During Jesus days on earth, he was asked many questions. One of them was about fasting...
"How is it that John's disciples and disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not ?
Jesus answered "the time will come when they will fast"
33 They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."
34 Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?
35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."
The great news over here is fasting is noticed and expected by Jesus.
Though literal meaning of fasting is to deny our bodies some of its usual provision.
It's also a way to remember and be grateful for the daily blessings which are often taken for granted.
Let us see the Biblical standard and the meaning of "True Fasting"
1. True Fasting
3 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Fasting should humble the body (v3)
The purpose is not just to humble the body but to do God's will and not ours (v3&v4)
Fasting goes unnoticed if we do as we please (i.e. exploiting, quarreling, striking, grumbling, evil thoughts etc.) such a day of fasting is not acceptable to God.
Any other motive of fasting, for example fasting for good marks in exams, for jobs, promotions, increments or any kind of materialistic achievements is not correct.
Fasting is being Godly, doing things that please God, doing things that Jesus has done. (Justice, sharing burden, food, clothing, shelter, giving and sacrificing)
When we fast we sacrifice food, which means we save some food which we normally consume.
What do we do with that sacrificed food? Which is saved (not eaten).
Share it with the poor and hungry, staying hungry we feed others and experience the joy of giving and in the process also realise how grateful we should be for our daily provisions.
Consequences of a proper fast
- Good Health v-8, v-11
- Protection from God v-8
- Guidance from God v-9, 11
Activities during a
1 Samuel 7:6
When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, "We have sinned against the LORD." And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.
2. Examples of fasting in the Bible
a. Moses while receiving the Ten Commandments
9 When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water.
18 Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the Lord's sight and so provoking him to anger.
b. Elijah - fleeing from Jezebel
1 Kings 19:2-9
2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them."
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,
4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."
5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."
6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."
8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
c. Jesus after his Baptism and led by the Holy Spirit
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert,
2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The 3 examples mentioned above had one thing in common, they all fasted for 40 days inspired and helped by God.
a. Moses in the presence of God
b. Elijah fed by an angel before the fast
c. Jesus led by the Holy Spirit
They did not rely on their own physical strength for such a long duration fast, so its not right just to be over zealous and try something unusual beyond human capacity but rely on God and take advice.
We often wonder why God allowed only these three to meet at the time of Transfiguration.
Practical Considerations : Drink water when abstaining from food.
Note in Luke 4:1-2 when Jesus has finished a 40 day fast "... at the end of them he was hungry" and not "thirsty" So It's OK and advisable to have plenty of water.