Throughout the history of the People of Israel, just imagine how many millions, perhaps, of sacrifices had been offered asking for God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness. From that time until today, the Children of God still seek these same gifts of His favor. Then and now, God grants His blessings to those who have “Humble Hearts of Faith.”
Today our text draws us to a topic with which many Lutherans seem unfamiliar. Fasting! In the Book of Psalms, David connects humility and fasting (Psalm 35:13). In the New Testament, Luke, the Evangelist, speaks of fasting as if it were “every-day, common place, expected” when he speaks of praying and fasting (Acts 13: 2-3 and 14: 23). Jesus, Himself, anticipates that believers regularly participate in fasting as He encourages, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 10: 16-18)
While there are some who might think that “fasting doesn’t sound very Lutheran,” you may remember memorizing from Luther’s Small Catechism, “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training.” But we know it’s not the fasting that accomplishes anything; it’s the faith that trusts and believes!
That’s what Isaiah, speaking for God, says to his hearers. He called for fasting to be an expression of sincere, genuine faith. Instead, their fasting was “for show,” to be seen by others, and an attempt to “impress” God! While they were doing all the right things outwardly – God could see that their hearts were far from Him. Inwardly, they continued living unjustly; quarreling and fighting. Speaking at another time to equally hypocritical hearers, Jesus said, “You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23: 27-28)
Jesus calls us to guard that our piety (that is, the outward demonstration of our inmost faith) is truly motivated by a Humble Heart of Faith. Our fasting, our praying, our paying (giving) and worshipping are all to be expressions of a sincere and joyful faith responding in thanksgiving to the salvation won for us by our Savior, Jesus!
Humble hearts, motivated by love for God and our neighbors, will in turn, “loose the chains of injustice… set the oppressed free… share food with the hungry… provide the wanderer with shelter… and the naked with clothing.” (Isaiah 58: 6-7) When our hearts are humbled and our faith is lived out in service to the Savior and His Saints, “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.” (Isaiah 58: 8) By faith, God lives in such “Humble Hearts of Faith” as these. He walks with us and He invites us to walk with Him!
See you in church this next weekend!
Blessings in Christ,