A Voice in the
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March 15, 1998

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READER COMMENT:
OK for everthing! One passage of scripture I would like to remeber.Jesus was asked why his disciples dind't fast. Jesus answer: ... when (I) will be gone they will fast. It, surely, is not said: they must, but they will, and that according to God's will, silently, as Jesus warned.

I do fasting, once weekly... I do not pretend to sqeeze something out of God or impress others, but it helps me focus on the subject, think over bible teachings and be in prayer... I have profited greatly from it, But I don't require it from anybody.

READER QUESTION:
You are contradicting yourself :

-snip- But God never commanded it. In fact, as Israel became apostate God reacts to their fasting, "during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me; for Me?" when you eat.. do you not eat and drink for your- selves?" (Zec7:6-7) And Jesus says in His day, "When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites"(Mt6:16) parading their holiness for men to see. Rather do it before God "in secret."(vs18) -snip-

God DID command us to fast. Go and read John 13:15-17. God commands us to do as He did. Like you said, Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. If He fasted, then so should we. What Jesus meant in Mt6:16, is that when you do fast, you mustn't tell everybody, and let everybody know, like in "Hey, I'm fasting!!" or "Hey, but I'm hungry today". You must do it for the glory of God (Col3:23).

When Jonah prophesied to Niniveh, the humbled themselves before God in sackcloth and ash and with FASTING(Jonah3:5-...). We should humble ourselves before God with fasting too. In good times and bad times. Why must we humble ourselves? (1Pt5:6).

Hope I could have shed some light.

VW ANSWER:
Following your logic, if we follow John 13:15-17 as you suggested, we should be "washing each other's feet." The context of that passage was Jesus washing the disciples' feet; not fasting. And I know of groups who practice "foot-washing." But is "that" what Jesus was commanding? In a nutshell, He was teaching about "serving." If He, the "Lord and Master" had stooped to a "servant's" task, His disiples, even more so. As He then goes on to express the "chain of reception" from the Father, to Jesus, to Jesus' disciples. (vs20)

But I see you understand Mt6:16 very well. Exactly.

While Nineveh fasted, 1Pt5:6 says nothing about "fasting." Is the non-eating of food necessary for humility? Again, God never commanded it. If He had commanded it, specifically, we would see some "how-to's" in the Pentateuch. If it were a N.T. mandate, surely Paul would have taught on the matter in the epistles. Fasting seems to have been a Jewish-"eastern" thing. And as the early Church "fathers" convened the council for what Gentiles should observe, they don't even mention "fasting."(Acts15:29)

If the Lord so-leads "you" to fast, then you had better obey. There are some people for whom, if they were to fast, would become ill due to their metabolism. There are others who, if they fasted, would become so caught up with their fast and hurting stomach, that their "focus" on God would be diverted to their stomachs. In such a case, the "fast" would have only been a useless physical exercise in self-abuse.

READER QUESTION:
Fasting...Christ says in Matthew "when ye fast" not if but when?

I think fasting might go a little beyond just not drinking or eating. But giving up of something we hold dear or vital. Say "sleep" -- arise a little earlier to devote time to God, HIS Word, prayer, etc. To go the "extra mile" with our Christian brethren. . . even some Christians are often unloveable to us. We need to be no respecter of persons., etc.

Fasting to me entails a great deal more than just missing a day of food and drink or several days for that matter. I am not going beyond Scripture.

Look at Mattew Six to start.

VW ANSWER:
"Not if but when..." Stay tuned for next Sunday's study in Matthew. It touches on that very thing.

But the "giving up something dear or vital" is a Catholic "lenten" concept. Doing "penance" in order to obtain merit. Where we know that our salvation is not based on "works."(Eph2:9)

And the "rising early" or "go the extra mile" are not "fasting" concepts. Those are individual matters as we each follow the Lord faithfully.

You suggest that I "look at Matthew six" ...did you see that passage in the original commentary?

READER QUESTION:
I am thankful to God that I have been able to follow your messages since and have gained so much therefrom.

The above issue is a very delicate one whose treatment demand adequate knowledge of God's preferences. I strongly share the same view as yours that fasting is a thing that has to do with the heart been in submission to God at all time. I think that I am competent to speak on this issue since I myself am a good 'student' of the Bible and a practisant of fasting and prayer.

One must always be careful in the ways the issue of fasting and prayer is handled so as not to mislead the young followers of Christ. Many of the examples quoted from the Scriptures like the case of Jesus, Moses and Daniel combined giving up of food with their prayers. Going without food in fasting, I believe, is the most powerful method of suppressing the body and giving chance for the spirit to dominate. Although we are not fighting against flesh and blood but against the power of darkness, but the flesh must still be put under suppression before we could successfully take on the whole armour of God since flesh will always contradict the spirit. Giving up of food in this case becomes therefore a must especially so that one's heart will be completely directed to the prayer.

Denying self of food can be liking to a night vigil in which case you are denying yourself what others are enjoying at that particular time.

If then we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as the author and finisher of our faith, we should let him remain our model in everything we do. This is why food denial is a major component of fasting only we should avoid such of the Sadduces and Pharises.

Send me your comment on this please.

VW ANSWER:
While I really appreciate and respect the desires of your heart in what you say, a couple of points you might want to consider.

Each individual "physical" person is different. Perhaps "you" find that fasting helps "you" to put the flesh down in order to be completely directed to prayer. But there are some, for whom fasting would be deadly due to their individual metabolism. And others, for whom fasting would be more of a distraction from God, rather than a help. Just as a consideration for you that not necessarily "all" Christians should fast..?

And then, your comment about the "night vigil" vs. "what others are enjoying..." Any fasting a Christian does should not be based on, or "timed" by what anybody else might be doing at that moment. We do not "compare" ourselves with anybody else.(2Cor10:12) We do not look at a "fellow servant."(Rom14:4) We do not imitate the heathen (Mt6:8) who at certain times (Lent) "do penance" and "give up things" to gain favor. Our salvation is not by man-made "works of righteousness" which we do.(Tit3:5)

But to avoid the way of the Scribes and Pharisees...yes. Stay tuned for next week's Matthew study..."to be seen by men."

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Is Fasting commanded by God?

READER QUESTION:
Is fasting a command given by God? I understand that when it come to fasting it means food or meats. Could fasting also mean to abstain or give up something That you love other than food. Please let me know. I thank you.

VW ANSWER:
Actually, I don't know where fasting got its start. In the Law through Moses, everything is based on "eating". All the various sacrifices were eaten, even the ones for sin and traspass offerings. They were the annual "feasts". (Ex23:14, De16:16, Jug21:19, etc)

On the other hand, when chiding Israel's rebellion, God asks, "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months, even those seventy years, did you truly fast to Me, even to Me?" (Zec7:5) And we also see Jonathan's frustration with his father, Saul, in having forced the soldiers to fast, where if they had eaten, and had more energy, the victory would have been even greater. (1Sa14:28-31)

Yes, God does tell Israel to "consecrate a fast" (Joel1:14-15), but I suspect that is more 'prophetic' and an indication to the 'heart', than it is a command to physical not-eating. When Jesus talks about the fast, He does not command -that- it be done, but rather condemns the way it was usually done, and indicates how the fast, 'when/if' it is done, should be to the Lord, and not to be seen by men. (Mt6:16-17) as...part of His condemnation of the pharisee in his prayer, "I fast twice a week" (Lk18:12) When Jesus speaks of His disciples fasting, it is not a command, but prophecy (Mk2:20) And I suspect when Jesus speaks of "prayer and fasting" (Mt17:21), He is not so much 'commanding' that fasting be done, but is using an idiom of that which people in those societies already used, having devised it and it became a tradition over the centuries, to indicate their heart's -deep- humility and commitment to God. We don't read of Moses, Elijah or Elisha 'fasting' before doing their miracles. Jesus was not (deliberately) fasting before all His multitude of miracles. Yes, sometimes things were so hectic and busy, that they didn't have 'time' to take their meals properly...but that was not -a- 'fast'.

But on the whole, when God speaks of fasting, He is chiding those who do it, as being of 1) insincere hearts and 2) being in rebellion. Of what good is fasting of the body, when the heart is far from God?

David, the one who set up much of Israel's worship for when the temple would be built understood the difference: "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." (Ps51:16-17)

Now, to include the aspect of "giving up something one likes" ....that is sounding very "lent-esque" as the catholics "give up something" for lent. I'm not sure why.

There was an occasion where Israel was told to take off their jewelry (ornaments) when they had made the golden calf (Ex33;4-6) Is not jewelry a symbolism of festivity and feeling "pretty"....of having a good time. Israel needed to humble themselves in repentance....and removing the jewelry was a physical symbolism of that. Who knows, also....the passage doesn't say....but....just prior to exiting Egypt they had gotten lots of jewelry from the Egyptians....and is not jewelry often made in the shapes of the symbols of pagan idolatry. Perhaps the ornaments they were wearing on that occasion were from Egypt...going along with the calf they were worshiping? Thus, the calf and their jewelry were of the same pagan roots...?

But otherwise....any sort of catholic-esque "lent" observance is a 'work'...seeking to obtain cleansing from sin by -doing- things, or doing the action of -abstaining- from things which, in and of themselves, are not symbols of either good or bad. And we know that salvation is "not of works" (Eph2:9) Catholics don't eat 4/2-legged meat on Fridays, so instead they eat -fish- 'meat'. What's that about? It's not in Scripture, and is hypocrisy.

But to reiterate your basic question: God nowhere in the O.T. institutes the fast; nor is it a N.T. Church doctrine. The O.T. sacrifices also included the 'eating' of it; and in the N.T. the Lord's Supper involves 'ingesting' from the cup and bread. The fast seems to be something that man came up with when he was in deep sorrow and/or repentance; or when something of great significance or importance was being observed. e.g. David when the baby died (2Sa12:23), when Jezebel ordered the lynching of Naboth (1Ki21:12), seeking Jehovah as an enemy was approaching (2Ch20:3), Esther asking the Jews to pray for her as she was about to plead the Jewish case before the king (Es4:16), Nineveh in repentance (Jonah3:5), etc. Jesus references it in the traditional sense in which people understood the humbling of one's self.

But when God actually addresses the fast, it typically seems to be in the context of reprimanding what they do: devising "pleasures" (Is58:3), with "strife and contention" (Is58:4), did God choose it? is it pleasing to God? (implied answer: "No!")(Is58:5), I won't hear their cry (Jer14:12), did you really fast to Me? (Zec7:5), the hypocrites fast (Mt6:16), fasting isn't always appropriate (Mt9:14-17).

Once past the Jewish (eastern culture) books, ending at Acts, fasting is mentioned only once in 1Co7:5, and there it is not so much a command -to- do it, but is referenced as something people do, and that married couples should not deprive each other; and even there, the context almost sounds like fasting -could- find itself being inappropriate at times in a marriage relationship. In other words, don't be separating from each other 'in order to fast', such that it jeopardizes the marriage.

In other words....physical fasting is not the main thing.
The -heart- towards God is.

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