The True Fast

By: Joseph H. Murray

   “Wherefore have ye 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. 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. 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? 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 [or kindred]? 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 [or your protection from behind]. 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, [or false accusing and blaming others for your troubles], and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry [spiritually hungry], and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: 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” (Isaiah 58:3–11).

   The art of fasting is not carried out in its true manner, nor is it portrayed in abstaining from eating food, as the disciples of John did, and the Pharisees, for had it been the fast that God gave honor to, John and his disciples could have done the works that Jesus did. But it’s written in the Scripture that John did no miracle.

   After Jesus’ disciples had failed to cast the devil out of the possessed boy, they asked Jesus, “Why could not we cast him out?” (Mark 9:28). Jesus answered them, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (v:29).

   To be in a true fast is to be feasting on a service to mankind – this means that you cease from rejoicing and get under the burden of others, that they can be delivered and also join those who are rejoicing in God’s blessings – through a divine inspiration and a call from God, who makes us able servants of His. Remember when Jesus’ disciples came and found Him in conversation with the woman at the well, they said, “Master, eat” (John 4:31). “But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (verse 32).

   “Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, my meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:33–34). The true fast, which we see as a concern for our fellow man, undoubtedly, will cause us to forget the natural food that is needful for our physical strength, but to do that for any selfish reason or benefit will not be honored by God, even though we receive a physical benefit from abstaining from food.

   A fast is to abstain from feasting – a natural fast is to abstain from eating food or to refrain from any habit or any custom we have and practice for the gratification of the flesh. A spiritual fast, and the one that pleases God, is to refrain from shouting and feasting on the blessings of God long enough to feel the pulse of God’s church and find out why there is so much sin, sickness and sorrow among God’s people, and not only feel it out but get under the load and help relieve the children of God who are not as fortunate as those who are free and feasting on His blessings.

   The harvest is plenteous, the faster few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth fasters into the harvest.

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