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?…” Isaiah 58:6
Fasting and prayer are powerful spiritual weapons that can set the oppressed free from every yoke and bondage of sin. Jesus himself fasted for 40 days.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit …
Jesus had been baptized by John. This was not for the remission of His sins because He was sinless, but to fulfill all righteousness. And afterwards, as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. Full of the Holy Spirit, He returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he fasted and was tempted by the devil. Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.
These significant, historical events occurred in accordance to the liturgical cycle of Scripture readings in the synagogues. From the times of the Babylonian captivity to this very day, each Sabbath weekly portions of the Sefer Torah or scroll containing the Five Books of Moses is read in every synagogue throughout the world. Not only are the books from Genesis through Deuteronomy read annually, but portions of the Scroll of the Prophets are read each Sabbath as well.
The reading of the Haftorah dates back to the era of the Greek empire. The enemies of God’s chosen people recognized the vitality of the Torah and banned the reading of the weekly Torah portion. In response, the Rabbis of those days substituted the reading of a segment from the Prophets, commonly known as the Haftorah. They carefully chose specific sections of the Prophets which correspond to the sedra (weekly portion) and intended through this to capture the lessons of the weekly Torah portion. Although the Torah reading has been restored, the Haftorah remains an integral part of Shabbos (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (holiday) experience.
As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the desert, `Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ ”
John was preaching from Isaiah 40:3-5. Isaiah 40:1-26 is the passage of Scripture read from the scroll of the prophets on the first Sabbath after Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av, the Fast of the ninth day of the fifth month, is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, especially the destruction of the First and Second Temples. There are seven readings from Isaiah between Tisha B’Av and Rosh HaShana. These passages span from Isaiah 40 through Isaiah 63.
After Jesus’ baptism, His forty days of fasting in the desert, and time spent preaching in the synagogues in the Galilee, His return to His hometown synagogue in Nazareth would have marked the end of seven week period between Tisha B’Av and the Sabbath before Rosh HaShana.
The destruction of Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians was a judgment of God due to the sin of the nation of Judah. More than a century earlier, the Northern Tribes were taken into captivity by Assyria for their idolatries. John’s crying out in the wilderness was a call to repentance and spiritual preparation for the coming Messiah Jesus. It was initiated on a day of great mourning and fasting.
Seven weeks later, Yeshua – Jesus, whose name means salvation, read from Yeshayahu HaNovi – Isaiah the Prophet, whose name means -G-d is Salvation. Jesus read from Isaiah 61 verse one and the first half of verse two. He proclaimed the year of the LORD’s favor, but did not go on to pronounce the “day of God’s vengeance.”
Rosh HaShana commences the Ten Days of Awe. These ten days are the most solemn and introspective on the Hebrew Calendar. They mark the days between the New Year and the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is the most holy, most solemn day for the Jewish people. It is the last day of the High Holy Days which began on Rosh HaShanah. Many Jewish people spend the entire day in the synagogue, praying and fasting in the hope that their sins will be forgiven and that they will be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life for the coming year.
Tisha B’Av was the day that John the Baptist proclaimed that he was a voice crying out in the wilderness. It was a day of mourning and fasting. It was a call to turn from sin. Jesus proclaimed that He was the Messiah on the Sabbath before the Ten Days of Awe.
These days of repentance culminated on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to fast and pray.
Jesus is the Anointed On. He is the Messiah. He was anointed to preach the good news, the gospel. He was sent to set the captives free.
But first, in order to receive Him, the people’s hearts had to be readied through prayer, fasting and repentance.
Joel 1: 5, 14
Wake up, you drunkards, and weep!
Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips.
Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.
The first time in Scripture that we see the LORD ordaining a fast is when the nation had turned from their God and were drunk with wine.
2 Corinthians 10:4
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
Fasting and prayer are powerful spiritual weapons to demolish the strongholds of alcoholism and other drug addictions.
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
I am the LORD and I will…
`I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.’
I am the LORD and I will… Who is the LORD that He can boldly proclaim what will happen in the future?
The LORD is the way we represent in English the Hebrew term, YHWY. It is the covenant name of God and means the One who causes to be.
- I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself
- I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
- I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.
- I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. Isaiah I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. Isaiah 46:9-11.
The LORD is the Most High God. He is the only true God. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He is the Eternal. The LORD is omnipotent – all powerful. He is omniscient – all knowing. He is holy, just and righteous. He can, and will, fulfill all that He has promised.
And what did He promise to the Hebrews who had been in bondage for four hundred years in Egypt?
`I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.’
The LORD sanctified and set Israel apart from their Egyptian slave masters. The LORD smote the Egyptians and their gods with ten plagues. Although the Hebrews and their live stock lived and worked among the Egyptians, they did not suffer the diseases and death that came upon Egypt.
I will free you from being slaves to them,
The LORD freed the Hebrews from their bondage. They were no longer slaves, but free men and women. They were freed from their harsh taskmasters. They were free after 400 years of backbreaking servitude.
and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.
The LORD redeemed a people unto himself by mighty acts of judgment. The greatest of those judgments was the plague that killed the firstborn of Egypt.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn – both men and animals – and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
The firstborn of Israel were spared; they passed from death to life, because of the blood of the lamb that was applied to the tops and sides of the doorframes of their houses.
‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.’
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out; and their cry for help, because of their slavery, went up to God. The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. I will be their God and they will be my people.”
When the people who were enslaved no longer could bear their bondage they cried out for help and their cry for help went up to God. God was and is concerned about suffering. Egypt is a symbol of the world. We live in a fallen world which has been corrupted by the stain of sin. Pharaoh typifies Satan who desires to inflict us with much suffering and enslave us in cruel bondage. The bondage of slavery is a picture of man’s bondage to sin.
Why were the Hebrews enslaved for so long? Because for many years, even though they suffered and died in their bondage, they loved the things of this world more than they loved the God of their fathers. Even after God answered their cries with a great deliverance, their hearts were fixed on the pleasures of Egypt. After the Israelites were set free, God fed them miraculously with manna. But what was their response to God’s provision?
They wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
At no cost? They paid with their very lives! Cruel servitude and death was the price for the fleeting pleasures of Egypt.
The Hebrews suffered and died in Egypt until they came to a point of utter desperation – a place where they could no longer bear their bondage. Until they cried out for help to the LORD God, they remained enslaved. And even after God came down and rescued them, an entire generation perished in the wilderness because of ingratitude and loving the things of this world more than loving God the Creator and Sustainer of life. Yet God was faithful to fulfill His promises and bring their children into a land flowing with milk and honey.
Moses the Deliverer is a type of the Messiah – Christ the Savior. The blood of the Passover lamb foreshadowed the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
God sees your misery, hears your crying and is concerned about your suffering. His desire is to free you from bondage. Whatever has enslaved you: drug addiction, cigarettes, pornography, food, or soap operas, the Son of God came down from heaven to free you from the bondage of sin. His desire is to set you apart and make you Holy. Jesus is able to redeem you because he has paid the price for your life with His own blood.
This same God who rescued a mixed multitude of 2 ½ to 3 million men, women, and children from the clutches of the most powerful nation on earth… This same God who smote the gods of Egypt with mighty plagues… This same God who parted the Red Sea so that the children of Israel walked on dry ground… is the LORD. Is He not able to free you from the sin and corruption of addiction?
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”
Who or what do you seek for comfort in times of stress, or to relieve emotional or psychological pain, or to escape reality? If you are turning to anything or anybody but the LORD; in your times of stress or pain, then that thing has become your god – your personal idol. The reason that you are unable to break your habit is that your addiction is not just a physical dependency – it is spiritual bondage.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. Only in His name, the mighty name of Jesus our Messiah, and by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, can you be set free. But you cannot serve two masters. Jesus must not only become your Savior by placing your trust in His finished work on the cross, but you must make Him the Lord of your life, forsaking all other gods. First accept God’s free gift of salvation and then allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse you of all unrighteousness.
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.