Bible verses on fasting

40 days fasting desertFasting has been my lifestyle for some years. Why fast? What is the Biblical basis? What about today’s believers? Many new Christians want to know. The key point I received is “Fasting is God-focused.” It is a spiritual act of faith. when we fast for matters of God something shifts in the heavenly realm. We cannot know the full implication. We do by faith and not by sight. We need to be led by the Spirit of God.  

Let us read some Bible verses. My notes are in bold italics.

Bible verses quoted from Amplified Bible (AMP)

This special nation-wide fasting is first instituted by God. A permanent statute for the people of Israel. Fasting is to be held together with the annual atonement. It is held together with a holy formal gathering of the congregation before God. It is also accompanied by an offering according to God’s requirement. 

Leviticus 16:29 [ An Annual Atonement ] “This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month (nearly October) on the tenth day of the month you shall humble yourselves [by fasting] and not do any work, whether the native-born or the stranger who lives temporarily among you; Leviticus 23:27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble yourselves [by fasting] and present an offering by fire to the Lord.

The following fasting event took place after a great tragedy. In a battle between all the tribes of Israel against the tribe of Benjamin for the evil they had committed, the latter defeated them twice and killed forty thousand of the fighters of Israel. The fast was accompanied by weeping (mourning) offerings. What else did they do? They continued to seek God’s counsel.  The next day the Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel. On two previous occasions for the same battle Israel actually went and asked the Lord for counsel. But only the third time they fasted after heavy losses. And after this they won the war. 

Judges 20:26 Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; and they sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.

This following event happened when the people of Israel heeded the call of the prophet-judge Samuel and gathered before God to repent and returned to God. Fasting was accompanied with offerings. After this they won the war against their arch enemy, the Philistines

1 Samuel 7:6 So they gathered at Mizpah, 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 Israelites at Mizpah.

The following sad event is self-explanatory. King David committed adultery with his loyal subordinate’s wife, murdered him, and conceived this child from his illicit affair. He tried to show his remorse by fasting (as a form of humbling before God). But it did not work. The harm was done. Evil begot evil. His fasting could not undo the open door which he had opened to evil by his deliberate sinning against God and against a fellow man.   

2 Samuel 12:16 David therefore appealed to God for the child [to be healed]; and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.

King Jehoshaphat is one of my favorite kings. He is a king who seeks God. He knows his limits. He knows what God can do and will do for God’s people. Why did he declare a nation-wide fast? Because he knows the people have to know it is God who will save them and not by their own might or the king’s might. It worked. The next day God acted and won the battle for them. 

2 Chronicles 20:3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set himself [determinedly, as his vital need] to seek the Lord; and he proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.

I have grouped these verses together because they refer to Israel remnants’ return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the walls respectively during the reign of the Persian kings. Before the journey home they fasted to seek God, to ask for protection. They also asked for wisdom/counsel. Fasting was a way to prepare ourselves to hear clear direction from God and to strengthen our faith in God. It is also a way to show our repentance. 

Ezra 8:21 [ Protection of God Invoked ] Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, so that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our children, and all our possessions. Ezra 8:23 So we fasted and sought [help from] our God concerning this [matter], and He heard our plea. Nehemiah 1:4 Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying [constantly] before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 9:1 [ The People Confess Their Sin ] Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled with fasting and in sackcloth and with dirt on their heads.

Queen Esther’s fast is a famous fast. In fact, the most famous in the Old Testament. It changed the fate of the whole nation of Israel. It saved God’s people from being annihilated by the enemy. Again, she involved the whole nation to fast with her. Why? Like King Jehoshaphat, she wanted the nation of Israel to know it is God who would save His people. Not Esther.  

Esther 4:3 In each and every province that the decree and law of the king reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing; and many lay on sackcloth and ashes. Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews that are present in Susa, and observe a fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids also will fast in the same way. Then I will go in to [see] the king [without being summoned], which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

The following account showed how Daniel (another of my favorite Bible character), the wisest man (most valued and respected by the king) in Persian court, directed his attention to God by fasting, accompanying his prayer, supplication and confession to God. Where did he get his wisdom? He read the words of God. He prayed and interceded. He fasted. Fasting and praying was a natural lifestyle for him evidenced since he was a young man in captivity. 

Daniel 9:2-4  in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the books the number of years which, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the desolations [which had been] pronounced on Jerusalem would end; and it was seventy years. 3 So I directed my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and extends lovingkindness toward those who love Him and keep His commandments,

Fasting by the early churches: Fasting was a natural part of church life. The following passages showed that fasting accompanied serving God, praying, hearing the Holy Spirit, sending missionary out for ministry, and appointing of elders in churches. 

Acts 13:2 While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.”Acts 13:3 Then after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them [in approval and dedication] and sent them away [on their first journey]. Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they believed [and joyfully accepted as the Messiah].

Jesus speaks of the reward of fasting. God rewards fasting. 

Matthew 6:16-18 “And whenever you are fasting, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they put on a sad and dismal face [like actors, discoloring their faces with ashes or dirt] so that their fasting may be seen by men. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, they [already] have their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head [as you normally would to groom your hair] and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by people, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.

The Essence and power of fasting are recorded below. Both physical and spiritual deliverance. 

Isaiah 58:5-7 “Is a fast such as this what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself [with sorrow in his soul]?
Is it only to bow down his head like a reed
And to make sackcloth and ashes as a bed [pretending to have a repentant heart]?
Do you call this a fast and a day pleasing to the Lord?
“[Rather] is this not the fast which I choose,
To undo the bonds of wickedness,
To tear to pieces the ropes of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free
And break apart every [enslaving] yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not to hide yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?

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