Biblical Concept: Fasting

1) Introduction:

     A study of the fasting vocabulary reveals that it is not commanded in the Mosaic Law or the New Testament.  (The Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:29-34 might be an exception.  No fasting is directly mentioned, but compare Acts 27:9.  For a Dispensational perspective on fasting , note Mark 2:18-20.) Fasting  is described in the Old and New Testaments as a overt spiritual act which has special impact with God.
      It is noted that fasting and the text of the New Testament contains a fair amount of disputed readings.  The Greek manuscripts are divided over fasting, some omit and some include fasting in the same passages. Those passages with textual questions have been avoided in this study.

2) Fasting makes special appeal to God during times of suffering:

- Jonah 3:5-10;  A national fast of man and animal, both food and water, in the face of Gods judgment.
- 2 Samuel 12:16, King David fasted and inquired of God for the life of his child.
- Joel 1:14; Fasting regarding the Day of the Lord.  Also Joel 2:12-15.
- 1 Samuel 7:6; A national fast and confession.
- 2 Chronicles 20:3; Jehoshaphat, in a military situation, sought the Lord through a national (Judah) fast.
- Judges 20:26; After two defeats during a civil war with Benjamin, Israel fasted until evening and made offerings and God gave them victory.
- Ezra 8:21; Ezra proclaimed a national fast (exiled Israel), at the river Ahava, as they returned from the Babylonian exile. The fast sought Gods protection as they entered a dangerous portion of the journey to Jerusalem.
- Esther 4:16; Queen Esther called for a three day fast, with no eating or drinking, for her upcoming difficult affairs of state.
- Matthew 4:2; fasting was part of the wilderness testing of Jesus Christ.

3) Fasting makes a special appeal for Gods attention to prayer:

- Psalm 35:13; David humbled his soul with fasting, as part of his prayers for those who were ill. Compare Isaiah 58:5.
- Daniel 9:3, Daniel sought the Lord God by prayer with fasting.
- Nehemiah 1:4; Nehemiah fasted and prayed for desolate Jerusalem.
- Acts 14:23; the important work of selecting spiritual leaders for the churches founded during Paul’s first missionary journey, was accomplished through prayer and fasting.
- Acts 13:1-3; the Antioch church practiced fasting and prayer.  It was from this Local Church that much of the Biblical world was evangelized.

4) Fasting is part of lamenting before God:

- Nehimiah 9:1-2, Israel fasted as part of their national lament and confession for spiritual renewal.
- Psalm 69:10; David used fasting as part of his lament before God.
- Psalm 109:24; (King David) My knees are weak from fasting; and all my flesh has grown lean, without fatness.
- 1 Samuel 31:13; Israel fasted seven days at the death of King Saul.
- 2 Samuel 1:12; David and his men mourned and wept and fasted until evening at the death of Saul.
- 1 Kings 21:27-29; evil king Ahab humbled himself before God with fasting.  God honored it.

5) False Fasting:

- 1 Kings 21:9, Jezebels false fast.
- Isaiah 58:3-4; False fasting: On the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.  You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
- Zechariah 7:5; when you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted?
- Jeremiah 14:12; When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry...I   am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.
- Luke 18:12; I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.
- Isaiah 58:6-8; compare fasting with righteous acts.
- Matthew 6:16-18; true and false conduct during fasting.

6) Fasting is an application of the spiritual truth that: Gods word and spiritual things are more important than food.  See Job 23:12; 1 Peter 2:2; Matthew 4:4; 6:25; Romans 14:17; Hebrews 12:16 and John 6:55.

On March 3, 1863, the Senate of the United States of America passed this resolution:

     Resolved, That devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and nations,  and sincerely believing that no people, however great in numbers and resources, or however strong in the justness of their cause, can prosper without His favor, and at the same time deploring the national offenses which have provoked His righteous judgment, yet encouraged in this day of trouble by the assurance of His Word, to seek Him for succor according to His appointed way, through Jesus Christ, the Senate of the United States does hereby request the President of the United States, by his proclamation, to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation.  (William J. Federer, AMERICA’S GOD AND COUNTRY, Encyclopedia Of Quotations Coppell, Texas: Fame Publishing Inc., 1994, p. 170.)

In response, on March 30th 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation, part of which says:

        Now, therefore, in compliance with the request and fully concurring in the view of the Senate, I do, by this
proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer.

And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.  (William J. Federer, AMERICA’S GOD AND COUNTRY,  Encyclopedia Of Quotations  Coppell, Texas: Fame Publishing  Inc., 1994, p. 171.)

7) Speculation: Fasting is a powerful witness for God in the Angelic Conflict.  Satan believes that environment makes the man.  See Job 1:6-11 and 2:1-6.  When the believer deliberately makes a Biblical spiritual choice (fasting) detrimental to their personal environment for the sake of spiritual things, it makes a powerful spiritual
statement in the Angelic Conflict.  Compare point 6, paragraph 1 above.

8) Length and techniques of fasting:

         The length of fasts is as short as part of a day (Judges 20:26), to up to 40 days (Matthew 4:2).  The length of a fast is between you and the Lord.
         The technique of fasting precludes food or water, see Esther 4:16 and Jonah 3:5-10.
         Opinion: If you are feeling ill, or are performing hard labor, fast at another time.

9) Conclusion: Fasting is an overt spiritual act which makes special appeal to God in support of prayer, lament and suffering.  Observation: Fasting improves ones spiritual concentration.   Each time one feels hungry, it is
a reminder to pray about the subject fasted for.