Ezra 8:21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.
The point of fasting is humility before God. It is an acknowledgment that we can’t do things on our own, but are dependent on God. Considering the social conditions of the day and the sheer quantity of silver and gold they were transporting, (verses 26-27) I can certainly understand their being aware of their need for Divine protection! The thing is, we are all constantly in need of God’s gracious support, protection, and provision, but too often we don’t recognize that fact. Fasting is a way to remind ourselves of how helpless we are apart from God. Jesus was quite blunt when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We don’t like to admit that! Jesus’ word picture was that of a grape vine, which was very familiar to his disciples, and it’s one we can understand pretty easily too. A cut branch can be stuck in water and look nice for a little while, but once it’s cut, that’s really the end for it. Fasting gives us a very minor, physical taste of what it’s like to be cut off from our Supply. It isn’t to try to manipulate God. All too often we labor under the illusion that we could do such a thing, as though our positions were reversed. What fasting does is “clear the deck” so that we can better hear what God is saying to us, so that we may be obedient to Him and walk in what He has for us.
At one point I fasted fairly frequently, but somehow that faded out for several years. A couple of weeks ago I fasted for the first time in quite a while, but only for 24 hours. I felt oddly guilty for breaking the fast, when in the past I have gone as long as a week, but the fact that I was fasting alone was a factor. The flip side of that is that in recent years I have become increasingly aware of my total dependence on God, so in a way the need for additional fasting isn’t as great. However, thinking that way puts me in great danger of spiritual pride, which can be fatal! I have been feeling that we needed to fast as a church, but I think I was the only one who actually fasted after I preached about it. I did lay out the ground rules fairly clearly, I think, but my impression was that no one took up the challenge. I need God’s wisdom to help the people understand what fasting is all about and be willing to try it, as an offering to God. With the magnitude of the challenges ahead of us, we have plenty of reason to recognize our dependence on God!
Father, You’ve brought this subject up several times in recent weeks. Help me follow through in obedience to You, so that we may line up with all that You want to do in and through us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!