Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Afflicted Soul

All of my sisters are involved in some sort of church or religion and it has been interesting for me to hear each of their take on fasting. One sister told me she planned to fast from sweets. Another sister told me she fasted from meats, eating only specific foods. My oldest sister told me her husband went on a fast/diet eating only vegetable and drinking water for a month. Fasting sure has changed since I've left behind the "works" of church. How is it that fasting has morphed from eating nothing to eating particular foods?

In the beginning days of my walk in Him, I used to fast on a regular basis. Under a religious mind set I fasted to seek a closeness to Him. I fasted to hear Him. I sought answers to troubles I was facing at the time. Hoping to "move" Him by my humbleness. In light of my sisters' various versions of their fasting episodes, it has become all too clear to me why I no longer fast... quite simply...I don't need to.

Dumping my religious mind frame in the trash, I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind. The Holy Spirit has quickened what has been a lifeless soul apart from Him. I didn't "hear" Him then, I didn't understand what He "sounded" like. Now I understand His voice. I understand His timing. I understand His answers. I no longer fast to seek Him because I have drawn nigh unto the Lord. I have grown a relationship with the Lord, not a religion. My thoughts ARE my prayers and I continually work at conditioning my thoughts. Romans 7:25

I also recognize as a growing babe in His arms, I fasted with an agenda of what God could do for me. I was blessed to be led to Isaiah Chapter 58. It is clear in this chapter exactly what the Lord God desires for our agenda.

Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.

Isa 58:4
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.

Isa 58:5
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?

(rhetorical questions)

Isa 58:6
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?

Isa 58:7
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?

Isa 58:8
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. (as opposed the glory of self)

Isa 58:9
Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

Isa 58:10
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

Isa 58:11
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

Is 58:12
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

Isa 58:13

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

Isa 58:14
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

I absolutely had to keep most of the chapter intact. To separate one verse from another would be an injustice. The rhetorical questions, followed by HIS terms and conditions listed in this chapter are fascinating if not EYE-OPENING!

God first makes a point of saying behold in the day of your fast ye find pleasure and exact your labors (expectant of a reward)you fast for "strife and debate" in the 4th verse. Then He asks rhetorical questions, Is this the fast I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul. He makes a pointed rhetorical question, will YOU call this a fast and a acceptable day to the LORD?

He continues in the next verses to compare and contrast His previous rhetorical questions with this silent OR in the background ...is THIS the fast I have chosen, to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burden, to let the oppress go free, that ye (YOU) break every yoke?

He continues His rhetorical question contrast... is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry (feed the hungry), bring the poor that are cast out to thy (YOUR) house (hospitality), clothe the naked (service)?

The Lord finalizes His lesson. Stating "Then" which indicates the acceptable actions/agenda of a fast (verse 8) followed by the consequences of an acceptable fast. I have highlighted in bold and underlined the "IF/THEN conditions and the THEN/AND conditions in the scriptures for clear understanding.

The Lord makes it clear, fasting is NOT for a man to "afflict" his own soul, but to satisfy "the afflicted soul". Does this principle sound familiar? Kinda sounds "New Testament-y" to me.

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. - Romans 13:8

If this is true, the fulfillment of the law lies in loving one another, then why do we need to fast? The answer is, we don't...not from a physical standpoint anyhow. Fasting is a principle. It is a principle of self denial. But get this...it is a spiritual principle. It is a principle of denying or sacrificing your pleasure for the sake of others...not your own sake. Thus the point the Lord makes in verse 3 and 4 becomes clearer. I would encourage you to reread this chapter with the spiritual principle of fasting, I guarantee you it makes more sense from this perspective.

And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. - Luke 9:23


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