I. "MOREOVER WHEN YOU FAST."
A. Note that the assumption is that we will fast.
1. Fasting has been a spiritual exercise through the years, and in many different religions.
a. Moses fasted for 40 days as he was receiving the law.
b. David fasted for his little child when it was so sick.
c. He writes of his fasting in the psalms.
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
d. Esther called on all of the people to fast for her.
e. Nehemiah speaks of his fasting.
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned [certain] days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
f. Daniel spoke of his fasting.
And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
2. There were times of national fasting for the nation of Israel.
a. The day of atonement was to be a day of fasting.
b. At the time of the sin of the men of the tribe of Benjamin.
Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
c. Samuel called on the nation to fast after they had turned in false worship of Baal.
And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured [it] out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.
d. They fasted for their sin in Nehemiah's day.
Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
3. Jesus said the day would come when His disciples would fast.
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
a. Cornelius the Roman centurian was fasting when the angel appeared to him and instructed him to send for Peter to bring them the gospel.
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
b. It was when the disciples were fasting that the Holy Spirit directed them into the first missionary activity of the church.
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid [their] hands on them, they sent [them] away.
c. They fasted and prayed before ordaining elders in the churches.
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
d. Paul spoke of his fasting often.
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
B. There is a wrong way to fast.
1. Making it very obvious to others that you are fasting, that they might be impressed with your deep spirituality.
a. During the times of Jesus, Monday and Thursdays were market days, so these were the days that the Pharisee's fasted as so many would come into the city from the countryside to bring their goods for market, and so many would be out shopping on those days, so that there were more people to observe how spiritual they were. They would often deliberately muss up their hair, wear soiled clothes, or sackcloth, and would whiten their faces that you could not help but observe that they were fasting.
b. These were the practices that Jesus was condemning.
2. In the Old Testament, God spoke of those who were fasting with wrong motives.
a. God rebuked the people through the prophet Isaiah.
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?
b. The prophet Joel called on the people,
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.
c. We read in Zechariah,
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?
And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat [for yourselves], and drink [for yourselves]?
Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when [men] inhabited the south and the plain?
And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
II. THE PURPOSE OF FASTING.