Monday, April 14, 2008

[Xanga] A true fast

I was just reading through Isaiah 58, and some interesting points about fasting, and sacrifice in general, really seemed to indict me.

This whole chapter is centred about God rebuking the people of Israel for not fasting with the right heart of repentance. The people of Israel "day after day" seek for God and "seem eager for God to come near them."

The Israelites seem to think that these observances and this heart of worship is what God desires; but, apparently, God doesn't think so. Verse 3 is Israel's lament to the Lord, saying that they have fasted - "we humbled ourselves... on the day of your fasting" - but yet God "do[es] as you please and exploit[s] all your workers".

In Verse 4, God responds that they have fundamentally misunderstood what it is to fast; he elucidates their mistaken conception in verse 5: they have been approaching a day of fasting as "only a day for a man to humble himself... only for bowing one's head... for lying on sackcloth".

This stands in stark contrast with verses 6 and 7, where God defines the sort of fasting he has chosen: "loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free... share your food with the hungry... when you see the naked, clothe him."

All of this brings to mind Hosea 6:6, where the prophet says "I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." The sacrifice of our lives which we offer up to God is not sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, but sacrifice for the sake of demonstrating Christ's mercy to us ("in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"). Offering up our lives is a fundamental part of sacrifice, but it is not, in itself, Sacrifice: for us to wholly lay down our lives, we must not only lay them down, but pick them up again and do the work of the Lord with what he has given us. Paul does not just say that "I no longer live"; no, rather, "Christ lives within me," and it is this that transforms him into a "living, holy and pleasing sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1). Anything less is a waste, falling far short of "a day acceptable to the LORD" (Is. 58:5).

Am I truly sacrificing my life, or merely squandering it in false humility and half-hearted repentance?

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