Thursday, September 10, 2015

What does the Bible say about Fasting? (Introduction)

Over the years I’m sure most of us have heard of those who fasted. Often times we hear of people fasting in protest over something, refusing to eat until the wrong was made right! But what does the Bible say about fasting? We would like to take this subject up step by step looking at: Why should I fast? Is it fasting Biblical for Christians today? How should I fast? And lastly when should I stop fasting.

There are many instances of those that fasted in the Bible. Moses fasted on Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:28). Hannah fasted when she wanted a son from God (1Sam. 1:7). David fasted on several occasions (2 Sam. 1:12, 12:22). The entire Israel nation fasted on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27). Many other examples of fasting are found in the Old Testament. But fasting is not simply an Old Testament thing. The Lord Jesus fasted in the wilderness (Mt. 4:2). John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast often (Mk. 2:18, Lk. 5:33). The Lord Jesus was criticized because His disciples did not fast often (Mt. 9:14, Mk. 2:18-19, Lk. 5:33-35).

Anna served God in the temple by fasting (Lk. 2:37). Paul fasted following his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). Cornelius fasted before his vision (Acts 10:30). The Antioch church fasted when Barnabas and Saul were sent out on their first missionary trip (Acts 13:3). Paul on his way to Rome abstained from food for 14 days (Acts 27:33).

The Lord Jesus taught that there is a right way and a wrong way to fast! In Matthew 6 He taught that along with do good deeds and praying showing prayers that fast could be form of religious hypocrisy! He was condemning the deliberate attempt to create an appearance of fasting. True fasting is done in secret, giving no outward appearance of it (Mt. 6:17-18).

But what about “a call to fast,” such as that of Esther (Esther 4:16) or that of Jehoshaphat and Ezra (2 Chron. 20:3, Ezra 8:21)? These are specific times when a group was burdened and fast was called for and it was linked with much prayer before the Lord. In fact fasting is often linked with prayer (Ps. 35:13, Mt. 6:5-18, 1 Cor. 7:5).

What is Fasting?

Before we get too far let’s get a working definition of fasting. Fasting is to put God first, wanting God and His desire, His will and His mind more than food, fellowship with others, sleep or day to day business! Fasting is abstaining from gratifying any physical appetite. Sometimes those that fasted in the Bible times fasted without any kind of drink as well as without food (Jonah 3:7, Esther 4:16). It may be voluntary as many of the verses we’ve already looked at or it may be involuntary as in Acts 27:33 or 2 Corinthians 11:27. It is often associated with mourning (Mt. 9:14-15) and prayer (Lk. 2:37, Acts 14:23). Fasting means persistence in prayer; it is the accompaniment of persistence, fervent prayer that will not be denied! The widow of Luke 18:3 probably neglected her house work and possibly did not eat while she pleaded persistently before the judge! Fasting is the planned clearing of the way for prayer, laying aside all weights and hindrances (Heb. 12:1-2)! Fasting is the proof of our earnest, our fervor and our faith! It requires faith to pray for “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Then it requires more faith to fast when we pray! Fasting has no merit as far as salvation is concerned and it does not give a person a special standing before God. This is what the Pharisee thought in Luke 18:12-14, he boasted about fasting twice a week, but this did not justify him before God! When we fast it ought to be spiritual exercise between those that fast and the Lord who rewards us for seeking Him!

In Isaiah 58:1-7 there is described a right way and a wrong way to fast. Fasting to impress others is the wrong way. Fasting with a purpose, before God and with His glory in mind is the right way! We will look more at this and the reasons for fasting next time?

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