People have all kinds of ideas about how to win God’s favor. Many people think that some kind of asceticism will convince God to pay attention to them. Some people think if they give up chocolate for Lent or if they abstain from certain beverages or if they keep themselves from any guilty pleasure then God will hear their prayers. People were no different in the days of Isaiah the prophet living some 600 years before Jesus. Here is what he says gets God’s attention:
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?
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.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: “Here am I.” (Isaiah 58:6-9).
Wait, we say. You mean the self-sacrifice I am to make has really nothing to do with my little “give up” for a few days? Yes! When we work for justice, when we feed and clothe the hungry and naked, when we give shelter to the homeless, then we are really doing God’s work. Eager to hear from God? Join God in working on God’s agenda. – Ron Friesen