"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes." Psalm 119:71
The word statute appears 166 times in the Old Testament. It appears twenty-two times in Psalm 119. The word statute generally refers to that which man must respond to in God's Word to come into obedience. The Psalmist wrote that it was good that he had been afflicted so he could learn the statutes in God's Word.
God has revealed Himself through His Word. He sent His Son, Jesus, as an example of what God expects us to be. God has spoken much as to what is acceptable and unacceptable in His sight. These we may call God's "Do's and Don'ts". We have been schooled in these down through the ages. Some of God's statutes have been properly interpreted. Others are only man's ideas which he has used to bring God's people into bondage and under his control.
It is God's desire, and it has always been His desire, to have a personal, intimate relationship with His creation, man. He does not need a mediator to speak to His people. There are those today who do not want to hear from God. They know He would demand change in their lives and they do not desire change, nor are they willing to change. They remain content, listening to man's direction, and following their religious creed, never venturing out to discover what God has for their life. As Paul wrote to Timothy:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;" II Timothy 4:3
Paul spoke of those who would refuse to endure sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is the Word of God. Instead, they heap to themselves teachers who tickle their itching ears, those who will tell them God has accepted them as they are, and there is no need of change in their life. These have no desire to learn God's statutes, and there is no allowance made for any affliction. They are taught that all affliction comes from the devil, and only good comes from God. So they trod along in their wilderness of ignorance, unwilling to afflict their souls to find God's true direction for their life.
God has ordained a way that we may seek His face in everything we do. God has given us the fast. The word fast has one meaning and that is "to abstain from food". Many people fast for different reasons. To some it is just a religious act. They fast to demonstrate how spiritual and godly they are. In many of the Eastern religions, fasting has become their way of life. Many fast for health purposes. Some fast, trying to make their point or to get their way.
To many, even in Christianity, fasting has simply become a religious observance. The Pharisee who stood in the temple and prayed, tried to prove how righteous he was before God, proclaiming, "I fast twice in the week", Luke 18:12. To him fasting was a religious act observed on certain days or certain times in the week.
There are many examples of fasting in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah gave the reasons why some fasts are not acceptable before God. The Israelite people were very religious, but their ways were not always pleasing to their God. God anointed Isaiah to pen these words:
"Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Isaiah 58:1-2
The Israelite sought God continually through fasting and prayer. God disclosed through Isaiah why their fasting was not acceptable in His sight:
"Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict His soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?" Isaiah 58:3-5
Israel wondered why God was not honoring their fast. God spoke five reasons why their fast was not acceptable in His sight:
1 They sought pleasure in their fast
2 They ceased not from their labors
3 They fasted for strife
4 They fasted to smite with the fist of wickedness
5 They fasted to make their voice to be heard on high
God inquired of Israel: "Is this the reason I have chosen for men to fast?" "Should a man bow his head as a bulrush and spread sackcloth and ashes under him?" "Is this acceptable before our God?" Jesus, speaking to His disciples about fasting, plainly stated:
"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:16-18
What did Jesus call those who fast bowing their head as a bulrush, spreading sackcloth and ashes under them, appearing unto men to fast? Jesus called them "hypocrites", "play actors". They tried to prove to God their sincerity, but God knew their hearts.
When we fast we are to anoint our head, wash our face, and not appear to men that we are fasting. Fasting should be in the sight of God and not in the sight of men. When we fast before God we are not to be as the Pharisee who had to remind God that he fasted twice a week. God will know and will reward our fast openly.
God gave Israel five reasons why their fasting was not acceptable in His sight. The first reason was:
1 They sought pleasure in the day of their fast
The word for pleasure means "delight". Webster states that the word delight means "that which brings joy and satisfaction to self". Many declare a fast, then proceed to fill their time with earthly activity to pass the time, or to take their mind off the fast because they are missing food. This fast is unacceptable before God. The word pleasure or delight also has application to the marriage.
"Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that satan tempt you not for your incontinency." I Corinthians 7:5
During a time of fasting man and wife should not participate in marital relationship. The word defraud is the Greek word APOSTEREO and means "the natural relationship between husband and wife". When either the husband or wife enters into a fast there should be consent to abstain from the marital relationship during the length of the fast. The reason Paul gives for this abstinence is, "...that satan tempt you not for your incontinency".
The word incontinency means "self-control". Being one flesh, man and wife must recognize the need of the other before any fast is entered into, no matter the length. Husband and wife should be in agreement concerning this restriction. When we fast our mind needs to be stayed on the things of God, not on the things of this life.
2 They ceased not from their labors
The word labour is the Hebrew word ASEB and has a two-fold meaning: "ceasing from daily activities; and, driving others hard who work for you". When we fast we are not always in the best mood. We have a tendency to make the lives of those around us miserable, especially those who work for us. God desires us to cease from our labors when we fast so our minds can be stayed upon Him, not on the cares of this life or the daily activities of making a living. Israel continued in their daily activities, and because of this their fasts were not acceptable before God.
3 They fasted for strife
The word strife is the Hebrew word RIB and means "controversy, or pleading a cause". Those who fast for strife, fast to force people to accept their way. When people fast to get their own way in any situation, their fast may be successful in accomplishing their purpose. They may get their way. But fasting to get our way is not acceptable before God. When we fast to accomplish our purpose, it causes strife; and strife causes contention, hurt and separation. Strife and contention are not the way of our Lord. Many believe if they fast they can force God to give them what they want. They fast to change God's mind as to what He has spoken they should be doing. Fasting will not change God's mind, nor will it get from God what we want. This is not the purpose of the fast.
4 They fasted to smite with the fist of wickedness
Those who enter into a fast to accomplish an evil purpose are not acceptable in God's sight. Many believe what they do, they are doing for God. They justify every evil deed, proclaiming, "It is God who has directed me". When Paul, of whom it was said turned the world upside down, Acts 17:6, was taken before the council, many of the Jews entered into a fast.
"And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul." Acts 23:12
The Jews entered into a fast to smite with the fist of wickedness. In their zeal to serve God, they were willing to break God's law to protect their religion. Today we have those who enter into violent acts, proclaiming they are fulfilling the will and direction of God. The assault on the abortion clinics is just one of the many examples where man smites with the fist of wickedness believing they are pleasing in the sight of God.
Another example is one denomination speaking evil of those who go to another denomination. Many times the whole church will fast to get a member back who has left to go to another church. Their method may be right, but their motive is wrong. When they smite with the fist of wickedness, trying to be pleasing in the sight of God, they bring strife and contention into the body of Christ.
5 They fast to make their voice to be heard on high
When it is in man's heart to do something, many times he proclaims a fast to force God to accept his way, his idea or his word. Many fast to force God to hear their petition and act upon a matter in their behalf. They try to change God to fit their will, instead of being transformed into His will.
When facing the Philistines, King Saul proclaimed a fast:
"And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food." I Samuel 14:24
Saul desired to be avenged on his enemy so he caused all the people to fast in the day of battle. Saul was in rebellion before God, so he proclaimed a fast, trying to make his voice to be heard on high. This was not a fast that the Lord had called. Through Jonathan and his armor-bearer, God put the Philistines to flight. Israel in their weakened condition pursued the Philistines and gained the victory. After the victory Jonathan spoke to the people:
"How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? For had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?" I Samuel 14:30
The enemies of Israel were not totally defeated because Israel had been weakened by a fast God had not declared. Israel only fasted because Saul desired for his voice to be heard on high. This fast was not acceptable in the sight of God. Yes, Israel got the victory, but the victory was not complete because of the fast. Victory came because Jonathan, by the unction of the Spirit, acted upon God's Word.
God had provided food for Israel. It is recorded that when Israel passed through the forest while pursuing the Philistines, God caused a honeycomb to drop. But because Saul had proclaimed the fast the people passed it by. Jonathan, knowing nothing of the fast and seeing the honeycomb...
". . .put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened." I Samuel 14:27
The rod in Jonathan's hand represented God's authority in his life. The honeycomb represents the sweetness and the richness of the Word of God. When Jonathan used God's authority to partake of His Word, his eyes were enlightened, and he understood God's purpose in his life. Jonathan proclaimed:
"My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey." I Samuel 14:29
Jonathan's eyes were enlightened in the Word. Jonathan knew we cannot force God to hear us or act upon our plan or our ideas through fasting. Our fast must be before God, not to make our voice to be heard on high. The fast Saul proclaimed troubled the people. When we fast, as Saul, to accomplish our own purpose then our fasting is not acceptable before God.
Isaiah proceeded to inform Israel the purpose God had for His people in the fast:
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh." Isaiah 58:6-7
By the anointing, Isaiah revealed five reasons God has given us for fasting:
1 To loose the bands of wickedness
2 To undo heavy burdens
3 To let the oppressed go free
4 To break every yoke
5 To deal our bread to the hungry
When we afflict the flesh to allow the Spirit to have its way in our life, we are permitting these five avenues of fasting to bring us again into God's image and likeness.
1 To Loose the Bands of Wickedness in our Life
Many will ask, "Weren't the bands of wickedness removed at the time we were saved? No! When we were saved, we came into a position to receive what God had planned for our life. Being saved was not the ultimate. It was only the beginning, the first step. The purpose of fasting is to bring the changes necessary to bring us again into God's image and likeness. The fast enables us to grow in the knowledge and ways of God. It is God's desire to break every band of wickedness in our life.
The word wickedness denotes the things in our life that are opposite to God's character. The word bands means "fetters", or "that which keeps us bound". Many of God's children have not broken the chains that bind them to the old life. They are captive to the old, carnal, Adamic nature, as if they had never been to the altar of repentance. They have never been able to break the bonds of the sins of the flesh: the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Until these chains are broken, they can never be free from the bonds of wickedness in their lives. These bonds of wickedness include: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, the opposite sex, the lust of money, fame, selfishness, and self-rule. These are all opposite to God's character.
Jesus came as our example of an unselfish life. When satan tempted Jesus with the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, Jesus overcame because he had dealt with the sin nature. God has given us the fast to break these chains that hold us in our prison of flesh. We must break the bonds of wickedness if God is to bless us with all Spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 1:3
2 To Undo Heavy Burdens
Burdens are those things in our life that weigh us down, making it impossible to run the race that God has set before us. We cannot expect to be an overcomer when all the cares of this life are weighing us down.
In His parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of the seed that fell among the thorns. In His explanation, Jesus proclaimed the seed that was sown was the Word of God. Matthew recorded:
"He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." Matthew 13:22
When the heavy burdens are not lifted in our life, the cares and burdens of the world choke out the Word. God's Word will no longer be operating in our life. Jesus spoke that it was not only the cares of this world that choked out the Word of God, but also the deceitfullness of riches.
Today man's desire is to be rich. Many of the television preachers are telling the people how to get rich. The "prosperity message" teaches God's people to desire and demand from God the wealth of the world. God's Word is clear. It is the deceitfullness of riches that chokes out the Word in our life. Luke also recorded Jesus' words on the parable of the sower:
"And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." Luke 8:14
Luke added it was the pleasures of this life that choked out God's Word. The pleasures of this life have become very heavy burdens in many Christians' lives. There are many forms of pleasure that have choked the Word out of God's peoples lives. Many are given totally over to pleasures. One of the most time-consuming pleasures in our day is sports. Sports not only consumes our time, it also consumes our money. Anything that is played with a ball consumes God's peoples time and money; whether it be golf, pool, basketball, baseball, bowling, tennis, football, or soccer. All these have robbed God's people, not only of their time and money, but of a closer relationship with Him. Many other pleasures have choked out the Word of God in His people's lives: travel, clothes, accumulation of things such as houses and cars. All these things of the world have choked out the Word of God in many lives.
Matthew declared these have become unfruitful. Luke proclaimed these bring no fruit to perfection. Luke is referring to the fruit of the Spirit in our life. Those who have not broken the burden of the cares of this life have not taken advantage of the fast God has ordained to set them free.
3 To Let the Oppressed Go Free
The word oppressed means "those who are crushed, bruised, and discouraged". Many of God's people have been crushed and bruised in the church system. They have become discouraged with God because of the way those who are called by His name have misused and abused them. Many have turned from the organized church system for this reason. They are still seeking God and searching for fellowship where they can find it, but feel they are all alone in their search for God. Jeremiah asks the question:
"Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" Jeremiah 8:22
"Is there no balm in Gilead?" Gilead was on the other side of Jordan where Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh had their possession. Today many dwell in Gilead waiting for the time they will cross the river of death (Jordan) and enter into their promise land, the Kingdom of God. Jeremiah asked, "Is there no balm in Gilead?"
This balm was the healing balm that was applied to the wounded. Every soldier carried it in the event he or one of his fellow-soldiers were wounded. Today many of God's soldiers are wounded. They are oppressed, trodden down, and rejected. As Jeremiah asked, "Is there no balm in our possession? Are there no physicians in our midst? Is there no voice that can tell us how to lift the oppression?
Jeremiah asked, "Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" Daughters in the Old Testament represent the church in the New Testament.
God has asked the question, "Why has the health of my church not recovered?"
God has given us fasting to allow the oppressed to go free. Through fasting we can apply the balm of Gilead in our brothers' and sisters' lives. We can become God's physicians who bring Spiritual healing to those who are crushed, bruised, and discouraged. God is raising up His army. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." II Timothy 2:3-4
Those who are good soldiers for Jesus Christ have not entangled themselves in the affairs of this life. These are fasting and praying for the wounded, the downtrodden, and the discouraged. These are doing the work of the ministry with no recognition, fanfare, or thanks. These are applying the balm of Gilead to those who cannot fight for themselves. What these do in secret, God is about to reward openly.
3 To Break Every Yoke
The word yoke is the Hebrew word MOWTAH and means "a pole or bar". It has the figurative meaning of "oppression or bondage". The oppressions and bondages are those desires, relationships, and lusts that keep us bound to the things and people of the world. Oppression comes when we are unable to break these yokes. It comes when we are unable to rise above our earthly situations. Paul warned:
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?" II Corinthians 6:14
Being yoked together with unbelievers affects many areas in our lives. Paul warns against being unequally yoked in any situation with unbelievers. Oppression comes when the unbeliever has been given a position of authority in our lives. When we are yoked together with an unbeliever in marriage, marriage becomes very difficult for the believer. The same is true in business. When we are yoked together with unbelievers, it becomes very difficult for the godly person to operate the business God's way because the ungodly demand to operate by worldly values. Paul asks, "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, or what communion hath light with darkness?
It should be understood that fasting will not get you out of a bad situation when you have allowed yourself to become unequally yoked with unbelievers. But you may seek counsel of God through fasting that will help you work your way through a bad situation. All who seek God will find Him.
Fasting conditions the soul to hear God's voice. Many are living below God's standard because they refuse to fast to seek God's answers which will break the bars of bondages and oppressions ruling their lives.
The word yoke also has the meaning "to come into submission to authority". Jesus stated:
"Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." Matthew 11:29-30
We can choose to be yoked together with that which is good or that which is oppressive. Jesus has promised His yoke is easy and His burden light. Paul wrote the church at Galatia:
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1
Christ Jesus desires that we be free. His desire is that every yoke which binds us to the unbeliever or keeps us in bondage or causes oppression in our lives be broken. Fasting for these reasons will cause us to be free in the liberty we have in Christ Jesus.
God has given us fasting, that through the fast we may hear His direction to rise above our earthly existence to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:6. God's desire is that we rise above and become partakers of His glory. Isaiah spoke of the day when God will free those who have sought Him with their whole heart:
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing." Isaiah 10:27
God speaks of a day when all burdens and the yoke of bondage will be lifted from off our shoulders. This yoke will be broken because of the anointing. Those who have learned the value of fasting and seeking God's direction through the anointing will stand before God in the liberty wherewith Christ has set them free.
5 To Deal Our bread to the Hungry
Many have looked at this portion of Scripture and reasoned that what we save on meals, we should give to the poor. It could have this meaning, but let's look beyond the physical to discover what God wants us to see in the Spiritual. The use of the word bread in the Bible means "food". Another word used to describe food is meat. When God speaks of food He speaks of physical and Spiritual food.
When we fast we are directed to deal our bread to the hungry. The word deal means "to break in pieces, to distribute". The hungry are those who are famished for the Word of God. The prophet Amos spoke of the day in which we live:
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." Amos 8:11-12
There is a famine of hearing the Spiritual Word of God in the earth today. Man is running from coast to coast and from border to border looking for the true Word of God. God has given us the fast that we may hear His voice and receive direction, wisdom, and revelation. When we fast to hear the voice of God, He will speak His mysteries to us which have been hidden from the foundation of the earth, Romans 16:25.
When God reveals the mysteries to us in the fast, then we are to distribute the Spiritual meat He has given to those who are hungry for the deeper things of God. When Jesus expounded what is commonly referred to as the Lord's Prayer, He prayed:
"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11
Our daily bread is the knowledge we accumulate from the Father on a daily basis. Jesus stated:
"I am that bread of life." John 6:48
Jesus is the bread and He came to reveal the Father to those who would receive Him. When we seek our daily bread, we are seeking to know God in a personal way. When we become partakers of the bread of life, then we become part of that one bread that God has in the earth. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
"For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." I Corinthians 10:17
Those who are part of the one bread have become part of His one body who will partake of Christ Jesus in all His glory. God has given us the fast that we may hear from Him and break the bread of life from house to house as the early church did in the book of Acts. God is making those who will seek Him in fasting His ministers to distribute His Words of life, His revelations and His mysteries which He has hidden from the beginning of time. God has given the fast that we may receive from Him and break the bread of life with our brothers and sisters.
God not only revealed the acceptable fast and the unacceptable fast, He also gave five promises to those who would seek Him through the fast.
"Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee: the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity." Isaiah 58:8-9
God made five promises to those who seek Him in the fast which He has ordained for His people:
1 Thy light shall break forth as the morning
2 Thy health shall spring forth speedily
3 Thy righteousness shall go before thee
4 The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward
5 Then shalt thou call and the Lord shall answer
God has made wonderful promises to those who's fast is acceptable in His sight.
1 Thy light shall break forth as the morning
The word light means "to shine". It also has the meaning of "life and happiness". The word morning always means "a new day". A new day will break forth in our life when we fast the way God has set forth in His Word. Fasting illumines the soul so we can come into a proper relationship with the Spirit. Jesus was our example of the light. He revealed:
"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." John 9:5
Jesus was the Light of the world as long as He was in the world. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus informed the people:
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." Matthew 5:14
The city set on the hill is the Mount Zion, the New Jerusalem that is coming down from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, Revelation 21:2. Those who have sought God with their whole heart through fasting and prayer will make up that Holy City. Paul described these:
"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." Philippians 2:15
God will recognize those who are blameless (without blemish) and harmless (sincere) as sons. These will shine forth as His lights in the world in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. As the world gets darker and the nations of the world become more crooked and perverse, the more the light of God's true church is going to shine forth.
Many will proclaim, "Jesus is still the light of the world". But God is raising up His lights in the earth today to shine forth as the sun. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul revealed:
"Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." II Thessalonians 2:14
God has called us to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." II Corinthians 3:18
We are to be changed from glory to glory until we come into the image of the Creator. This we can only do by and through the Spirit of the living God. God sent His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to cleanse His creation from all unrighteousness. Only by and through the Spirit can we stand clean and white before the Father of lights. We will be recreated into the same image and likeness of the Creating God as man was in the Garden before sin entered into man's existence.
Isaiah foretold this time when, man through the anointing would again be adorned with the glory of God:
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Isaiah 60:1
How can we be assured that the glorious light of God will break forth in our life? It will be when we overcome the old man through fasting, prayer and applying God's Word to our lives. When this process is complete, God's "new creation man" will spring forth in His image and likeness.
2 Thy health shall spring forth speedily
Fasting is healthy. Many fast only for health reasons. Fasting cleanses the body of toxins and gives the body a chance to rest and be revitalized. God has promised when we fast our health will spring forth speedily, not only our physical health but also our Spiritual health.
Most do not realize our physical health has much to do with our Spiritual health. It becomes very difficult to worship and praise the Lord when we are sick. Even though we believe that God heals our physical illness, how can we ask Him to heal if we are violating His directions (His written Word)?
Many suffer illness because they have violated God's Word, refusing to act on His promises. Just as it is very difficult to worship and praise the Lord when we are sick, it becomes much more difficult to seek the Lord when physical illness hinders us. God has given us fasting that we may seek the Lord with our whole heart, our total thinking process. God promised Israel:
"If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul." Deuteronomy 4:29
Those who seek God with all their heart and soul shall find Him. It is not that God is lost, but in our seeking Him our Spiritual health will spring forth speedily. When we are healthy, both physically and Spiritually, we will know the will of God in our life and do it. God has promised fasting will improve our relationship with Him.
When speaking to His disciples, Jesus disclosed:
"And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Luke 11:9-10
We may ask the question, "How do we ask? How do we seek? How do we knock?" Many times Scriptures simply become platitudes. We mouth the Word and never seek the meaning.
The word ask means "to present your petition".
The word seek means "to inquire, to covet earnestly, striving to obtain".
The word knock means "to get one's attention".
When we fast we come into a position to present our petitions because we earnestly covet to get God's attention. We have God's promise that if we ask, seek, and knock we will receive our petition from Him.
Many who's relationship with God is spiritually sick need to begin to act on the promises of God. When we do, His Spiritual healing will truly spring forth speedily.
3 Thy Righteousness shall go before thee
"But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:" I Corinthians 1:30
In ourselves we have no righteousness. Christ Jesus is our righteousness. As Isaiah the prophet wrote:
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities like the wind, have taken us away." Isaiah 64:6
Many believe they are righteous because they act righteous. But our own righteousness is as filthy rags before God. The Apostle Paul revealed to the church at Rome:
"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." Romans 5:17
Righteousness is a Spiritual gift. Only those who dwell, walk, and live in the Spirit can obtain the gift of righteousness. James wrote:
"And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." James 3:18
Righteousness is a fruit of the Spirit. Paul also wrote to the church at Corinth:
"Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame." I Corinthians 15:34
Paul advised us to awake to righteousness and sin not. Many are still dwelling in their Adam sleep. Their Spiritual eyes are closed to the ways and the will of God. They have become part of a religious system that says you are all right with God as long as you attend here and do as we say. Paul addresses those who are being held in bondage to their spirit of religion:
"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." Romans 10:3
The righteousness of God does not go before those who are ignorant of His righteousness. Those ignorant of God's righteousness are still trying to obtain and establish their own righteousness. They create their own moral code to live by based on their errant, religious doctrine. God has given us the way to obtain true righteousness by and through fasting. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:
"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." II Corinthians 5:21
Jesus came to be made sin for us that we may once again be made the righteousness of God. This does not come automatically when we come into His saving grace. It must be sought with our whole heart, soul and spirit. God must be our whole desire if we are to have His righteousness go before us. Paul spoke of the new man we will become if we seek God with our whole heart:
"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Ephesians 4:24
Our new man is created in God's righteousness and His true holiness. Until we are recreated in righteousness and true holiness, we will never dwell in the presence of God. Jesus gave us directions how we may stand again in His presence:
"But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33
We must first seek the Kingdom of God. Along with this we must seek the righteousness of God. Then all that God has for us will be added unto us. The question is, "How do we seek God's Kingdom and His righteousness? The answer is through fasting. God has promised that if we fast, His righteousness will go before us.
4 The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward
The word rereward means "to gather, to collect, to assemble or to take in". When we fast God has promised to release His glory in our lives. The word rereward was used to denote the harvest time in Israel, the time of ingathering. This feast took place at the end of their agricultural year. This feast was called the Feast of Ingathering.
The Feast of Ingathering was also called the Feast of Tabernacles. This was when all Israel came together to dwell in temporary dwelling places. All Israel's feasts have been fulfilled in prophecy except the Feast of Tabernacles. God is about to institute His Feast of Ingathering. When He brings in His harvest, those who are mature, complete, and whole will be part of this ingathering process. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this time of ingathering:
"For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward." Isaiah 52:12
We will not go out with haste, nor by flight. Some believe they are simply going to fly away. In this misconception, there is no overcoming, no change, and no seeking of God needed. God is warning His people to prepare themselves because the Kingdom of God is at hand. Through fasting we can hear God's direction for these last days.
The time of harvest is upon the earth. God's righteousness will go before us and His glory will be our rereward. He will gather His people unto Himself. Jesus stated:
"But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". Matthew 10:6
Jesus' first coming was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When He was about to enter Jerusalem, knowing He would be crucified, Jesus wept before Jerusalem. He did not weep for Himself, not for what He would suffer, but for the people. He stated:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Matthew 23:37
Jesus wanted to gather His people unto Himself at that time, but they would not. God is desiring to gather His people unto Himself today, but the same is true. They will not seek Him in fasting and prayer. Because of this, God's glory has been withheld and those who are not prepared will not be part of His Feast of Tabernacles, the time of ingathering. They will not be part of what Paul revealed to the church at Thessalonica:
"When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe because our testimony among you was believed in that day." II Thessalonians 1:10
God is coming to be glorified in His saints, those who have entered in through the fast that God has ordained. Those who have sought God with their whole heart shall be gathered together in the glory of God.
5 Thou shall call and the Lord shall answer
God informed the people they were not to fast to make their voices to be heard on high, or to try to force Him to hear their petitions. God has promised if our fast is acceptable in His sight, when we call upon Him He will answer. When we fast to come into God's will, it is then we can claim all His promises. Peter revealed:
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promises as some men count slackness". II Peter 3:9
We can depend on God's wonderful promises. The prophet Isaiah penned God's words.
"And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." Isaiah 65:24
When we enter into a fast it should be for the primary purpose of hearing from the Lord and seeking His will. Isaiah spoke that before we call God would answer, and when we speak He would hear. The beloved John wrote:
"This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us:" I John 5:14
When we fast and seek God's will, then He hears us and answers our prayers. Fasting enhances our prayer life. Fasting gets the old man, the carnal nature out of the way so God's voice can be heard. Isaiah related:
"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21
When we cease from our labors and come totally away to hear the voice of God through fasting, then His still, small voice can be heard. Many will say, "God doesn't speak to me". He may be speaking, but perhaps you are not in the place where you can hear. Perhaps the noise of the life you are living is drowning out His still, small voice in your life. It is God's desire that we hear Him. In Jesus' words:
"And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice." John 10:4
Through fasting, God's sheep will come to the place where they will hear His voice and follow Him. They will come to the place in their walk that when they call to God, they will hear Him say, "Here I am", Isaiah 58:9.
The prophet Zechariah spoke of those who would enter into God's glory. He wrote:
"For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath He sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye." Zechariah 2:8
He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of God's eye; or, those who have come into the center of God's attention. God has made all these wonderful promises to those who fast in His will. That is not the end of God's promise, He proclaimed:
". . .If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger and speaking vanity." Isaiah 58:9b
God lists three things that must be removed from our life if we are to receive His promises.
1 We must put off the yoke
If we are holding anyone in bondage it must cease. If anyone is holding us in bondage, it must be broken.
2 We must stop pointing the finger
This is an accusing act. We must cease from accusing our brothers and sisters in Christ.
3 We must cease from speaking vanity
The word vanity means "nothingness, worthlessness, of no value". Jesus referred to these as "idle words":
"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Matthew 12:36
Those who speak vanity will give an account before God on the Day of Judgment. Isaiah continued:
"And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:" Isaiah 58:10
God's people are more in need of Spiritual food then they are physical food. When we draw out our soul to meet their Spiritual needs and satisfy their afflicted souls our light will arise, and that which was hid in darkness in our lives will be as the noonday.
"And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The Restorer of paths to dwell in." Isaiah 58:11-12
God has promised to be our continual guide and satisfy our parched dry soul, and make our life prosperous in the things of God. Our life will be as a watered garden and our water (the active Word of God in our life) will never fail. As Jesus spoke to the woman at the well:
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give Him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give Him shall be in Him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14
When we drink from the wells of living water, the water that will never fail, then that water will spring up in us and produce everlasting life. Through the pen of Isaiah God promised that those whose fast is acceptable in His sight will be the Repairers of the Breach. We will repair the breach that came between God and His creation because of sin. Those who keep God's acceptable fast will restore the paths that God has intended for His creation to walk in.
To the church at Corinth, Paul reveals the depth of God's promises:
"For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." II Corinthians 1:20
God never draws back from His promise. Failure only comes when man falls short of meeting the conditions to receive them. God has given us fasting for a particular purpose and that is to seek His will and His way. Fasting brings us into a place where God can communicate with us. We must be willing to afflict the flesh so that the Spirit may be released to do the will of God. Fasting should always be entered into prayerfully.
One of the most asked questions concerning fasting is: "How long should the fast be?" In God's Word, fasting lasted for one meal, or up to forty days. The length of the fast should be determined before God. We should fast until we receive the answer we seek. When we set a time we are going to fast, these fasts are generally in the flesh and this fast becomes a product of our own determined will.
There are many many types of fasts recorded in God's Word. There are many reasons to fast recorded in the Word. When God calls us to fast, we should come before Him, not before man. We should seek God in the fast. If we want to fast for any other reason, then we cannot expect God to bless our fast. God's blessing is on the fast He ordains. All other fastings are for fleshly reasons. As Paul admonished the church at Philipi:
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2:12
As we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling through fasting, our prayer should be:
". . .Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end." Psalm 119:33
Vital Words to the Body of Christ
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