Fast, Fasting

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The first fasting we read of is when Moses went up into the mount to receive the tables of the covenant, and was there apart from nature with the Lord for forty days and nights (Deut. 10:1010And I stayed in the mount, according to the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also, and the Lord would not destroy thee. (Deuteronomy 10:10)). The first national fasting was when Israel was smitten before Benjamin: they "came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord" (Judg. 20:2626Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. (Judges 20:26)). Here, as in other places, it is connected with humbling; but in the case of Elijah, as with Moses, it signifies being apart from the ordinary life of flesh, to be with the Lord (1 Kings 19:88And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:8)). Jehoshaphat, when the children of Moab and of Ammon came against him, proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah, and asked help of the Lord (2 Chron. 20:33And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. (2 Chronicles 20:3)). When Nineveh was threatened with destruction the king humbled himself, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth: every one was to cry mightily to God, and put away his evil (Jonah 3:55So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5)). The only fast enjoined by the law was the one connected with the Day of Atonement. The word “fasting” does not occur there, but it is held to be included in the injunction “afflict your souls.” This seems to be confirmed by “the fast” mentioned in Acts 27:99Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, (Acts 27:9), for the tenth of Tisri would answer to the time of the equinoctial gales, when it was dangerous to sail in the Mediterranean.
1. In the fourth month, corresponding to the “breaking up” of Jerusalem, when there was no bread for the people (Jer. 52:66And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. (Jeremiah 52:6)).
In the N.T. we find in John the Baptist the spirit of fasting, a Nazarite spirit of separation (Matt. 3:44And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)). He also taught his disciples to fast. The Lord said of His disciples that when He was taken away, then they would fast; and while He was here He spoke of a certain power over unclean spirits that could only be exercised with prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:2121Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:21)). He Himself when led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, fasted forty days and forty nights. It is a contrast to Moses and Elijah, they were apart from man's natural condition to be with God; and He who as man was ever with God was so apart to be in conflict with the devil.
Paul and Barnabas were sent on their first missionary journey after prayer and fasting (Acts 13:2-32As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:2‑3)). It is to be feared that because many have made fasting compulsory, and attached a superstitious merit to it, other Christians have altogether neglected the uniting of fasting with prayer. An habitual self-denial is doubtless the spirit of fasting rather than mere occasional abstinence from food.