BIBLICAL SYNOPSIS OF FASTING
- Humanity’s primary issue/obstacle is pride (cf. Gen. 2:17), and thus the ultimate purpose of fasting, either directly or indirectly, is always humiliation before the Lord.
When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. (ESV Psalm 69:10)
Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. (NIV Psalm 35:13)
- The most important day of the year on Israel’s calendar, the “Day of Atonement,” was also the only fast commanded by the Law (Lev. 16:29-31; 23:27-29; Num. 29:7). Though not called a “fast” specifically, the phrase “humble your souls” (“afflict your souls” KJV/ NKJV) has always been understood to refer primarily to fasting from food (cf. Acts 27:9).
On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD. (NASB Leviticus 23:27)
- Throughout the Bible fasting is always in conjunction with some form of self-humiliation, usually repentance and mourning. However, man’s ultimate desire is to exalt himself rather than humble himself, and thus we even manipulate fasting to serve ourselves.
They seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right… 3 “Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife… You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. (NIV Is. 58:2-4)
Ask all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?” … 9 Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another… 10 In your hearts do not think evil of each other. (NIV Zechariah 7:5-10)
- Likewise, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their pride and for their use of the primary means of self-humiliation for self-exaltation.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves… 11 “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men… 12 I fast twice a week…'” (ESV Luke 18:9-12; cf. Mt. 6:16; 23:5)