"After fasting forty days and forty nights,
He was hungry"
Ahhhh.... the Christmas season. The time of the year marked by family and friends... singing and gifts... cookies and eggnog and fast food while shopping.... And you know what I'm thinking about lately?
I have several friends who fast regularly. Some who fast for a month at a time; others who fast for one day every month. I know people who fast for a specific prayer request, and people who fast for their health.
The different kinds of fasting are endless. Fasting from all food and beverages; liquid-only fasts; sugar fasts; sunrise to sundown fasts; I've even heard of people fasting from speaking.
The variety of methods and reasons for fasting seem to be well-supported in Scripture. In Ezra we see fasting for a specific goal: "I proclaimed a fast, that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children." (Ezra 8:1)
We also see that Esther fasted for three days and nights before going before the king to plead for the lives of her people, the Jews; and David fasted for the life of his son after his indiscretion with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah.
Fasting can show our sincerity to God; our repentance. "Return to me, declares the Lord, with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." (Joel 2:12)
But Isaiah warns about the futility of fasting with a heart that is selfish, or only doing it for show. They are powerful words, "On the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers... quarrels and strife and wickedness... You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high." Indeed, fasting with the desire for others to see your "righteousness" will accomplish that ~ and nothing else. "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." (Matthew 6:16)
But here are the things that stood out the most to me: first of all, fasting is not about dieting. It's not meant to be the antidote to your holiday binging. If you're unhappy with your weight, then self-control and exercise are what you're looking for.
Secondly, most of the Scriptural references I found indicate that fasting is meant to be accompanied by something else, like prayer, confession, or mourning. Clearly it's not meant to be just about your body, and what you are ~ and are not ~ taking in, but about your heart and mind being devoted to Him during that time.
And thirdly, I believe we don't always choose our times of fasting. He can give us times of fasting, just as He gives us times of feasting. When we find ourselves in times of plenty, whether it's food, time or money, He deserves our praise and thanks. When we find ourselves in times of want, consider that those times might be orchestrated by Him, and make the most of them, spiritually.
~ "Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly" ~