God's chosen fast.
Is it a fast that God approves of?


Some fasts are of no value at all in the sight of God, even though they may entail great personal sacrifice and difficulty.

Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying,

'When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month,
even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?'

Scriptural marks of a vain fast:
  • Performed without a specific and explicit purpose
  • Engaged in as a matter of ill understood tradition
  • Its aim to gain merit with God (all our righteousness is as filthy rags before Him)
  • Unaccompanied by intense and continuous prayer for specific objectives
  • Done openly to be observed by others, or passively to avoid disapproval

Fasting can have tremendous value in prayer, by exposing our own weakness, and increasing our dependence and trust in God.
The Lord Jesus explained that some problems are so serious that only intense prayer which is
accompanied by fasting can be expected to address them. (Matt.17.21).
He fasted 40 continuous days at the beginning of His ministry (Mt.4.2), and His disciples often did afterwards (Ac.13.2,14.23, 1 Cor.7.5) and now.

Here is a classic passage in the great prophet Isaiah, where he strongly reproves God's people
for reliance on fasting in its own right, and neglecting its underlying purpose.
It concludes with a glorious promise about the benefits of seeking God's face sincerely.

Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?
Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?

Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:
Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens,
and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily:
and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.

Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say,
Here I am.
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul;
then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought,
and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden,
and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places:
thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called,
The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

Messiah also warns of the grave danger of fasting for outward reasons, from fear of or out of a desire to gratify men,
or out of rote or vain tradition (something many Orthodox and Catholic churches also practice).
Such motives render a fast worthless.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance:
for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.

Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. [i.e.: the pleasing of men, but nothing else]

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret:
and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

His teaching on prayer also warns against the danger of formalistic, repetitive ritual - which he describes as a heathen practice, and reminds the author of the hideous and heart rending repetitions of mechanical prayer he heard in the Middle East,
especially during 'Eid al Adha.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are:
for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,

and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret;
and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do:
for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not ye therefore like unto them:
for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Another prophet, Joel, during a time of national crisis, appeals for fasting as an expression of repentance
and earnest desire to return to God.

Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting,
and with weeping, and with mourning:

And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God:
for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him;

even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:


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