* Benefits of fasting
When the nation was faced with disaster, Jehoshaphat called upon the people to get serious with God by going without food (fasting) for a designated time. By separating themselves from the daily routine of food preparation and eating, they could devote that extra time to considering their sin and praying to God for help. Hunger pangs would reinforce their pentence and remind them of their weakness and their dependence upon God. Fasting still can be helpful today as we seek God’s will in special situations. (NLT)
2 Chronicles 20:3 – Jehoshaphat was alarmed by this news and sought the Lord for guidance. He also gave orders that everyone throughout Judah should observe a fast.
* Ezra knew God’s promises to protect his people, but he didn’t take them for granted. He also knew thatGod’s blessings are appropriated through prayer, so Ezra and the people humbled themselves by fasting and praying. And their prayers were answered. Fasting humbled them because going without food was a reminder of their complete dependence on God. Fasting also gave them more time to pray and meditate on God.
Too often we pray glibly and superficially. Serious prayer, by contrast, requires concentration. It puts us in touch with God’s will and can really change us. Without serious prayer, we reduce God to a quick-service pharmacist with painkillers for our every ailment. (NLT)
Ezra 8:23 – Be careful to provide whatever the God of heaven demands for his Temple, for why should we risk bringing God’s anger against the realm of the king and his sons?
* Fasting often done in times of calamity
A fast was a period of time when no food was eaten and people approached God with humility, sorrow for sin, and urgen prayer. In the Old Testament, people often would fast during times of calamity in order to focus their attention on God and to demonstrate their change of heart and their true devotion. This solemn meeting was a public religious gathering, called so that everyone could reprent and pray to God for mercy. (NLT)
Joel 1:14 – Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Bring the leaders and all the people into the Temple of the Lord your God, and cry out to him there.
* Fasting for the right reasons
Fasting—going without food in order to spend time in prayer—is noble and difficult. It gives us time to pray, teaches self-discipline, reminds us that we can live with a lot less, and helps us appreciate God’s gifts. Jesus was not condemning fasting, but hypocrisy—fasting in order to gain public approval. Fasting was mandatory for the Jewish people once a year on the Day of Atonement. The Pharisees voluntarily fasted twice a week to impress the people with their “holiness.” Jesus commended acts of self-sacrifice done quietly and sincerely. He wanted people to adopt spiritual disciplines for the right reasons, not from a selfish desire for praise. (NLT)
Matthew 6:16 – [Jesus said] “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you, that is the only reward they will ever get. . . .”
* We cannot be saved without faith in Christ, but our faith lacks sincerity if it doesn’t reach out to others. Fasting can be beneficial spiritually and physically, but at its best fasting helps only the person doing it. God says he wants our fasting to go beyond our own personal growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity. This truly is pleasing to God. (NLT)
Isaiah 58:6-8 – “No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need thenm, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your hearling will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. . . .
* Jesus‘ words about fasting
John’s disciples fasted (went without food) as a sign of mourning for sin and preparation for the Messiah’s coming. Jesus‘ disciples did not need to fast because he is the Messiah and was with them! Jesus did not condemn fasting—he himself fasted. He emphasized that fasting must be done for the right reasons.
Matthew 9:14 – One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t fast?”
* Fasting, why John’s disciples did and Jesus‘ didn’t
John had two goals: to lead people to repent of their sin, and to prepare them for Christ’s coming. John’s message was sobering, so he and his followers fasted. Fasting is both an outward sign of humility and regret for sin, and an inner discipline that clears the mind and keeps the spirit alert. Fasting empties the body of food; reprentance empties the life of sin. Jesus‘ disciples did not need to fast to prepare for his coiming because he was with them. Jesus did not condemn fasting, however. He himself fasted for 40 days. Nevertheless, Jesus emphasized fasting with the right motives. The Pharisees fasted twice a week to show others how holy they were. Jesus explained that if people fast only to impress others, they will be twisting the purpose of fasting. (NLT)
Mark 2:18 – John’s disciples and the Pharisees sometimes fasted. One day some people came to Jesus and asked, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t fast?”
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