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.