Recently I was led of the Lord to go on a fast – a three-day fast. I’m not sure why three days, but in the Word of God some pretty interesting things happened in a span of three days: Queen Esther called a three-day fast among the Jews throughout Susa before she approached the king about Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jewish nation; after Moses’ death, Joshua instructed the people to prepare themselves because within three days they would cross the Jordan; it took King Jehoshaphat and his army three days to collect the spoil left behind by their now-dead enemies, and of course, Jesus’ resurrection occurred after He lay three days in the grave (Esther 3:6, Joshua 1:11, 2 Chronicles 20:25, .Mark 8:31).
No matter the duration of my fast, the scripture I meditate on is Isaiah 58. Beginning around verse 6 we are taught the right and wrong ways to fast. God, through the prophet Isaiah, teaches us about freedom from bondage, our darkness being turned to light, speedy recovery, and yes, giving. It was during this most recent fast that God opened up this chapter to me in a fresh, new way and I discovered some striking similarities between worship and fasting.
Both worship and fasting involve sacrifice; we give up something. While fasting, we usually deny ourselves that natural human desire for food and/or drink. In worship we give up traditionalism and ritualistic behavior (or we should) in order to look on the face of God and behold His glory. Something else we should give up forever in our private times of worship is an unforgiving spirit. In times of private or corporate worship, we give up all those things that would serve as distractions, so that we can totally focus on ministering to the Lord. Worship is not of our flesh; our times of worship should be Spirit-led and Spirit-controlled, as should be our times of fasting.
In verses 6 and 9 we learn that God wants to see every yoke broken from our lives. He notes very specifically certain human behaviors that should not be found in us if we want yokes broken. I found it interesting that the word “yoke” is mentioned three times in this chapter. I believe God was really trying to make a point here. A yoke is anything that binds us; it is a negative stronghold that stands between us and a deeper fellowship with the Lord. When we enter into worship, be it public or private, we may come with bondages, but we should leave without them. One of the benefits that Jesus’ shed blood affords us is total freedom; freedom to praise, freedom to approach His throne, and freedom to enter the holy place (Hebrews 10:19). Leaving those things that bind us at the foot of Jesus takes courage. True, Spirit-led worship is a faith builder. Worship raises our perspective; and so does fasting when we submit ourselves to it. God will show us new revelations of Himself. As we fix our gaze on Him, we are only able to glance at the trouble we are currently facing.
Worship is a matter of the heart, as is fasting. The Word of God tells us that only those who have clean hands and a pure heart can enter into His holy hill (Psalm 24:4). In verses 7, 8, and 10 of Isaiah 58 we see that one of the evidences of a proper fast is giving. It is sharing food, shelter, and clothing with those in need of these things. I found it very interesting in this passage that the prophet shows us the benefits that flow to us as a result of our giving. In verses 8 and 10 he says, “Then your light will break out like the dawn”; and “Then your light will rise in darkness, And your gloom will become like midday”. In this particular passage, the word “light” denotes clarity of vision, or to put it another way, clarity of purpose. God knows the real from the unreal. He knows whether our worship is according to His Spirit and His truth. He knows whether we are giving willingly or grudgingly.
Verse 8 of this passage also mentions speedy recovery. During my time of fasting I was dealing with a painful issue, and I knew my deliverance would come as a result of fasting, prayer, and meditation on God’s Word. My deliverance did come as I trusted God, and I emerged from my time of fasting with a fresh perspective and a new determination toward my purpose. Be it physical, emotional, or even spiritual, sometimes even the best-prepared soldiers get wounded in the battle.
Both fasting and worship require self-examination. David teaches us in Psalm 51:6 that God desires truth in the innermost being. When we bow low before a holy God it is His perfect beauty and holiness next to our ugliness. This is one reason some people have problems with worship on both corporate and private levels. When we decide to really worship God, He will expose our true selves. This is hard for human nature to accept. Whether we want to face it or not, our lives are already open books before God. He is the One who searches the hearts, and knows every imagination of the thoughts. We, however, do not always remember that God is a loving Father, who loves us in spite of ourselves, yet He has called us to worship Him (John 4:23-24).
We must understand that when God exposes us He does so with the purpose in mind of fine tuning us that we may accomplish greater things for His glory.
Donna Renay Patrick is the founder of WORDshop Ministries based in Lewisville, Texas and a frequent contributor to BlackandChristian.com. The focus of this Word-based teaching ministry is to help God's people understand the true meanings of praise and worship, and how this knowledge impacts our spiritual walk. Visit her website at http://www.wordshopministries.com.
© 2004 BlackandChristian.com. This article used by permission.