Verse of the Day – Matthew 6:16
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

Daily Scripture ReadingMatthew 4

Devotional Thoughts
Matthew 6:16 – Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

As Jesus moves on now in His sermon, He continues to teach the crowd on the mountain side (and us) how to be blessed by God. He has taught us how to pray so now He is going to teach us how to fast! FAST? Did you say fast? What does it mean to fast? Isn’t that a Bible times thing, way in the past?

Just as He said about giving, and praying, He now says “when” about fasting! “When you fast,” Jesus says. He expects us to fast! When was the last time you heard a sermon about fasting? When was the last time your pastor encouraged you to fast? Fasting to most Christians is a mystery at the least and an ignored spiritual discipline at most!

Fasting is a very simple concept. We deny our body (our self) by not eating food for a period of time. The time we would spend eating is instead spent praying and communing with God. It is a time that we take to rid ourselves of fleshly desires by overcoming the flesh with the power of the Holy Spirit. We subject our bodies to our spirit!

In a non-spiritual fast, we all fast every day – when we sleep! That’s why the first meal of the day is called “break – fast”. But in a spiritual sense, there is more to it than 6 or 8 hours of going without food. The fast is to be a time of voluntary self denial for spiritual attention to God. There were fasts commanded in Scripture for repentance and renewal as in a Sacred Assembly. Everywhere else in Scripture the fast was a willful offering to God.

When we fast, it can be for a day, or for an extended period of time. The length of time really isn’t important. The spiritual significance is such that the principle of denial of the flesh and attention to God is the point! Paul wrote about putting his body under subjection, submitting to God. (See 1 Cor. 9:27.) Jesus fasted. Remember the 40 days in the wilderness? As a matter of fact, most of the godly people mentioned in Scripture at one time or another fasted. Fasting allows us to cleanse our mind of all distraction and focus on God’s Word and will. As a matter of fact, after the first 3 days of a fast, the hunger pains actually go away. They stay away until it becomes important for our bodies to take food in again for our health.

So, if we fast for an extended period of time, remember, at first we will battle the body and its hunger (after all, here in America we don’t really know what it means to be hungry, we just know what it feels like not to be full anymore!), but after the body gets the point that it is not going to be fed, it won’t bother us with hunger pains again until it’s time to end the fast! Please note – the length of time to fast is your offering to God – you don’t have to fast until you’re hungry again. Some people fast for a day, others for 3 or 4, some for a week, and others for two weeks – there is no time set, just an expectation from God that we will deny self and follow Him willfully!

So Jesus says, “When you fast”, don’t be like the hypocrites – remember them – they fast and do other works of obedience for the crowd instead of for God. The hypocrites would fast twice a week on the second and fifth days. They claimed this was to commemorate Moses getting the Law from God on the Mount on those days of the week. Actually, those were market days! The biggest days of the week for produce to come to market were the second and fifth days so the Pharisees were sure that a larger than usual crowd would be in town and could be impressed with their spiritual prowess!

They were so vain in their attempt at receiving attention for their offering to God that they would cover themselves with ashes, mess up their hair, wear old tattered clothes, and some would even use cosmetics to make themselves look pail and weak! (and you thought going “Goth” was a new fad…) The better the performance, the better they thought the crowd would appreciate their spiritual sacrifice to God! They have their reward Jesus tells us. Their reward is the praise of men not the good pleasure of God. He detests their false worship!

When we do things for God, whether it is prayer, giving, or fasting, we must not do these things for ourselves but for Him! We must not be at the center, He must! Throughout church history, fasting has either been neglected or used as a superstitious ritual that is supposed to win us brownie points with God! We must learn to give ourselves to God. We must learn to fast and pray and give. Jesus is teaching us. We must listen.

To sum up today, John Calvin said of fasting, “Many for want of knowing its usefulness undervalue its necessity. And some reject it all together as superfluous, while on the other hand, where the proper use of fasting is not well understood, it easily degenerates into superstition.”

I pray that we would understand the Scriptural and spiritual principle of fasting.

And here are two questions for you to think about today: Is fasting really expected? Have you ever fasted?

Bible Reading For Further Study
Psalm 35:13
Fasting Out of WorryDaniel 6:18
Fasting Out of FaithDaniel 9:3
Joel 2:12-13
A right way and a wrong way to fastIsaiah 58:1-12

Recommended Songs for Worship
Faith is the Victory
Lead On, O King Eternal