God's Chosen Fast

Dear Brethren,

When was the last time you fasted?  You do not hear much about fasting in God's Church these days.  Has fasting gone out of vogue?  If you do fast, do you set aside an entire day to go without food and liquid?  What is the purpose of fasting - why do we fast, and what good does it do?  Some people say that fasting makes us healthier.  Are we required to fast by God?  When and how often do the Scriptures indicate that we should fast?  What do we do if we are sick and unable to fast?  Let's look at some Biblical guidelines.  Jesus Christ's example teaches us about fasting.

"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.  And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.  And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.  But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  (Matthew 4:1-4)

"Man shall not live by bread alone."  That phrase is a clear acknowledgment that these physical bodies of ours require physical nourishment.  Jesus indicates that we need more than physical food; we need spiritual food.  "Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."   How do we make the transition from physical bread to spiritual bread?  Jesus has just given us the example - by fasting.  A strange thing is that the disciples did not fast.  "Then came to [Jesus] the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?"  (Matthew 9:14)

Jesus answered them by saying that there is a correct time and place for everything (Everyone back then knew that you did not put a new piece of leather on an old wine skin).  Jesus answered them, in effect, saying that after He was gone, his followers would fast.  "And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast."  (Matthew 9:15)

How do we explain these verses?  The answer lies in the fact that the disciples were already with Jesus.  One of the main reasons that we fast today is to draw near to God.  That is what Jesus meant when He indicated that they would resume fasting when He was taken away.

People fast for various reasons.  Some prisoners go on "hunger strikes" for political purposes.  Some people fast to be healthier.  We should concern ourselves here with spiritual fasting.  We fast to put things in their proper spiritual perspective.  When we become extremely thirsty or hungry to the point of feeling weak, we realize that these physical bodies of ours are needful of nourishment.  When our bellies are satisfied everyday, we have a tendency to forget how utterly dependent we are on food and drink.  But when we enter into a spiritual fast, our thoughts should take us well beyond the realization of needing the physical food that grows on this earth and well beyond the rain that falls from the sky.

First, spiritual fasting causes us to look to the one true God who sends the rain in due season.  God says, "I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil."   (Deuteronomy 11:14)  Secondly, fasting causes us to look beyond physical food to the spiritual food that we so desperately need.

Jesus was not speaking of physical food when He said,  "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work."  (John 4:34)

In Isaiah's day people were fasting improperly.  God told them of His chosen fast.  "Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.  Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?  Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

"Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?  Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.  Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." (Isaiah 58:4-11)

God said for us to let go of our wickedness and feed the hungry...  to carry the load for others and shelter the homeless... to come to the defense of the abused and clothe the poor... and to break the bonds of Satan and love our family.  This is the fast that I have chosen.


Sermon:  "God's Chosen Fast"