We can learn important principles about fasting from the examples of Nehemiah and Daniel. We need to humble ourselves, confess our sins to God and seek His forgiveness.
[Darris McNeely] We’ve been going through a series on BT Daily here about fasting, a spiritual discipline that helps us to draw close to God, to change our nature, and to understand the purpose of God, His will, and for our own spiritual benefit to humble us. We talked about what Christ had taught. We also went through Isaiah chapter 58 last time to show what a fast should produce. The Bible is full of examples of servants of God who have fasted.
There are two that are interesting that I find fascinating to look at because of the state of the condition of God’s people. Sometimes God’s church will call a fast to help the church draw close to God to accomplish its mission, its purpose to discern what God is wanting the work to do. And for all of us, we should always be sure that we are aligned with that. There are two individuals from the Bible that teach us that particular example.
There’s an example of fasting in the book of Nehemiah chapter 9, and it opens in verse 1 with Nehemiah calling the people to gather in an assembly with fasting and sackcloth and with dust on their heads. That’s a common expression, “sackcloth and ashes”, but we would not necessarily dress up in sackcloth or put dirt or ashes on our heads today. That’s a symbol of humility and coming to understand a lot about what fasting is all about in our life. But what happened here is that Israel brought themselves together, and it says, “They stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers” (Nehemiah 9:1 Nehemiah 9:1Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackcloths, and earth on them.
American King James Version×).
So fasting in this case is always accompanied with prayer, but there’s also a confession. This is a very important principle when it comes to prayer, especially prayer and fasting, and it’s a confession of sin. And this is what they were doing at the time of Nehemiah.
Now, there’s one other example in Daniel chapter 9 – this is one of my favorites here, Daniel 9, where the prophet wanted to understand a particular prophecy regarding his people, Israel, and he set himself to a period of fasting to understand a prophetic passage of Scripture. In Daniel 9:3 Daniel 9:3And I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
American King James Version×, it says that “I set my face,” the prophet is writing, “toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes,” again, “and I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and I said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments” – God’s covenant with His people, with His church, involves those who obey God. In verse 5 here, Daniel 9, he says, “‘We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments’” (Daniel 9:3-19 Daniel 9:3-19  And I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:  And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;  We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from your precepts and from your judgments:  Neither have we listened to your servants the prophets, which spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.  O LORD, righteousness belongs to you, but to us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries where you have driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against you.  O Lord, to us belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.  To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;  Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.  Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, even by departing, that they might not obey your voice; therefore the curse is poured on us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.  And he has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing on us a great evil: for under the whole heaven has not been done as has been done on Jerusalem.  As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come on us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand your truth.  Therefore has the LORD watched on the evil, and brought it on us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he does: for we obeyed not his voice.  And now, O Lord our God, that have brought your people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have gotten you renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.  O LORD, according to all your righteousness, I beseech you, let your anger and your fury be turned away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people are become a reproach to all that are about us.  Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his supplications, and cause your face to shine on your sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake.  O my God, incline your ear, and hear; open your eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by your name: for we do not present our supplications before you for our righteousnesses, but for your great mercies.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and do; defer not, for your own sake, O my God: for your city and your people are called by your name.
American King James Version×).
Daniel began this period of fasting in this prayer that is recorded here in chapter 9 with confession. Again, a confession of sin. One of the principles to learn when we fast, as we fast, that we petition God – not, again, out of pride, not out of arrogance – but out of humility and an admission that we have sinned and we’re seeking forgiveness. And that even in a collective sense today, for a group of people, for the church of God, that we acknowledge our sins collectively and that we confess that individually on behalf of one another before God and understanding that in a sense collectively, spiritually, the people of God are all together in a time of reflection and seeking God and His purpose and His will.
Nehemiah and Daniel, two important figures from the Old Testament who sought God, worshiped God and sought to live clean, obedient lives, teach us something about the importance of fasting in order to, again, know the will of God and to come to repentance and then with that, as we saw in Isaiah chapter 58, the lifting of the burdens, the grace of God upon us, and our paths being filled with the light, the grace of God, His purpose and His way of life.
When you fast, make it that – a point of spiritual discipline in your life to include that along with regular prayer and study of the word of God. Taking in the word of God is a part of your knowledge of God and the prophets, the writings of the epistles, the teachings of Jesus Christ – feeding on the word of God, and occasionally fasting in order to cement all of those other disciplines into an effective means of drawing close to God, reflecting His purpose and will, not only with Him but toward one another and helping to lift the burdens and to walk righteously with our God. Make that a point for you when you fast.
That’s BT Daily. Join us next time.