February 24 I Saturday
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” —Deuteronomy 8:3
The evangelical church has not always taken fasting seriously. Because fasting is never explicitly commanded in the Bible, we tend to view it as an optional extra. Throughout Scripture, many key characters fasted at significant points in their ministry, including Moses, David, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and even Jesus. This tells us there must be spiritual benefits to fasting.
One clear benefit is fasting aids in producing humility. The essence of humility is that we do not think of ourselves at all. Those who are genuinely humble will not even realize they are humble, but will simply go about their business. Fasting is a means of developing a self-less attitude, taking the focus off ourselves and placing it on God. When Moses said that God humbled the Israelites in the wilderness by causing them to hunger, he means that God held back this necessity of life so the Israelites would learn to depend on Him. They were humbled when they realized they could not provide for themselves, but would have to look to God for provision.
This fast may have been forced on the Israelites, but voluntary fasting brings about a similar growth in humility. In fact, fasting is perhaps more important if God has blessed us with plenty. Part of Hosea’s prophecy against the Israelites in the wilderness recalls their neglect of God. God says: “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me” (Hosea 13:6). The danger in having plenty is that we can easily forget God, thinking we have earned what God has blessed us with by our own work or merit. When we fast, however, it turns our attention to God and keeps us from trying to live independently of Him.
The big picture benefit of fasting is self-denial, and not just from food. We can fast from watching television, shopping, scrolling through social media, or anything else that consumes our time. Any kind of fasting reminds us that our bodies and pleasures are not our masters. Theologian Jim Packer describes it this way: “There is nothing magical about fasting in itself. It’s just one way of telling God that your priority at that moment is to be alone with Him.” This is why, while not commanded, fasting is of great spiritual value, for when we deny ourselves a want or need to focus on God instead, we will rediscover the joy of spending time with Him, and most importantly, deepen our intimacy with Him.
Prayer: Father God, I want to draw closer to You. Keep me humbled before You and grant me the discipline to spend time on a regular basis alone with You. Thank You, Lord.