Fasting And Feasting And The Book of Malachi
Fasting And FeastingAs I was preparing for Malachi I sensed something that as a church will be unique for us, a corporate fast. My hope is that as a church we will see individuals, by God's grace, fast throughout the entire 7-week series. In other words, that at least one individual will fast every day from the start of the series on April 25th until we end the series with a feast on June 6th.
To prepare for the fast I found the following summary by John Piper helpful in focusing my affections and my mind towards some Biblical aims of fasting. Here are six aims Piper provides for reasons to fast:
1. For Jesus to come back Matthew 9:14-15: Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast
2. For help in a new venture in ministry Matthew 4:1-2: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
Acts 13:3: Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
3. To avert some danger or threat Ezra 8:21: 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.
2 Samuel 12:16: David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground.
4. To express sorrow and loss 2 Samuel 1:12: They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword
1 Chronicles 10:12: All the valiant men arose and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons and brought them to Jabesh, and they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. 5. To express repentance and grief for sin Joel 2:12-13: “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; 13 And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.
6. Not for the praise of men Matthew 6:16-18: Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 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.
In reflecting on my prayer time and preparation for Malachi over the last year there are a number of reasons that fasting seems of the Spirit and exceedingly appropriate for a study like Malachi. I imagine all of the Biblical aims Piper summarized above will come into play through our study of Malachi. Perhaps the biggest aim I sense in fasting, is the practical discipline of willingly removing things that often curb our hunger for God so we can learn to feast on Him as The Only One who can truly satisfy. For now consider praying and asking God if you should participate in this corporate fast and to what extent. Some may choose to fast multiple days throughout this series, others may be led not to fast (for medical or other reasons) but to pray for those that are. If you are going to fast I strongly recommend John Piper’s book, “A Hunger For God” as a helpful and inspirational book on what it means to desire God through fasting and prayer.
Let me end this brief call to fast with Matthew 6.16-18. Jesus says; “16And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” As you prepare to fast this passage would be a good one to memorize. Jesus’ words teach us that fasting when rightly understood and practiced is not a gloomy and sad experience but a joyful time of enjoying the Father more than anything else. What could be a more glorious in fasting than feasting on the Father’s reward? My prayer for our church is a deeper hunger for God and a lessening thirst for the things of this world. For God’s glory and our satisfaction in Him, Amen.