From: Su Min
Dearly beloved, Agapetos,
Today's reading is Matt 6:16-18.Read and hear the Good Shepherd guide His sheep. We have learned that the three important components of righteous behaviour as understood by the Jews and early Christians were : almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Jesus taught specifically to help the believers understand the purpose and motive for their actions. They were to fast for God's sake, in heaven's sight, not in man's view.
What does the Word of God say about fasting?
The Hebrews fasted on the day of atonement: (Lev 16:29-31, 23:27-32; Num 29:7)
Lev 16:29-31 AMP It shall be a statute for you forever that in the seventh month [nearly October] on the tenth day of the month you shall afflict yourselves [by fasting with penitence and humiliation] and do no work at all, either the native born or the stranger who dwells temporarily with you. For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord. It is a Sabbath of [solemn] rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves [by fasting with penitence and humiliation]; it is a statute forever.
Four other annual fasts are observed (Zechariah 8:19)
Occasional individual fasts are noted
Nathan has rebuked David for killing Uriah the Hittite and taking Bathsheba (the rich man who took the ewe from the poor man) David repented and was forgiven, but because he had shown God utter contempt, his son was to die. 2 Sam 12:16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the night lying on the ground.
Occasional corporate fasts are noted: The Israelites fought a losing battle against the Benjamites: Judges 20:26 Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offering and fellowship offering to the Lord. And the Israelites inquired of the Lord.
Joel prophecies of a severe locust plague and warns the people to fast and repent. Joel 1:14 Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land in the house of the Lord, your God, and cry to the Lord [in penitent pleading]
Fasting was often directed towards securing God's guidance and help:
- Fasting gave expression to grief: 1 Sam 31:13; 2 Sam 1:12; 3:23; Nem 1:4; Esther 4:3; Psalm 35:13-14
- Fasting gave expression to penitence: 1 Sam 7:6; 1 King 21:27; Nem 9:1-2; Daniel 9:3; Jon 3:5-8
Ezra 8:21;23 There, by the Ahava canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king "the good hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him." So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayers.
- Exodus 34:28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he ate no bread and drank no water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
- Deut 9:9 When I went up the mountain to receive the tables of stone, the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I neither ate food or drank water.
- When Moab and Ammon came to make war against Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron 20:3-4; Alarmed Jehoshaphat resolved to enquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people came together to seek help from the Lord, indeed they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
Without right conduct fasting was in vain. Is 58:5-12; Amplified:
True fasting is surrendering to God for use by the needy that which you would have consumed yourself. (LSM 5.5.94)
- [The facts are that] you fast only for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high.
- Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?
- [Rather] is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke?
- Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house - when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?
- Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you [conducting you to peace and prosperity] and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Zech 7: 5,9-10 Ask all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? This is what the Lord Almighty says" Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widows or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.
Today we read Matt 6:16-18 When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
The leaders of the church fasted when they chose missionaries and elders Acts 13:2-3, 14:23
A few years ago I was led to fast. As I pondered about my reaction to local church politics, and as I understood that groups were going to gather to fast, it was clear to me from the book of Esther, (Esther 4:16) the Holy Spirit was moving me to fast: I felt led to go on water only fast for eighteen hours: the experience was very pleasant, very enjoyable, for I felt cushioned by God's presence, wrapped around by His arms, as I went about the day with oil on my head and a washed face. By the end of the 18 hours my thoughts on direction and guidance somewhat gelled, but I was not convinced of the timing of my action.
Still pondering over our church politics, I felt I still did not get enough answers. Prayerfully, I was led to embark on another 18 hour fast, having 6 hours of eat and sleep in between. During my second day of water fast I noted that the pangs of hunger were barely there: I feel a little weakened in physical strength, but oh the joy of God's closeness. Thank you father. Perhaps when I am ready a 40 day full fast??? Certainly I will fast when I need spiritual guidance and strength. Perhaps I will fast on a regular basis. Whatever happens, I will now testify to the power of fasting: God is faithful to those who will humble themselves and obey! Hallelujah.
Over the next weekend I was drawn to the book of Joel. Joel prophecies of a severe locust plague, coming in four waves. Joel warns the people to fast and repent. Joel 1:14 Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land in the house of the Lord, your God, and cry to the Lord [in penitent pleading]. As we pray about the matter I am reminded that we are not to fight this fight in our own strength, we are not to depend on human cunning, but we are to depend solely on God. The inner voice prompts "Joel said to sanctify a fast". "Oh I fasted already last week" Su Min says. "Fast", says the word of God, speaking to me, convicting me. I hear and I joyfully obey. Not reluctantly, for I know it is as I am told to do. And at 4 am, as if to confirm, I get a brief vision of an angel in white, present with me for just half a second. Not a very big figure, in white, with folded wings, to my 11 o clock in vertical orientation. Not saying anything or moving, but just being present. I feel that that visitation to me was to affirm that I am right in humbling myself to fast, and that I have taken the right course to seek God's guidance.
Then I was led to read Isaiah 58 on true fasting and I was blessed by my reading. My understanding of God's purpose increases. True fasting is surrendering to God for use by the needy that which you would have consumed yourself. Physical fasting with the right spiritual approach is a blessing. I re-read Esther: 4:14 "Who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion?" The word of God convicts me that I am on the right track, responding by writing in to the church today, for who knows but that I was brought here to Singapore for such a time as this and for this very occasion?
Jesus calls us to fast, with the right spirit and attitude. Not all are called to 40 day fasts. To do so without adequate physical and spiritual preparation would be spiritually arrogant. Some are able to regularly fast twice a week. Some once a week. Others are called to occasional fasts, when they need to sharpen their spiritual awareness, or when they have a big question to answer. Many respond to the call to fast during Lent, as a build up to Easter. The physical sacrifice and the spiritual awakening that accompanies the fasting helps us appreciate greater depths of the Easter experience.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, thank you for your lesson today.
Father thank you for encouraging to fast.
Teach us to fast in private, Father, with no great public demonstration.
Give us the spirit of wisdom that we will not damage ourselves by fasting.
Protect us as we fast, that we will come to no harm.
We ask this in the name of Jesus
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
Back to Antioch's Well
Back to Antioch's Home Page