“Soul Fasting” (Part Two)

“SOUL FASTING” or “TRUE FASTING” (Part One continued) :

CONTINUING in Jeremiah 58 verses 6-7 (NIV).

[6]  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?  [7] 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 him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood? 

With the title, as The WORD Detective, I like to break down sentence structures in the Bible while I study and meditate on God’s Word for a perspective blog-POST.  Verse 6 & 7 is but one example.

INFINITIVE VERBS–

An infinitive verb is a verb with the word “to” in front of it (eg. “to loose”, “to set”, “to share”, etc.) showing action.  (See Footnote [i])

In Verses 6 and 7, I learned through and by my investigation, the importance of TRUE FASTING and the desired outcomes of my actions.  Yes, there should always be an outcome from FASTING!

My whole outlook into God’s desires  has changed my point of view towards the practice of FASTING.  Not of my desires, or the churches desires, or someone elses, but God’s desire through my fasting can and will be accomplished.

We cannot be saved by deeds of service without FAITH IN CHRIST; but our faith lacks sincerity if it does reach out in compassion.

The PURPOSE of Soul Fasting–

The FOUR INFINITIVE VERBS in Verses 6 & 7, all pertain to LIBERATION.  God says He wants our service to go beyond our own personal growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity.  FASTING should be more than what we don’t eat.  It is obvious that this type of FAST is not a ritualistic one but for spiritual strength, bringing liberation to God’s people (the Church).

Have you ever felt “liberated” after you’ve fasted? The few times that I have fasted, LIBERATION never entered my mind.  Counting the hours so I could end my fast was all that I desired.

THE FIRST DESIRE OR PURPOSE–

The first desire of “soul fasting,” which honors God, is to loosen the bonds of wickedness (“chains of injustice”); while in our FASTING, that God would open the wicked bonds that have been placed upon you or someone else or a congregation.

Unchain the binding yoke
Unchain the binding yoke

The SECOND CLAUSE, to “untie the cords” or undo the bonds of the yoke, indicates the people who are mutually beneficial to one another, are to FAST that this oppressive yoke of burden, misguidance or direction over us is broken.

God tells His people, “If you want to FAST the way that pleases Me, start getting right with your brothers and sisters that sit next to you, in front of you, and across the aisle from you every Sunday.”  [“I don’t smoke and I don’t chew. And I don’t associate with people who do!”].

The NEXT CLAUSE, to let the oppressed go free while we are FASTING; to pray for those who are oppressed in whatever form (socially, culturally), will be set free to serve God.

The statement “break every yoke” pictures the complete destruction of the means of oppression.  Those who are then freed by God can then spread the freedom to others.

The results of “soul fasting”, pursues and continues in VERSE 7

Not only does it require God’s POWER to enact justice, it also enacts God’s POWER to enact FAVOR, BLESSING, BENEVOLENCE to those around us.

“NO NEGLECT HERE!”

God’s people were not to neglect each other.  When someone shared with one in need, it was a reminder of everything one owned belonged to the LORD.

FASTING THAT CHANGES THE HEART:

“SOUL FASTING” changes the heart and make it compassionate.

“YOU” is singular.  The statements in VERSE 7 are directed to each person, to each of us.

Notice that you are to DIVIDE YOUR BREAD with the hungry of the same food that you are eating.  We must deny ourselves, that we may SHARE with that person that’s hungry.

stock-photo-breaking-bread-close-up-180998312
Dividing your BREAD with the hungry

Second, you and I are to provide lodging to those that do not have a house–provide shelter for the cast out poor, forced from his/her dwelling, turned out of house and home.

Third, we are to provide clothing for those who lack them.  “OUR OWN FLESH” probably refers to close relatives (Gen. 37:27).  God expects us to see the situation of our family and to take care of them.

My son once told my wife and I, that in our old age, if we can’t take care of ourselves, we could come and live at his house.  Now I don’t know how our daughter-in-law feels about that proposed idea, but the compassion of family is there.

God’s people SHARE with those who lack the basic needs of life.  Those who know in their own lives the compassionate blessing He brings, should in turn extend it to others.

These acts on behalf of others becomes the outward evidence of inward faith and righteousness (Job 31:17-20; Ezek. 18:7, 16).  JESUS identified with the hungry and naked (Mt. 25:36).

“TRUE FASTING” is to be concerned with more than our physical and spiritual benefits.  God wants us to go beyond concern of our own spiritual growth.

“SOUL FASTING” is more than NOT eating.  It is the emptying of SELF in order to find what we need in Christ Jesus, in order to please God with word and deed.

THE PRECIOUS PROMISE, Verses 8-12:

VERSE 8 begins to set forth some BLESSINGS upon a life that becomes right with God:

“Then your LIGHT will break forth like the dawn, and your HEALING will quickly appear; then your RIGHTEOUSNESS will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard” (NIV).

God offers PRECIOUS PROMISES for those who FAST in TRUTH--“Soul Fast”.  To be changed and have the situation changed to those in need of change.

God wants me to know that He will honor those who TRULY FAST in order to honor Him.

FOUR BLESSINGS ARE PROMISED–

LIGHT, HEALING, GUIDANCE and PROTECTION.

I don’t know about you, my desire is to have these four blessings in my life.  It’s not a wish, but a PROMISE to us who observe the TRUE FAST.

The FIRST PROMISE of LIGHT that comes is when we are focusing our life on SELF, resulting in DARKNESS.  Unless JESUS is the center of our interest, LIFE, in and of itself, is heading towards darkness.

The next BLESSING is…your recovery will speedily spring forth.  This recovery indicates to us HEALING or RESTORATION when unconstrained speed of LIGHT is accentuated.

The peoples RIGHT BEHAVIOR causes the righteousness of God to protect and guide them on their way.

The Advance Guard and the Rear Guard is in Place–

As the advance guard and the rear guard provide protection, so the RIGHTEOUSNESS and the GLORY OF GOD (revealed in the manifested presence), will guard against whatever came against God’s people.

Thus, REPENTANT people are surrounded by divine protection.

If the people had inner RIGHTEOUSNESS (revealed in outward acts of justice and mercy, vv 6 & 7), then…the LORD would BLESS them (Deut. 28:1-14) with LIGHT, HEALING (spiritual restoration), RIGHTEOUSNESS (high standards), and PROTECTION from trouble.

OTHER CONDITIONAL PROMISES, Verse 9:

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say; Here am I.

Under these conditions, the FAITHFUL BELIEVER could call upon God and expect answered prayer.

They had been trying to use God while at the same time, oppressing the weak and needy.  God thus was holding back His response (the COMPLAINT of vv. 1-3).

Selfish Religious Activity…

Our “selfish religious activity” will certainly have a hindrance to our PRAYERS (59:1-2).  God is ACTIVE for His people when they are ACTIVE for others.

Other Problematic Areas, (Verse 9 b.)–

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk.

The FIRST of the problematic concern is the need to remove the yoke.

Pointing a finger of accusation and blame at another or gossiping maliciously (speaking wickedness) about another is SINFUL and it pushes God away from the accuser–the one who is doing the “finger-pointing”.

Having a critical spirit towards others during my life has been a spiritual burden over the past years.  All my “trying not to…” hasn’t worked.  So when these feelings overcome me today; criticizing others and pointing a finger, I REPENT, letting the POWER OF JESUS who is inside of me, live through me.

The Conditions for the BLESSING to continue, Verse 12:

Living as a BUBBLING SPRING!
Living as a BUBBLING SPRING!

And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the DESIRE of the afflicted, then your LIGHT will standout in the darkness of your gloom as midday.

In verses 11 & 12, the BLESSINGS are continued:  Our LORD promises GUIDANCE, SATISFACTION, STRENGTH, and REFRESHING (like a spring).

Oh, to be GUIDED continually by God through the decisions of life; to be SATISFIED  when the world around us is on fire with thirst.

To be PLEASING and ATTRACTIVE like a well-watered garden to those around us.

To be FOUNTAINS OF JOY and COMFORT to the dry and weary soul around us.

All this and more for fulfilling certain conditions God gives us through the prophet.

And, there is even more, Verse 12.

RESTORATION and the REBUILDING of the RUINS OF MAN–

God promises to His compassionate people, that RUIN and DESTRUCTION can be overcome from His Blessed People.

Though the SIN of the fallen race eventually destroys everything it touches, God is greater than our sin.  He gives us the POWER to restore and repair what has been ruined (friendships, family, new relationships, etc.).  [See Footnote [ii]].  Oh, to be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets where people dwell.  God will enable us to put back together that which was ruined and broken.

To Fast or Not to Fast?

I hope that you just might have a better understanding of the FASTING pleases God.  The TRUE FAST, the “Soul Fast”.  So ask yourself before you deny yourself food, and that is what the Hebrew word som means: “abstaining from food and drink in the ritual sphere of Israelite worship.” [See Footnote [iii]].  Remember, JESUS own “FASTING” in the wilderness prior to the beginning of His public ministry is noted in Matt. 4:2. 

So the question isn’t “To fast, or not”, but what is the condition of our heart, mind and spirit (our souls) before, during, and after we FAST?

 

FOOTNOTES:

[i]     http://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/infinitive_html.

[ii]   Oswalt, NIC, 507.

[iii]  Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words.

Photo Credits:

All from Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nehemiah: Healing Brokenness–Never Give Up!

Never Giving Up!

Nehemiah 4:14-23  (NIV Translation):

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.  The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall.  Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.  But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there.  Our God will fight for us!”

So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.  At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.”  Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Samuel Smiles was a political advocate in Scotland in 1837.  As my investigation began this week, I ran across the following quotation of Doctor Smiles:

“The battle of life is, in most cases fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor.  If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to achieve.”

Looking back over my life, I have been in certain circumstances (uphill battles)–reaching a point where I was ready to throw in the towel and give up.  We sometimes become so tired and frustrated in ‘fighting the battle’, we get exhausted and feel like there’s no use in continuing to even try.

Whether it’s a job, a relationship, health related problems, school, trying to lose weight, etc…we sometimes just don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.  We would rather just quit the whole process–the FIGHT.  Have you been there before?

And then someone comes up to you, who doesn’t know where you’ve been or what you are going through and asks:  “How have things been going with you and your family lately?”

And you answer, “Well, it’s been an uphill battle of late.  How about you?”

Their answer is often the same as yours, “an uphill battle” or they don’t realize in the slightest that you are going through stress and pain; they smile and say something like  “Well, nice seeing you again.  Say hello to your wife/husband for me.”

WHAT ARE THE “BATTLES” WE FACE?

“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people,  “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes”  (Nehemiah 4:14).

1.  WE BATTLE FEAR AND ANXIETY:

Remember the Lord and focus our thoughts on Him in our circumstances no matter what they are:

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him”  (Nahum 1:7).

The presence and peace of God comes when we put Him in the middle of our circumstances and issues of life.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 4:6-7).

When my wife went through breast cancer several years ago, we of course were both anxious in the outcome of surgery and radiation.  We both used the above verse in our quiet times and confessed the words verbally to one another.  Did anxiety completely disappear?  No, it didn’t but…the peace of God, which transcends–goes beyond understanding, gave us PEACE; guarded our hearts, minds and soul.  We were that confident because God said so; His Word promises that our hearts and minds will be guarded against the attacks of anxiousness, fear, and doubt.

ANXIETY and FEAR causes us to ignore the God of possibilities or potential:

FEAR can force believers into re-activity, disastrous and concrete thinking:

*  Pushes us from God.

*  Injures our trust in God’s deliverance.

*  Avoids healthy spiritual disciplines.

*  Distracts us from our faith.

*  Chooses circumstance-centerness.

There is an answer…but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.

2.  WE BATTLE ISOLATION:

“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.  The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall.  Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other,”  (Nehemiah 4:16-17).

I LOVE THIS!  Each builder had a TROWEL in one hand in which to build, the other hand carried a sword to defend himself.  These two weapons or instruments should be in the hands of believers today, and carried always.  There is nothing like preparedness before we are faced with difficult circumstances that will come our way.  And yes, they will come your way!

The Trowel–

The TROWEL represents the fact that believers should build themselves up in the FAITH.  I disagree with folks who say that when a person is first saved (“born again”), they should immediately jump in the body and start serving.  I don’t think new converts to Christianity should be used to quickly in the ministry.

THE FIRST NEED is to learn by experience that Jesus saves and keeps and satisfies.  It’s wonderful to hear So-and-So was saved Sunday morning or last week; but let us hear from that person a year or two from today to see if they have been BUILT UP in THE FAITH (“discipleship”).

The Sword–

We need to hold the SWORD of the Spirit: the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God where we defend ourselves.  We need the TROWEL in one hand and the SWORD in the other.

3.  WE BATTLE INDEPENDENCE:

I Thessalonians 5:11:

“THEREFORE encourage one another and build each other up…”

Standing there at the wall with a trowel full of mortar is going to BUILD UP anything that is broken.  You have to work at it and not all by yourself!

4.  WE BATTLE IGNORANCE OF GOD’S WORD:

Psalm 119:19:

“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So, how then are we going to WIN THE BATTLE?

BY FIGHTING WITH OUR GOD–remember that our God fights for us:

Romans 8:31:

“If God is for us, who [can be] against us?  [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?]”  (Amplified Bible).

Joshua 23:10-11:

“One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord you God fights for you, just as He promised.  So be very careful to love the Lord your God”  (NIV Bible).

2 Timothy 1:7:

“God doesn’t want us to be shy with His gifts, but bold and loving and sensible”  (The Message Bible).

WE HAVE POWER: (dunamus)-

“DUNAMUS”, the Greek word for power can be translated into the English language as “dynamite; explosive power”–strength, power, ability–

–  power for performing miracles.

–  power for maintaining purity.

–  power and resources to use in the Assembly (the Church).

–  power to overcome in anything we face in life!

John 14:27:

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”  (NIV Bible).

Isaiah 43:1-2:

But now, this is what the Lord says–he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

What I like to do when I’m going through trials–passing through, deep waters, passing through rivers of life and even walking through the fire…I like to read out loud a certain Bible verse such as Isaiah 43:1-2 and make it personal.  *[use a concordance for help]

Every time I see the word “you”, I replace it with Mel: He created Mel, He formed me in my mothers womb; He has summoned me by my name, “Mel”–Mel you are mine.  I think you get my drift.

We Fight With PERSEVERANCE!

Nehemiah 4:21-23 NIV Bible:

So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.  At that time I also said to the people,  “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve as guards by night and workmen by day.”  Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went into the water.

Being clothed today–

–  They had a mind-set to work,  v. 6

–  They had a heart to pray,  v. 9

–  They had an eye to watch,  v. 9 [seeing the spirit world]

–  They had an ear to hear,  v. 20.

Nehemiah says, “of course when we took a bath we took of our clothes”  (You see, there is HUMOR in the Bible.  Even in a crisis like this, the Lord inserted a little humor.)

Otherwise, they never removed their clothes–day or night in their struggles.  They were on guard all the time.

Oh, to be so clothed today with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18).

ALWAYS BE PREPARED AHEAD OF TIME; grab your trowel and your sword and start patching and building up the ‘holes’ in your life today, never giving up!