“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:Isaiah 58:6-7 NIV
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?
Fasting seems to be an uncommon practice, at least among believers that I am familiar with. And I suspect at least a part of the reason is that we really do not understand what purpose it serves as a spiritual discipline. We understand the need for prayer, Bible reading, worship, and fellowship; even if we do not always do them well. But what is the purpose of fasting?
I believe fasting can be useful in denying your own bodily appetites to focus instead instead on God. And that can be a useful practice that draws one closer to God. But I have found it takes a lot of discipline. Not to avoid the food. But to stay focused on God during that period. But, again, it is well worth it.
In this passage Isaiah shares a different kind of fasting. One I believe we could all easily practice. It involves self denial. But rather than for meditative purposes, it is so that I can give. The fasting Isaiah is talking about is taking what you would ordinarily spend on yourself and giving it to those who are in need. To use my fasting to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe the naked. For example, rather than going out to eat, buy a gift card from the restaurant and give it to a homeless person. According to Isaiah, that is the kind of fasting God has chosen.