Purposes of Fasting
By Pastor Bill Murchison
We have been looking at the purposes of fasting. One purpose of fasting is to make our voices heard on high. Another purpose was to mourn and show deep sorrow. A third purpose was to repent of sin. Last week we looked at one of Nehemiah’s fasts, where he and the Jews fasted to mourn and repent of their sins and the sins of their fathers. Nehemiah was a humble man who fasted about a number of things. In Nehemiah 1:3-4, he heard that the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down and that the people were not doing well. He fasted and mourned over their condition, and repented for the sins of their fathers. In this article, I want to look at a fourth purpose for fasting, to seek protection from our enemies.
Ezra was a another man in Nehemiah’s day who understood the purposes of fasting. In Ezra 8, he returned to Jerusalem from Babylon for a genealogical enrollment. Before he left, he proclaimed a fast by the Ahava River. In Ezra 8:21, he clearly states his purpose for fasting. “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.” He was ashamed to request troops and protection from the king, because he had told the king that the hand of God was favorably disposed to all those who seek Him. So, he called on God to protect them on their journey. In Ezra 8:23, he gives the results of that fast. “So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.”
When we find ourselves under attack, or are going into a dangerous situation, one of the things that we can do is humble ourselves and fast, and to seek God’s protection. James tells us that God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, we are to submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from us. He exhorts us to be miserable, mourn and weep, to cleanse our hands and hearts, and to humble ourselves. What is he telling us to do? He is telling us to humble ourselves and fast, and to come under God’s protection. When we do that, the devil will flee. Fasting for physical and spiritual protection is one of the purposes for fasting. (See James 4:6-10 and 1 Peter 5:6-10.)
Father, thank You for giving us protection. You are a shield. You are a tower of refuge that we can run to and be safe. You are the Chief Shepherd who protects us from the devil, who is a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Help us to humbly seek Your protection. Help us to learn to use all the spiritual tools that You have given to us to use. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.