Purposes of Fasting
By Pastor Bill Murchison
Last week in my quiet times, I read of two different fasts. The purpose for each of those fasts were very different. The first fast is found in 2 Samuel 12:15-23. David had sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba. When he found out she was pregnant, he also had her husband, Uriah the Hittite, put to death. Then, he took her for his own wife. After the baby was born, the Lord struck the child so that he became very sick. David inquired of the Lord and fasted. On seventh day, the child died. When David heard that the child had died, he arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, worshipped, and then ended his fast. His actions puzzled his servants, so they inquired about the purpose of his fast. They wanted to know why he fasted while the child was sick, and then stopped fasting when the baby died. He replied, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” David fasted to ask God to heal his son.
The second fast was in 1 Samuel 31:8-13. Saul had gone to war with the Philistines, and he and his three sons fell on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines cut off Saul’s head, sent his weapons throughout their land, and fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. When the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, some of the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took Saul’s body and the bodies of his sons from the wall. They buried their bones at Jabesh, and fasted seven days. The purpose of their seven-day fast was to mourn over the death of Saul.
We see two different fasts. One fast was ended at the death of a child; the other fast began with the death of a king. One fast was to entreat the Lord for the life of a child; the other fast was to mourn over the death of the anointed King of Israel. Each fast had a different purpose. In my studies on fasting, I have found at least twelve different purposes for fasting. We will look at some of these different purposes in future articles.
Father, 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.