Some men in ancient Israel were disappointed when they fasted from food, but God still would not answer their prayers. “Why have we fasted,” they complained, “and you take no notice? We have afflicted our souls, but you do not acknowledge it!” (Isa. 58:3a). God then answered them, through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, that they were fasting the wrong way. To fast, He explained, is not to merely abstain from food; it was a godly lifestyle, which He went on to describe.
As I read the short list of deeds and attitudes that God considers to be a true fast, the last element of that fast struck me because it reminded me of how Jesus said he lived before God. Isaiah said, “If you honor God by not pursuing your own ways, nor choosing your own will, nor saying a word of yourself . . . .” When I read that last phrase, “nor saying a word”, I remembered that Jesus said this: “When you lift up the Son of man, then you’ll know that I’m the one, and I’m doing nothing on my own, but as my Father taught me, I say these things” (Jn. 8:28). “My doctrine is not mine,” he told the people, “but His who sent me” (Jn. 7:16).
None of us, on our own, really have anything worthwhile to say because, on our own, none of us really know anything. To wait on God for what to say is a tacit confession of that truth, and Jesus always waited on God.
We are free to have our preferences in this life of colors, food, and other earthly things, and we are free to enjoy the earthly things we like. But in judgment or in teaching, if we would please God, we will not say a word of our own. Righteous judgment and eternal truth come from God alone, and to live in that truth is part of the fast that God has chosen.