by Grace Hunter

When you read the book of Job you encounter a common mindset: 

If bad things happen to me or my family, I must have broken God’s rules.
If I live by God’s rules, then good things will happen to me and my family. 

The problem with this philosophy is that it is simplistic, naïve and not a reality in Job’s life nor in mine, how about yours?

This week we are looking at fasting — both the right way and the wrong way. Isaiah said,

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”  Isaiah 29:13 NIV.

Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 15:8-9 when he was talking to a group of Pharisees. He makes it clear that God is concerned about the heart,
not rule-following for rule’s sake.

So, let’s take a look at chapter
58 of Isaiah. Isaiah declared to Israel what God thinks of how they are currently fasting. Keep in mind Isaiah 29:13 as we look at this chapter. Find a translation you like and read chapter 58 of Isaiah. Did you notice the many “if,  then” statements? How does God describe their current mode of fasting; and what does He think of it? Did you notice what God’s idea of true fasting is? Did it include more than just denying oneself of food for a meal or for a day? If we behave as a righteous person does: then God will protect, provide, guide, strengthen, and restore. How does this chapter end? How can we find our joy in the Lord?

There is a lot in this chapter; if taken the wrong way, we can end up just like Job’s counselors — thinking that if I just know the right rules and follow them, then God is obligated to bless me, to do what I want. The thing is, God is not a vending machine. He desires our hearts, He desires relationship with us, He desires us to trust in Him, in His love, in His goodness, in His plan for us. We live in a broken world and we are all sinners. God’s plan for us may allow anxiety, disease, death of loved ones, loss of jobs, the birth of a brain injured child, and other heart aches. It certainly did for Job and for me and my family. But, if we deny ourselves in order to draw closer to God — to revere Him — God sees us. He sees our hearts. If we trust in Him, even when our personal circumstances don’t make sense to us, then we are acting righteously. Let’s strive to cultivate the heart God desires, and then we will be able to act as a righteous person everyday as God desires us to, regardless of our circumstances.

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