Beloved, in our last devotional together, we discussed the purpose of fasting, how it is a spiritual discipline with the intent of drawing us closer to God. We studied Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 and His forty days of fasting in the wilderness. Fasting brings you closer to God, but it also has the potential to weaken you for temptation.

How do you unlock the power of fasting? To overcome your fleshly desires — your appetite — and the evil one?

It takes the full power of the Spirit (just as Jesus was “led”) to take us that far, battling the world, the devil, and our own personal lust (where temptation originates — James 1:14). All three are ranged against us in this fight. We desperately need the power of God’s Holy Spirit, without and within.

And we can’t get close to God without righteous motives. As with all hypocrisy, it’s possible to combine the physical motions of a fast with other actions that reflect evil motives:

“…they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, they delight in the nearness of God.
‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.
“Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.

Note the glaring evil consistency here. Managers were oppressing their workers on the same days they were fasting. But they were not fasting for good reasons; they were fasting “for [the purpose of] contention, strife, and to strike with a wicked fist.” Their purpose was to make money by driving their workers hard and they wanted God to endorse it.

The Lord reminded His people that He accepts only holy motives — the true purpose of the fast is to express mercy and grace. Not only does exploitation have to go...

“Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?

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“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

But with right motives and action comes the promise of God’s power:

“Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and He will say,  ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.
“And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

So many precious things are promised here. In verse 8 alone, we have promises of powerful testimonies, healing, and God’s defense (rear guard protection); in the next, answered prayer and the Lord’s presence; in the next, discouragement and depression turned to confidence, faith, and joy; in the next, God’s continual guidance and satisfaction no matter the places or circumstances; and in the last, reconstruction (foundation) of cities (we can add families, organizations, societies, nations) and restoration.

These promises were especially encouraging to the Israelites during their seventy years of captivity, just as they are to us in the context of our personal struggles.

We need God’s fullness, Beloved: we need it personally and we need it in our families and nation. Without it, we’ll perish.

Let’s not perish in captivity, as many did in Babylon.
Let’s fast, pray, and be freed together.
Let’s cling to God, as Jacob did,
not letting Him go
until He blesses us, our families, our country...our world.
Kay Arthur
Host, Precepts for Life
Co-CEO, Precept Ministries International