Messianic Learning Feature Articles
Adonai, Teach Us About Fasting
After teaching His disciples how to pray, our Savior, Redeemer and King Yahushuah gives instructions about fasting. "Moreover, when you fast, do not be not like the hypocrites of a sad countenance. For, they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to fast. Verily, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face that you may not appear to men to fast, but to your Father who is in secret. And, your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you openly." (Matthew 6:16-18)
This teaching on fasting follows His instructional pattern used for prayer. He describes how hypocrites fast so that others will notice. They are an example of how not to fast. The Greek word for "fast" is "nesteuo" (G3522). It means "to abstain from food (religiously); fast." In the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Joseph Henry Thayer says "nesteo" means "to abstain as a religious exercise from food and drink: either entirely if a fast lasts a single day; or from customary or choice nourishment, if it continues several days."
The Hebrew word for "fast" or "fasting" is "tsowm" (H6685). Webster's Dictionary defines "fast" as "to abstain from all or certain foods, as in observing a holy day; to eat very little, or nothing; the act of fasting; a day or period of fasting." For Bet Yeshurun Assembly (BYA), the key to understanding this teaching comes when Yahushuah instructs us to fast with an anointed head and a washed face.
In scripture, one who neglects to anoint with oil visibly shows others that they are in mourning, often times for the deceased. Joab sent to Tekoah and fetched thence a wise woman, and said to her, "I pray thee, feign thyself to be a mourner, and put on now mourning apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil, but be as a woman who had a long time mourned for the dead." (Daniel 10:2-3) "In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, until three whole weeks were fulfilled." (2 Samuel 14:2)
An anointing with oil, on the other hand, is a visible sign of joy in scripture (e.g. the oil of gladness). "You love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore, Elohim, your Elohim, anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. All your garments smell of myrrh, aloe and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made you glad." (Psalm 45:7-8) "You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Therefore Elohim, even your Elohim, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows." (Hebrews 1:9)
In scripture, those fasting also showed other humbling signs such as garments of sackcloth, sprinkled ashes on their head, or neglected to wash their face and anoint their head. "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? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to YAHUAH?" (Isaiah 58:5)
Public displays of fasts, however, did not mean such efforts were without merit. Scripture records many examples of fasts that led to positive results. Students of the Word can find over 40 references to fasts appear in the Hebrew and Apostolic Scriptures.
Yet Yahushuah encourages His disciples to fast in private. He no doubt spoke of His experience with solitude in the wilderness for 40-days. Then Yahushuah was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the demon. When He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward hungry. (Matthew 4:1-2)
Yahushuah instructs us that fasting is very appropriate as we await His return to earth: "But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days." (Mark 2:20) He also says that fasting in conjunction with prayer is very important. This is evident in the case of His cure of a demon-possessed boy, whom HHis disciples were unable to cure. When He came into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, "Why could not we cast him out?" He said to them, "This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:28-29)
YAHUAH's heart toward fasting comes forth through His prophet: "Cry aloud! Spare not! Lift up your voice like a trumpet, show 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 Elohim. They ask of me the ordinances of justice. They take delight in approaching to Elohim. Wherefore have we fasted, they say, and you see not?" Wherefore have we afflicted our soul and you take no knowledge?" "Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure and exact all your labors. Behold, you fast for strife and debate, to smite with the fist of wickedness. You shall not fast as you do this day to make your voice to be heard on high." (Isaiah 58:1-4)
Note the type of fast that YAHUAH desires: 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 your bread to the hungry and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:5-7)
During times of national crises, Israelites were sorrowful and fasted. "Then Ezra rose up from before the house of Elohim and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib. When he came there, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them who had been carried away." (Ezra 10:6)
We have another role model to consider as we fast, Moses. "I fell down before YAHUAH as at the first. Forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which you sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of YAHUAH to provoke Him to anger. For, I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith YAHUAH was wroth against you to destroy you. But YAHUAH hearkened to me at that time also. (Deut. 9:18-19)
Yahushuah acknowledges that our Heavenly Father looks with favor upon our private fasts as He does with our private prayers. May all our secretly performed fasts receive Yah's public recognition: "Well done good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21)
And may Yah's mercy and grace be with all of us, Elder Curt
Thoughts for Meditation
"To understand is to stand under, which is to look up, which is a good way to understand." Corita Kent
"The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand fold." Aristotle
"Little errors in the beginning lead to serious consequences in the end." Thomas Aquinas
"To err is human and to blame it on a computer is even more so." Robert Orban
"We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace." W. E. Gladstone
"If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see." Henry David Thoreau