Today marks the end of my 21-day Daniel fast, based on Daniel's life as recorded in the Bible:
Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet.
“Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see.”
The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables. (Daniel 1: 8-16)
Along with a few friends, I started my fast on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Basically I ate only things that come from plants - vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. I did not consume anything that comes from animals - meat, milk, eggs, cheese, etc. I also had no sweeteners, no caffeine, and no leavened bread.
We know from Matthew, chapter four, that Jesus fasted. Guess what? If we're a follower of his, then he also fully expects us to fast. This spiritual discipline is included in a list of three acts of righteousness in Matthew, chapter six: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. He said, 'When you give to the needy... when you pray... and when you fast.'
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However, Isaiah chapter 58, speaks of a different type of fasting. God calls it a true fast.
This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
- to break the chains of injustice,
- get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
- free the oppressed,
- cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
- sharing your food with the hungry,
- inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
- putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
- being available to your own families.
The book of Isaiah speaks a lot about justice:
- The Lord is a God of justice. (30:18)
- Maintain justice and do what is right. (56:1)
- We look for justice but find none. The Lord was displeased that there was no justice. (59:11, 15)
- I, the Lord, love justice. (61:9)
In fact, the theme of justice and doing what is right, is found throughout the entire scriptures:
- Keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Genesis 18:19
- David did what was right and just for all his people. 2 Samuel 8:15
- The proverbs of Solomon are for... doing what is right and just and fair. Proverbs 1:1-3
- To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3
- Josiah did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy. Is that not what it means to know me? Jeremiah 22:15-16
- Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Ezekiel 45:9
- What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
- I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against... those who oppress the widows and fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice. Malachi 3:5
- Jesus: "You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God's love." Luke 11:42 (Message)
A few more related scriptures:
- For I desire mercy. Hosea 6:6
- Religion that God the father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
- Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13
For the past sixteen years, I've been doing a variety of fasts as a spiritual discipline; I will likely continue to do so throughout my life.
But I will also follow the true fast, as laid out by God.
I will share my bread with the hungry and open my home to the homeless poor. My life will be characterized by removing the yolk of injustice and letting the oppressed go free.
Like Josiah, my aim is to do what is right and just. I shall defend the cause of the poor and needy.
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Do you fast?
If so, what kind - a fast centered around food for the physical body? Or maybe you've chosen to give up something non-food related for Lent - such as TV, the internet, etc. Either of these types of fasts are excellent ideas.
However... the question I want to leave with you is -
Do you regularly participate in what God calls a 'true fast' as described in Isaiah, chapter 58?
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Note: both images taken from internet