The Heart of Fasting

The fasts . . . will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace. Zechariah 8:19

Hunger pangs gnawed at my nerves. My mentor had recommended fasting as a way to focus on God. But as the day wore on, I wondered: How did Jesus do this for forty days? I struggled to rely on the Holy Spirit for peace, strength, and patience. Especially patience.

If we’re physically able, fasting can teach us the importance of our spiritual food. As Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Yet, as I learned firsthand, fasting on its own doesn’t necessarily draw us closer to God!

In fact, God once told His people through the prophet Zechariah that their practice of fasting was useless since it wasn’t leading to service for the poor. “Was it really for me that you fasted?” God asked pointedly (Zechariah 7:5).

God’s question revealed that the primary problem wasn’t their stomachs; it was their cold hearts. By continuing to serve themselves, they were failing to draw closer to God’s heart. So He urged them, “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (vv. 9–10).

Our goal in any spiritual discipline is to draw closer to Jesus. As we grow in likeness to Him, we’ll gain a heart for those He loves.

How can God use spiritual disciplines as tools to break up the rocky soil of our hearts? What’s helped you draw closer to Jesus recently?

God, I am prone to seek my own pleasure and the approval of others. Help my life please You as I serve others.

INSIGHT

Time references in the book of Zechariah (1:1, 7; 7:1) indicate that Zechariah lived during the reign of Darius, the Persian king who ruled from 522–486 BC. This time period in Israel’s history followed seventy years of captivity in Babylon (7:5). The message to prioritize faithfulness to God over fasting (a form of worship) had also been proclaimed centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah. Using similar words, Isaiah had called God’s people to honor the Lord by not ignoring those in need: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

Arthur Jackson

By |2019-05-17T16:30:38-04:00May 22nd, 2019|