine as lights to them, to, in effect, enlighten their heart by deed, to prime the heart for the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ that shines in dark hearts when we marry those deeds to the utterance of the word of His gospel.
A Call For God’s Fast
While the church, especially the American church, attempts to use the perverse and crooked nations with their corrupt policies to change the nation and the world, we are called to God’s fast. When the church uses the institutions of God that God didn’t mandate His people to run, especially in this dispensation of grace when He isn’t nation building, but body building (that is, the body of Christ), the church subjects itself to an institution; thus binding itself to something that it isn’t by God. The church is itself an institution of God needing no foreign or domestic policies as it adheres to heavenly mandates. Just as the typical Christian that fasts does so to learn dependency on Christ by engaging in a self-experience, so is the political Christian that fights against an ungodly government to do godly things. Neither provide substantive benefits. Each is delaying what we ought to be doing already.
Do we need the government and legislature to participate in God’s fast? Do we need proper democracy to walk charitably? Do we need the republic to abound in well-doing? Do we need the constitution to freely proclaim the gospel? The church of God must open its eyes and do God’s business and not the business of country and countrymen. We have a calling revealed not from the inspiration of the pen of numerous John Hancock’s back in 1776, but from the inspiration of the Spirit through the pen of apostles and prophets canonized in the ancient scriptures. We have provision and freedom not granted to us a few hundred years ago on July 4th contained in amendments, but granted to us a couple thousand years ago on Calvary contained in the teaching of grace.
Bond or free we are called to fast, called to use our liberty in Christ by love serving one another. As much as I am thankful for temporary, earthly freedom maybe its time we stop fighting for it, lay down those arms and start fighting the good fight of faith, pick up the sharp sword of the Spirit. Are we wasting our time fighting for something we ultimately are not dependent upon to carry out God’s fast? Is it the job of the crooked and perverse government via the say of the children of wrath to fulfill God’s fast? Or is it the calling of the church through love of Christ constrainment to fulfill it? Will all our energy to save a nation amount to God’s intended result? Or is their a better way, a more excellent way to spend our energy, to labor with God in His business, His operations, His will, and His purpose? I suggest to you and implore you He needs not the government, but has called His church in spite of government to be faithful stewards of His things.
Is it possible that we fight to save a nation because we deem it easier to do God’s good works with it? This is a thought only derived from Democracy. A thought that needs to be taken captive to the obedience of Christ and not justified by man’s use of God and the Bible in human government. Have we become dependent upon it to educated our children, to direct the masses of our morality through law, knowing that the law is weak through the flesh, surely human laws cannot bring about righteousness? Yet, has God promised for it to be easy? I declare He promised the exact opposite, that is, we would suffer. Do we cherish something that a nation gave us that God never did – freedom from suffering, freedom from tyranny? Do you have a verse for that? Do we fight and worry for something not given by God – freedom from suffering? Are we found fighting against God? Are we bypassing His fast which He has given to us for something He hasn’t – freedom from suffering? What does this say about us in view of His Word? What does this say about what we think about suffering, this life, our hope, the God of all comfort? Moreover, what does this say about us actually keeping God’s fast? If we fight for something that we are not told to fight for, will we fight for something we are supposed to fight for? Truly, the good soldier of Jesus Christ doesn’t get entangled in the affairs of this life. Do you know the affairs of this life to the affairs of the life to come, those that will last forever, those which God’s fast has us engage in?
Share the gospel, distribute to necessities, bear burdens, abhor evil, cleave to good, overcome evil with good, live quietly, live peaceably, walk in the good works ordained before the world to our glory, all of which do not need the approbation of men. Earthly freedom is only as good as godliness fulfills it and godliness doesn’t need it in order to be fulfilled. Therefore, earthly freedom isn’t the greater, but the lesser, godliness is the greater, profitable unto all things. With sober mind may we engage in the affairs of the life to come now, then we will be found waiting for Him and for Him to do what only He can do, that is, save the world. It’s time we start participating in God’s fast.
Josh Strelecki, Pastor-Teacher