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The Purpose of Fasting

Isaiah 58:6-9

This week I tried to create a thematic consistency among the days of the week by showing “pictures of the Kingdom.”  While that was a good idea, it automatically eliminated some passages from fitting in.  There was one passage that really jumped out at me on my first read through; Isaiah 58:6-9.

The intention of this passage was not to be a comprehensive instruction on the purpose of fasting, but in the process of critiquing the Jews’ fasting practices, Isaiah gives us some great insights into it.

The first observation is that fasting was a common practice, even if they weren’t doing it right, they were still doing it.

Second, notice the bold-faced phrases and see what the real purposes, according to Isaiah, are for fasting.

6 “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?

7 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 him,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

and your healing will quickly appear;

We tend to think of fasting as something we do for ourselves (of course we do, we are self-centered, spoiled rotten Americans).  According to Isaiah, the purpose of fasting is to stop stuffing your face and take a minute to see the plight of the people around you.

How appropriate for us.  We spend so much energy worrying about what we have and managing our assets, when the majority of the world around us has nothing.  If we would fast from our pleasure-seeking, self-indulgant, creature-comfort-saturated lifestyle that we dare to call Christianity, and look around us at the rest of the world, I think we might have a rude awakening.

I received an email this week that is very appropriate for this discussion.  I very rarealy read forwarded emails, but for some reason felt compelled to read this one.  I cannot vouch for its statistical accuracy, nor do I know its source.  However, I believe it to be accurate enough, based upon my other studies, to be worth submitting for your review.

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north  and south
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be non-white
30 would be white

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian

89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.

80 would live in substandard housing

70 would be unable to read

50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth

1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education

1 would own a computer

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.

The following is also something to ponder…

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness…you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation…you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death…you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep…you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace … you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are still alive and still married… you are very rare, even in the United States and Canada.

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