Fasting reminds us that we need food and water to sustain our physical life. Fasting teaches us an important lesson of humility so we can be close to God and have a relationship with Him to help our spiritual health.
[Darris McNeely] In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ gave a lot of instruction, and on one point He gave some very specific teaching about the subject of fasting. He said, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their face that they may appear to men to be fasting. Surely I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.” And so He tells His disciples about fasting, and He says, “When you fast”. Now what exactly are we talking about? This may be a term that is a bit strange for some of our viewers and watchers of Beyond Today, but let’s get really basic and understand this. Unger’s Bible Dictionary gives us an explanation about this word, “fast”, which basically means that we go without food and water. We have a number of biblical examples where it shows servants of God teaching about fasting – people abstain from water and from food for a period of time, typically twenty-four hours. There’s one holy day called the Day of Atonement, which is a fast day. We fast from sunset to sunset and go without food and water. We also find other examples in Scripture where people like Moses and even Jesus Christ fasted for upwards of 40 days. Now, I’m not saying that you should go and do that, but the typical period of time would be about 24 hours, to go through a fast. But the meaning in both the Greek and the Hebrew terms that we find in the Scripture mean to either close the mouth – in other words, not let food come in or to abstain from that.
It is what we call a spiritual discipline – something that we discipline ourselves over for spiritual benefit. Seeking to grow close to God, seeking to understand more about the God’s Word, God’s purpose for our life, and seeking to have a closer and a deeper relationship with God. King David, in one of the Psalms—Psalms 35:13 Psalms 35:13But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into my own bosom.
American King James Version×said that He would fast to humble himself. He would humble himself be fasting. Going without food and water will automatically bring us to a point where just kind of things just shut down, or they stop in our life. We do get hungry, we will get thirsty, but it reminds us that we’re physical. And in the reminder that we need food and water to sustain our physical life, it teaches us a very important spiritual lesson or spiritual discipline that we need a spiritual dimension to our life. We need a relationship with God. We need to be close to God. Humility, being humbled through fasting will help us to understand the need for spiritual humility.
The Bible also records many, many examples – I mentioned Moses and Jesus fasting. Elijah fasted, the prophet Daniel fasted, the apostle Paul himself talks about fasting. And Jesus knew that His disciples, those that wanted to pattern their life after His teachings and follow Him in their life, would be fasting and would be doing that in order to draw close to Him.
There’s an example in Mark chapter 2. Again, Christ teaching on this, when He was questioned by the Pharisees about why His disciples didn’t fast, He said, “The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting, and they came to Him and they said, ‘Why do the disciples of John and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples,’” Christ’s disciples, “’do not?’ Jesus said, ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.’” He was speaking about Himself. Verse 20, “‘But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days’” (Mark 2:18-20 Mark 2:18-20  And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say to him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples fast not?
 And Jesus said to them, Can the children of the bridal chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.
 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
American King James Version×). And the disciples did. Again, we find that the apostle Paul talked about his frequent fastings and prayer in order to draw close to God. So it is something that a disciple will be doing in order to draw close to God, anticipating that God will also draw close to us, or pay attention to what we are talking about.
The Bible has a lot to say about fasting. In out next part of this series, on “When You Fast”, we’re going to talk a very important example in the book of Isaiah chapter 58. It gives us a bit more detail about the purpose for a fast and what we should seek from that.
That’s BT Daily. Join us next time.