Purposes of Fasting
By Pastor Bill Murchison
This morning, while waiting for my flight to Houston, I was reading 1 Kings 21. In it, there are two different fasts mentioned, and they teach us about the purposes of fasting. In the passage, King Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard because it was next to his house. Naboth refused to sell it because it was part of his inheritance that had been passed down for generations. When Jezebel saw that Ahab was sullen and vexed, she took things into her own hands. She called a fast and put Naboth in front of all the people. She had two worthless men come and falsely testify that Naboth had cursed God and the king. Then, the men of the city took Naboth outside the city and stoned him to death. Then, Jezebel told Ahab that Naboth was dead and that he could now have the vineyard. The purpose of the fast that Jezebel proclaimed was for appearance sake. She wanted to make it appear that what they were doing was righteous, even though it was evil.
Jesus taught on fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. He said that the hypocrites fast to be noticed by men. Then, He said, “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Jesus taught us that we should try not to be noticed by men. Our fasts are to seek the Lord, not to be seen by others. The right purposes for a fast are to humble ourselves and to make our voices heard on high. It is to mourn and show deep sorrow, and to repent from sin. It is not for appearance sake, which is what Jezebel did.
Father, as a church, we are going to call for a corporate fast. Our purpose is not about appearing as righteous before men. Father, when we fast, help us to have the right purpose. May we anoint our heads, wash our faces, and privately come before You. We want to use the time of fasting to humbly seek Your face and to make our voices heard by You. Continue to give us insight and understanding about fasting. Help us understand the different purposes so that we can use this tool (and weapon) effectively in our lives. Amen.