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God's Free Gift

Christianity >> Let's All Fast -- But Why?

Every once in awhile you read about some well known Christian promoting fasting. Some have even gone 40 days.  But, I ask, why?

Why do we fast?  I suspect there are a variety of reasons. I know some people who fast whenever they are faced with an important decision. I know others who feel God tells them to fast.

On the other hand, while I have fasted on occasion, this is not an action I participate in often nor do I generally feel comfortable with the concept. It has always struck me as somewhat self-centered since most people fast becasue they are trying to make a decision about their lives and so they fast as a method of attempting to get closer to God and find His Will.

I know that we are to seek God's Will, but I worry about this in the context of fasting since we are really trying to solve our problems in one form or another.  So, I don't fast.

There is, to my mind, only one chapter in the Bible that speaks to fasting. True, Matthew 6:16 tells us that when we fast we are not to be like the hypocritical Pharisees. The religious leaders of Jesus' time made certain everyone knew they were fasting. We are suppose to go about our life in a business like normal fashion. We are to generally keep the fast "secret," that is, between us and God.

Isaiah 58 is the chapter I had in mind. It talks about fasting while focusing on yourself instead of others. The chapter talks about helping the poor and hungry instead of undergoing the normal rituals of fasting. The focus apparently is to be on kindness and mercy, rather than self.  Does this eliminate fasts when we are attempting to resolve a personal dilemma?

What brings this about is my daily devotional time. I have been reading Deuteronomy. Here Moses rehearses the history of Israel's redemption from Egypt and the giving of the law. The audience are those who have grown up in the wilderness and were either not born or too young to remember all of the events from 40 years earlier.  In chapter 9 Moses makes reference to the first time he went up the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. In the presence of the Lord, he tell us he did not eat or drink. God gave him the tablets with the Ten Commandments.

Of course, Moses came down the mountain, found the people worship the golden calf and having a big party, so he broke the tablets in anger. Eventually, he went back up the mountain and again fasted forty days (Deut 9:18).  What Moses says is that he laid prostrate before God for these forty days pleading that God would not destroy Israel. He did this because Israel had sinned.

The only other occasion I recall in Scripture of a lengthy fast is Jesus in the wilderness where He, too, fasted forty days and nights. Of course, following this fast, Christ was tempted by Satan. But, I got to thinking about the comparison of these three fasts.

Moses fast one was in the presence of God for the purpose of finding God's will for the Israelites.

Moses fast two was to save the nation of Israel from her sin of idolatry.

Jesus fasted in preparation for His mission and ministry, which was to be the Savior of the world. We could read into this fast that He was preparing to plead before God for the sins of the world.

At Deut 10:12 Moses rhetorically asks what God desires of the people. His first answer is that God requires us to fear Him, to live according to His will, to love and worship Him with all of our heart and soul, and to keep His laws. This is the great commandment, but not in that form. Go compare this with Deut 6:5 and Matthew 22:37.

Moses sums this up differently a couple of verses later. At 10:16 Moses tells the people to "cleanse your sinful hearts and stop being stubborn" (NLT). This is what Moses had pleaded and fasted for on the mountain -- the redemption of the people. If we were to all cleanse our hearts, we would be redeemed.

So, maybe every fast should be patterned after Moses and Jesus. Maybe the only acceptable fast is one where we pray for the redemption of others and the saving of souls. That appears to really be what the three fourty day fasts of Scripture focused on. Maybe it is time to stop fasting and praying about our lives and our lives and decisions and to start praying and fasting solely for the souls of everyone else.

Jim A


Posted On: 2006-07-05 10:39:53 || Comments (0 ) || Add a Comment
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