“Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed! (Isaiah 58:3)(CSB).
They fasted and expected God to pay attention to their fasting. They denied themselves and expected God to take notice. They had an understanding and an expectation about fasting that every new creation believer needs to grasp.
“We have fasted”. “We have afflicted our soul”. Fasting afflicts the soul. Fasting is not about food. The aim of fasting is not to lose pounds, detox or to sponsor a hunger strike before God. Fasting is for the soul.
The soul is the seat of intentions, passions and emotions. The soul hosts the human mind, will and emotions. What we think, what we desire and what we feel have their space and place in the soul.
Most Christians are “carnal”. In the way the Apostle Paul describes and defines being carnal it comes out to being self-centered and soul-controlled (see I Corinthians 3, Romans 8). When we are self-centered we are allowing our fallen flesh to dominate our decisions. When we are soul-controlled we are allowing our minds, wills and emotions to be dominated by any influence other than the Word of God and Holy Spirit.
Our souls need to be afflicted. The word “afflicted” means to be lowered, abased, brought under, made subordinate to another’s power. Fasting has a spiritual goal. It is designed to lower, abase, bring under, and make subordinate our minds, wills and emotions to the Spirit of God and the Word of God.
The Greek word picture associated with the word “fast” is the picture of someone withdrawing their hand. When one did not take or receive food it was a fast. When one would abstain from eating and consuming they were withdrawing from the table and from their own appetite.
Fasting is withdrawing your hand. This is what humility looks like. See I Peter 5:6-7. Fasting is confessing that you need to take your hands off of someone or something. Your “hands on approach” for everyone and everything may be your presumption. Do you always have the best thought, best desire or the best feel for a person or situation?
Fasting, just like prayer, is the admission and acknowledgment that you need God to help you. Fasting is more about denying your ego, than about missing a few meals. Fasting is surrendering, yielding and giving up your own ideas, desires and feelings so that you can fully obtain, observe and obey the will of God for your life.