“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?”
– Isaiah 58:5
Guest Post by James Hill:
For most of my life as a professing Christian I had always thought fasting was a humbling of ourselves before God … until I read Isaiah 58 completely, and prayerfully sought to understand.
It was forty days ago that I woke one morning and realized I was on a fast. I had tried a few times earlier in the year but only went a day each attempt, but this time I knew God had decided to lead me in it. The previous year I had embarked on a fast that lasted forty days – drinking only liquids, water, coffee, diet soda, and the occasional French Vanilla. I didn’t really understand what I was seeking at that time, but God met me and opened my eyes to insights that helped me grow as a man – as His man. This year I knew what I wanted.
“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? 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 them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
– Isaiah 58:6-7
It occurred to me that God was not just speaking of loosing chains and yokes that bind others – He was also speaking of the chains and yokes that bind me. As my fast began God shone light on this passage within the first day or two. It was obvious to me that God had drawn me to the fast because I was successfully and enthusiastically moving forward, but it was also quickly obvious that freedom is what He wanted me to seek.
As the days passed I began to wonder what deep aspects of myself God would reveal that have kept me bound, unawares over the years. What mysteries deeply hidden within would God bring to the surface? I’m afraid I still often regard my Creator as some grande mysterious Sudoku that I can unravel if I just concentrate hard enough. Or that He is some omniscient psychologist Who will take me back to the hidden secrets of my past. Much of the world can and has influenced my thinking and perspectives in this respect. What He did eventually first reveal to me was, at first realization, more profound than I could have imagined because it had nothing to do with me … not really. Instead of probing the roots of my beginnings He shared with me the roots of His creation.
I realized two truths in His revelation:
- God created us perfectly.
- God’s original plan for us was perfectly designed.
At first this baffled me because I have always had difficulty resolving that the creation was perfect, yet we are advised that the world and the flesh are wicked.
God created us perfectly.
There was no flaw in His design of mankind. The human body is an amazing system of functions that interact with such complexity on an ongoing basis. And it is perfectly designed to be selfish. Yes, I said selfish – but not with the negative connotation we would automatically assume. When our bodies are injured they proceed to heal. If they are hungry we are compelled to feed them. When they tire we rest. The body is designed to be self-sustaining, to look after itself. Perfectly selfish, but without the taints of greed or lust or ambitions that our own hearts can add. Our body can hunger, but we can then decide we need more than it needs and seek to amass to ourselves more than enough. We can pervert that hunger into greed. Our bodies were never flawed, and never the problem. Our souls, tainted by perversion, are.
God’s original plan for us was perfectly designed.
Before God opened my ears and eyes to better understand, I thought our gaining the knowledge of good and evil was our ruin, but it was always God’s intention that we have that knowledge. It was a must for our perfectly designed ability to reason and choose. So did God intend for us to fall? I pondered this question with a friend one morning. He also wondered if God designed us to fail. Yet if our design was perfect and His plan was perfect, and this is the way it went – disobey, eat the fruit, cast out of the garden, death – then that must be His design? No. Emphatically, no! Man ate the fruit, disobeyed God and experienced that disobedience in order to become aware of good and evil. Yet if man refused to eat and obeyed God, man would have experienced obedience and again become aware of good and evil. God wanted us to have that knowledge through obedience. Our tainted souls chose otherwise.
This was a huge release for me to finally understand the perfection of our Creator and all that He does. That our fall is not a consequence of either His secret motives or fallibility. Our God is awesomely perfect!
This gave me much to consider going forward. And it was in the latter weeks and days of my fast that two thoughts were impressed upon me that I verified through God’s Word in Scripture.
- There is enough time … for everything.
- The last shall be first.
The first idea was impressed upon me early morning at the gym. Yes, God kept me strong and active during my fast 🙂 The second was impressed upon me in the last couple days, during the evening while listing to a radio ministry program.
There is enough time … for everything.
When this thought first rose up in my mind I was deeply impressed at how thoughts of immediacy and urgency faded before it. There is no reason to be anxious or concerned about anything, because there is enough time … for everything. I was, however, concerned because I could not recall any Scripture that said that same thing. I was worried I just made something up for myself, so I set to prayer and searching to understand.
“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.””
– Exodus 3:13,14
“‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I AM!'”
– John 8:57,58
I AM is the very present moment. And our God is omnipresent – everywhere at once, both in space and in time because He is not contained by either. If time were a straight line drawn on paper, then God is the paper it is drawn on. A thousand years ago God is present I AM, and a thousand years from now He is present I AM.
“I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
– Revelation 22:13
With such an awesome God Who is unlimited by space or time, and perfect in all His ways, how could anxiousness or fear stand before His way? Trust in Him means there is enough time … for everything.
The last shall be first.
I sat quietly in my van, listening to the radio. It was evening and I was considering how my fast was coming to an end. The inspirational program included a song about the first being last and the last being first. I could recall reading those words many times that our Lord spoke, and they were never so profound as they suddenly were in that moment. The last shall be first. I realized with such startling clarity that our Lord Jesus, for all intents and purposes, was always last. He never sought His own. He never argued to gain His own way. He never asserted Himself so that others would not take advantage. He put Himself last. If I argue with another over a parking spot, or a table at a cafe, or their noise at the library … I’m seeking my own. Trying to be first and only setting myself to the back instead. It’s turning my cheek, and taking the loss, conceding the parking spot or table; that is to put myself last and give the enemy nothing to work with. And God will honour me whenever I step out for His purpose. Jesus gave His life – any dreams or hopes or aspirations dying with Him. And now He has everything! God has my good in mind, so I should easily trust Him and stop trying to establish my own good. I do not have to fear, or to be anxious, or to entertain doubts. The awesome, perfect God Who is unlimited by space or time, seeks to honour and raise me up! Why worry?
The awesome, perfect God Who is unlimited by space or time, seeks to honour and raise me up!
And in this freedom God is preparing me to be of real use in His commitment to the well being of others. To help in their freedom from chains and yokes and to never be a cause of them.
James Hill, President and CEO of UserTutor Corporation, is a guest author sharing his experience in walking with Jesus Christ. This article is printed with James’ permission and our appreciation.