Isaiah 57:15-58:14; Philippians 1:1-11; Psalms 71:17-24; Proverbs 18:1
OT: “Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord? Isn’t this the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard. At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer; when you cry out, he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday. The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water never runs dry. Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.” (Isaiah 58:5-12 CSB)
The Jewish people in Isaiah’s day were all about appearing righteous through doing things that would make them look spiritual and righteous. God had this against the descendants of Jacob: they pretended to seek God and said that they delighted to know His ways, yet in their religious practices they were not being godly and walking in true righteousness. One of the ways they were doing this was through their fasting. They, as many people still do, were using fasting as a means to move God… a way to gain leverage over God in order to get something good from Him in return. But in the midst of their fasting, they were treating people horribly and oppressing those who were beneath them. They couldn’t understand why their fast wasn’t working. That couldn’t understand why their fast wasn’t drawing God’s attention and bringing His blessing in their lives.
Through Isaiah, God explained what fasting is truly about. Fasting wasn’t established so that humanity would have a way to convince God to move. Fasting was established as a way to move humanity to humility. True fasting, when done in the right heart, will move us to humility before God and others, which then places us in a position to receive God’s blessing. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Many times in history, revival in the church has flowed out of times of sincere fasting – not because the fasting caused God to move – but because the sincere time of fasting caused the church to move into humility and get their hearts aligned to God’s righteousness. In the midst of a humble and righteous church, God will shower His grace and fan the flames of revival. That is what God was saying to the people in Isaiah’s day. If they truly wanted to see God move on their behalf and restore their blessed and favored status in the world, they needed to truly humble themselves and pursue righteousness through the type of fasting that the Lord was looking for.
NT: “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus… And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:6, 9-11 CSB)
The Epistle to the Philippian church was most likely written during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. The details around the founding of the church of Philippi can be found in Acts 16:12-40. This church in particular had a passion for God’s mission on the earth and was a consistent supporter of Paul’s ministry. Because of that, Paul’s friendship with the church in Philippi was closer than his friendship with any other church. This friendship can be seen in the opening verses of Philippians, as Paul thanked them for their fellowship and partnership in spreading the gospel.
Because of their steadfast faithfulness to the things of God in Christ, Paul was confident that God would continue transforming them from glory to glory unto completeness and maturity. The good work that the Lord began in them through their faith in Christ, would surely continue until the finish. One commentator put it this way: “salvation includes a threefold work: the work God does for us – salvation, the work God does in us – sanctification, the work God does through us – service.” As we continue to submit ourselves to the Lord in faith, He will continue to save us, sanctify us, and serve others through us until the day we see Christ face to face.
For that reason, Paul prayed that the believers in Philippi would keep growing in love – and their continued growth in the love of God would be manifested in both knowledge and discernment. Knowledge is the precise and correct knowledge of what is true and right. Discernment is the ability to know the difference between truth and a lie, or between what may seem right and what truly is right. Knowledge and discernment go hand in hand. We must know what truth is before we can discern between truth and lies. We must know what God’s righteousness is before we can discern between true righteousness and something that is pretending to be righteous. As we grow more and more in the love of God (love for God and His ways, and love for one another) our knowledge will grow, and thus our ability to discern will grow… and as our discernment grows, our knowledge sharpens. The reason that the Jews in Isaiah’s day completely missed the point of fasting was because they did not have a sincere love for God and His ways. Because they lacked in love, they missed out on the fruits of righteousness. However, if we continue to allow God to have His work in us and allow ourselves to grow in His love, we will be able to involve ourselves in those things that are superior, grow in purity and blamelessness, and fully experience the fruits of righteousness to the glory of God.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You are faithful to complete the work that You started in me. My part is to remain faithful to You and humbly allow You to work Your salvation, sanctification and service for me, in me, and through me. I humble myself before You and choose to walk in Your word and in the will and ways You have chosen for me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.