TRUE AND FALSE FASTING
Passage: Isaiah 58:1–14
Fasting is more than an action, a ritual, or a box to check. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is relational with God and should bolster our walk with God. It’s an opportunity to seek God, repent, and love our neighbors. Fasting brings a new start and spiritual power which we need as we start the year and dedicate ourselves to the Lord. Isaiah 58 vividly shows us how not to fast, God’s desire for our fasting, and why we need to fast. The goal is a deeper intimacy with God, enjoyment of His blessings, and shalom in the land.
1) As you reflect upon 2022, what was a highlight for you personally and/or your family?
2) What Bible verse(s) meant the most to you this past year?
3) In what areas are you looking for God to work in 2023?
4) Have you ever fasted, from food or something else? Share any previous successes or missteps.
Thought to begin: Fasting is a spiritual discipline that draws you closer to God. If you are fasting from food and feel no closer to God, stop! It is just a diet. When giving up something, we need to replace it with dependence on God by immersing ourselves in His word, being in communion with Him through prayer, silence and solitude, and having greater awareness of His presence.
1) Isaiah 58:1-2 What is the message that God tells Isaiah to speak to the people of Israel? Why might the message not be received well?
2) Isaiah 58:3-5 Why did it seem to the people of Israel that God was not answering their prayers? How does God respond? What is God’s rebuke or critique of Israel’s fasting?
3) 1 Samuel 15:17-23 How did Saul miss the point of God’s command? Why is obedience better than religious rituals?
4) Isaiah 58:6-7 How does God define fasting? What are the characteristics of true fasting?
4) Luke 18:9-14 Who does Jesus say went home justified? Why? What is the point Jesus is making here?
5) Isaiah 58:8-12 According to this passage, why should believers consider fasting? What are the spiritual benefits of fasting?
6) Psalm 139:23-24 How does daily, minutely, repentance and self-reflection draw you closer to God? How can you practice habits of repentance and routine invitations of God’s presence in your life?
Closing thought: Most people, if not all, would want a closer relationship with God. What is holding you back? Busy distractions. What is the Holy Spirit revealing to you to remove (fast from) and replace with practices that draw you closer to Him? Take some time to pray, do an inventory of what you spend your time on, and how you could live in obedience to God’s word.