Spiritual Warfare – Part 12
If you haven’t yet read Part one of this study, please click here.
THE WEAPON OF FASTING
Let’s look first at what Jesus Himself says about fasting.
- Matthew 6:16-18
Jesus assumes that His followers will fast. (Compare “when you pray….” Matthew 6:5-6)
Why do you think much of the church has encouraged one of these disciplines and not the other?
Obviously the “established church” of the time had a tradition of fasting which Jesus condemned as a habit, seeking the admiration of men and not the glory of God.
Note the boast of the Pharisee in Luke 18:12.
A similar criticism is given by the Lord through the prophet Zechariah. God is aware that the people kept several fasts each year, but he is questioning their motivation.
- Zechariah 7:5
It is interesting to note that in the laws for the Jewish people given through Moses, only one day of self denial is stipulated. Leviticus 19:29-31
This was to be the “Day of Atonement” (Yom Kippur) when the priests would offer atonement for the sins of the people. It was the only day when the High Priest could enter into the the inner sanctuary, (behind the veil) and then only after much cleansing of himself. (Leviticus 16:1-14) It was that ritual that Christ completed once and for all at His death, when the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51)
That original day of fasting was intended to be a denial of all bodily pleasures, but through the centuries it has become a day of just not eating.
During the years, other days of fasting have been added to the Jewish calendar, so that now there are over 20. Many of these were originally proclaimed for very good reasons. Can you find the reasons for fasting in the following verses?
- 2 Chronicles 20:3
- Ezra 8:21
- Esther 4:16
- Jeremiah 36:6
- Joel 2:12-15
- Jonah 3:6-9
Do you think any of the reasons for fasting that you have found in these verses could be applied to your life today?
Let’s look for the reasons for fasting in the early church.
- Acts 13:1-3
- Acts 14:23
Is it important that the church follows these examples to the letter or not?
What effect did the Old Testament fasts have?
Read about the result of the King of Nineveh’s fast after Jonah warned the people of the Lord’s coming judgement.
Jonah is a very small, very interesting Old Testament book and it is recommended that you read it all.
The book of Esther too is a complete story, read about the effect of her fast in the 5th chapter.
Fasting developed a bad reputation as a result of extreme practices in the middle ages, and many believers dismiss it as being “over the top”, but there are Biblical precedents as we have seen, and fasting has proved to be a valuable discipline or a weapon of warfare for many of the “great names” of Christianity since the Biblical era.
- 2 Corinthians 11:27
- Acts 9:9
- Acts 13:2
- Luke 4:1-2
For a last, but important, word on fasting read Isaiah 58.
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