Scripture Reading: Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD. —Joel 1:14
Summary: Fasting is a long-held practice of God’s people in both the Old and New Testament and is a needful part of a Christian’s life today. It is an outward act of self-denial that can help focus the mind, body, and spirit on the things of God. It is a channel of power with God for deliverance, guidance, anointing, and spiritual growth.
Definition: While Christians should practice self-denial in many areas, the word “fasting” in the Bible means specifically to abstain from food.
I. Fasting Commanded Under the Mosaic Law
A. Leviticus 23:26-32 “Day of Atonement” was the only regular fast commanded by the law (Leviticus 16:29-31, Numbers 29:7).
B. To “afflict your souls” refers to fasting.
C. Psalm 69:10 David chastened his soul with fasting.
D. Acts 27:9 New Testament Jews still observed the Day of Atonement fast.
II. Four Regular Old Testament Fasts
A. Zechariah 8:19 Four annual fasts commemorated the main events associated with the destruction of Jerusalem.
III. Occasions and Purposes of Fasting in the Old Testament
A. 1 Chronicles 10:12 In time of grief and death (2 Samuel 1:11-12).
B. 2 Samuel 12:16-23 David when his child was sick.
C. Psalms 35:11-13 David humbled his soul with fasting.
D. Nehemiah 9:1-3 Penitence at the reading of the law (Jeremiah 36:6).
E. Judges 20:25-26 In time of war (1 Samuel 7:5-8).
F. 2 Chronicles 20:3 Jehoshaphat when Judah was invaded.
G. Ezra 8:21, 23 The exiles for protection on a journey.
H. Esther 4:3,16 To be saved from a decree of death.
I. Deuteronomy 9:17-20 Moses for the sin of Israel.
J. Daniel 9:3-5 Daniel in confession for Israel’s sins.
K. 1 Kings 21:17-29 Ahab to be forgiven.
L. Jonah 3:4-10 Nineveh to change God’s mind.
IV. Instruction and Example of Christ
A. Matthew 4:1-9 Jesus fasted in time of temptation and in preparation for ministry.
B. Matthew 6:5, 16-18 “When” you fast, not “If” you fast.
C. Matthew 9:14-17 Jesus’ disciples would fast in the future.
D. Mark 9:17-29 Greater power and faith through fasting and prayer (Matthew 17:14-21).
V. Fasting in the New Testament Church
A. Luke 2:37 Prior to Christ, Anna was “worshipping with fasting.”
B. Acts 9:9 Saul fasted for three days.
C. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 Paul was in fastings often.
D. Acts 13:1-3 Church at Antioch to send out missionaries.
E. Acts 14:21-23 Galatian churches with the ordination of elders.
VI. The Acceptable and Unacceptable Fast
A. Isaiah 58:3-6 Ritualistic fasting in carnality without true repentance is unaccepted.
B. Zechariah 7:1-14 Fasting without obedience or for God’s glory is in vain.
C. Matthew 6:16-18 Fast in humble simplicity.
D. Joel 2:12-13 With all your heart.
The days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. —Matthew 9:15