Friday, September 11, 2015

A Biblical View of Fasting (Part 3)

We have seen that there are many examples in the Bible of fasting and we have looked at some of the reasons and benefits to praying and fasting. But today there is so much confusion about fasting. For years fasting has been something that has not really been taught in fundamental Bible believing circles, in fact it has for the most part been ignored. Perhaps because it has been sensationalized by certain groups, some teach fasting for dieting and help reasons, while others have used it as a way of protest. We need to have a Biblical view on fasting. 

First let’s look at the different kinds of fasting in the Bible. There are at least three types of fasting mention in the Bible. There is the typical fast which is totally refraining from solid food. The typical fast did not involve the abstinence from liquids. When the Lord Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, we read, “afterwards He was hungry.” We do not read that He was thirsty. A complete fast or an absolute fast involves no food or water (Jonah 3:7, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:9). This is a severe fast and can be dangerous, as we have noted earlier, extended periods of time without eating or drinking can be harmful to the body. The Bible also describes a partial fast. A partial fast involves in abstain from certain foods like Daniel and those with him. When asked to eat from the Babylonian king’s table, they refused because they did not want to defile themselves. Instead of eating the King’s meat they asked for ten days where they would eat nothing but vegetables and water. They abstained from meat and wine because they purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves and the Lord honor this partial fast (Dan. 1:8-20). There was a specific purpose in this partial fast and most partial fast involve abstaining for food or drink for a specific time period. 

In the Bible we see that most of the fast lasted only one day. Many would begin at sunset on the first day and go until sunset the following day (Judges 20:26, 1 Sam. 14:24, 2 Sam. 1:12, 3:35). In Daniel 6:18 the fast lasted only throughout the night, perhaps because Daniel was out of danger by morning. Esther called for a three day fast (Esther 4:16). Only three times in the Bible do we read of a forty day fast and that is with Moses, Elijah and the Lord Jesus. The Lord had a special message to reveal to His people on each of those occasions. Today God uses His Word to speak to us; He may prepare our hearts through fasting, but only as a person follows the Word of God can He fast within the will of God.

Dangers of Fasting

There are dangers connected to fasting. We have already alluded to the physical dangers, but there is the danger of spiritual hypocrisy that the Lord Jesus warns against in Matthew 6:16, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” In Luke 18:12 He spoke of the pride of the Pharisee who stood in the temple boasting that he fasted twice a week.

There is also the danger of being legal. Sometimes abstaining from food or certain kinds of food can lead to legalism which is clearly addressed in Romans 14. This can lead to trying to equate spirituality with fasting which is a real danger to be aware of.

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