FastingBro. David Chancellor
2/16/2003 6:00 PM
Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and drink offering unto the Lord your God?
Fasting is more than not eating or leaving something off. This describes a people turning to and seeking after God. An army was going to come and destroy. They would be defeated. He admonishes them to turn to God so that God's judgment could be averted. God didn't want to have to do this to them, but there was a price that would have to be paid for their leaving God out. They needed to be stirred in their hearts. As a spiritual people, when we fast there should be a stirring in our hearts to see things as God sees them, and a drawing closer to God. We need to push some things aside and get close to God. It must be with all our heart, and at times the fasting, weeping, and mourning help us to get closer to God and see his working in us in a greater way.
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way; because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
Ezra had been bragging on God. It's good to tell what God can do. There comes a time to do a little showing with the telling, though. We may need to fast and pray that the signs and wonders would back up the message. Ezra called a fast, so that they could seek God's way. This is another reason people fast - to seek the right way. We need to be able to call on God to find the right way. We want God to reveal to us the truth and his will. We want him to make it clear to us what to do. Seek as Christ did; "Not my will, but thine, be done." If we insist on a certain way, what can God do, but give us our own way? Seek God's way.
1 Kings 21:7-14
And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth. And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die. And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them. They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.
Fasting can be done in a wrong way. Fasting alone is not what matters. Ahab was fasting and pouting. It's not about having a hunger strike on God and pouting. We don't want to pout on God. If we come to God that way, we need a working over.
Jezebel told them to proclaim a fast and told them what the outcome of the fast would be. Fasting and prayer won't make something right if you get off the work of God. These put an innocent man to death under the guise of fasting. Afflicting our souls is to draw us closer to God and lift up truth and right before a lost and dying world. It would be sad if we had a fast such as Jezebel proclaimed. When we seek God fasting, we need God to speak. When you fast, put your opinion aside, and seek to know the truth. The outcome of Jezebel's fast wasn't what God wanted. The purpose of fasting is seeking the right way, and drawing closer to God.
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
This explains why we fast; we feel the need of the presence of God. Jesus' disciples weren't fasting because God was there with them. They didn't fast while Jesus was with them. They fasted later when they saw the need of God. That's the time to fast. When there is a seeking or reaching out to God, a fast would be in order. There may come a time when a fast is right. Fasting as a religious activity isn't what this is talking about. It's a heartfelt desire. It's a seeking after God, desiring that things would be in order. When you can get your attention focused on God and get the help you need, that's enough.
Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye 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?
These were going through these things as a form, but weren't accomplishing what God wanted. It's not enough to do all the right religious things. We need to want God and to do his will. Man can get wrapped up in religion and totally leave off what God intends. These were fasting for strife and debate. If our goal in the fast is to "prove I'm right", then it is a fast for strife and debate. If you fast that way, don't expect much of an answer. If you do what God wants you to do, God will be pleased. If you're not doing what God wants you to do, God won't bless your fast. God supports the truth and right. Let go of your way and seek God's way. "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? This is what God wanted. This wasn't what they were doing. Even today men push this aside and focus on other things. This is what God wants. He wants bands broken, and sinners set free. Do we feel the need to bear the burdens of others? Is our prayer that we can help to bear the burdens of others? The Old Testament law had provisions for caring for the poor and the hungry. Time and again this was left off in favor of the rich. As we draw close to God, we should have compassion on the needs of those around us. This takes in both the spiritual and the material needs. Our spiritual condition is not irrespective of everything else. Have a real care for the people about us. Care about all parts of the ones in need. Care about the whole man. Christ was often moved with compassion for the whole man's need; that things might be made better. We want things to be made better for others. God was crying out against religiousness that didn't accomplish what he wanted. God won't be moved by a fast that's for the wrong reasons. God won't bless things that are wrong. God won't bless us if we aren't where he would have us to be. He wants us to care about our fellowman. Fasting often reveals to us our own weakness and needs. It gives us a fellowship with the needs about us. We don't want to hide from our own weakness and dependence on God. We need his help at all times.
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verify I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Christ was dealing again with what Isaiah addressed. It was a fast done to seem to be religious. Our fasting is to bring us closer to God. We don't have to be noticed by men. It's towards God. Men might notice, but why are you fasting? Is it to seek God and come into his presence? The seeking after God and the focus on God is what matters. If you seek God like this, you'll not be able to keep God's reward a secret. It will be open and able to be seen by all. Others will be able to see the presence of God in you. Focus on God. Fasting shouldn't be a form of religious activity, or done as a hunger strike on God. It is seeking God and acknowledging the need of his presence. This is why we fast. We feel our own need of him. Don't let fasting be a religious form. It won't meet the need if it is. Let your fasting turn you toward God and show you your dependence on him. The needs of mankind are totally dependent on the workings of God. Seek that his will be done; that he would be lifted up and honored. Be a blessing and a benefit to others as you live down here.