Click to enlarge
Matthew 6:16 "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: Hotan de nesteuete, (2PPAS) me ginesthe (2PPMM) hos hoi hupokritai skuthropoi, aphanizousin (3PPAI) gar ta prosopa auton hopos phanosin (3PAPS) tois anthropois nesteuontes; (PAPMPN) amen lego (1SPAI) humin apechousin (3PPAI) ton misthon auton.
Amplified: And whenever you are fasting, do not look gloomy and sour and dreary like the hypocrites, for they put on a dismal countenance, that their fasting may be apparent to and seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full already. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: 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.
NLT: And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you, that is the only reward they will ever get. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: Then, when you fast, don't look like those miserable play-actors! For they deliberately disfigure their faces so that people may see that they are fasting. Believe me, they have had all their reward. (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: Moreover, whenever you are fasting, stop being like the actors on the stage of life, of a sad and gloomy countenance, for they mask their faces in order that they may appear to men as those who are fasting. Assuredly, I am saying to you, they have their reward and the receipt for the same in full. (Wuest: Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: And when ye may fast, be ye not as the hypocrites, of sour countenances, for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear to men fasting; verily I say to you, that they have their reward.
|WHENEVER YOU FAST: Hotan de nesteuete (2PPAS) (Mt 9:14,15; 2Sa 12:16,21; Nehemiah 1:4; Esther 4:16; Psalm 35:13; 69:10; 109:24; Daniel 9:3; Luke 2:37; Acts 10:30; 13:2,3; 14:23; 1Corinthians 7:5; 2Corinthians 6:5; 11:27)
Before you read the notes consider Meditating on these passages on FASTING - Specifically what practice is clearly associated with fasting? Interesting! Are you practicing (under grace, enabled by the Spirit) this Biblical truth in your spiritual life (or will you? will I?)?
Recommended resource available free online - Dr John Piper's entire book (Pdf)
Here are some articles from Theological Journals (annual fee required for full view - access to over 27 separate journals and 1000's of articles)
Whenever - Notice Jesus does not say "if" you fast but "when" you fast. The implication is not subtle is it? Have you ever fasted? Jesus takes for granted that his disciples will observe the custom of fasting. Clearly, Jesus assumed that fasting was good and that it would be done by His disciples. Jesus mentioned this discipline later in Matthew 9:15 declaring
So Jesus is not teaching on whether we should fast or not. He is assuming we will fast and teaching us how to do it and, especially, how not to do it.
Rishel has an interesting thought…
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that…
J C Ryle explains that…
C H Spurgeon's comments…
Fast (3522) (nesteuo from ne- = not + esthío = to eat) means to abstain from food for a certain length of time. Fasting consisted of abstinence from food to express dependence on God and submission to His will.
Thayer - to abstain as a religious exercise from food and drink:
NIDNTT - says Nesteuo is from ne-, particle of negation, and edo, eat, i.e. not eating) means, having an empty stomach.
Manser - Abstaining from food, and possibly drink, for a limited period of time as a mark of religious commitment and devotion or as an expression of repentance for sins.
To fast is to abstain for a limited period from any kind of food. (Total and permanent abstinence from particular, “forbidden” foods is a quite separate matter.) What is the real motive for fasting? In the pagan religions of the ancient world, it was clearly fear of demons and the idea that fasting was an effective means of preparing oneself for an encounter with the deity, since it created the right kind of openness to divine influence. For this reason it belonged in the mystery religions to the ritual of initiation for novices. In magic and with the oracles fasting was also often regarded as a preparation necessary to success. The custom of fasting following a death was widespread. While the soul of the dead person is still near, there is danger of demonic infection in eating and drinking. Fasting was also required, for instance, in certain fertility rites. Thus at Athens he Nesteia is the name given to the fast-day in the women’s fertility festival in the month of sowing (October). Abstinence, here including particularly sexual abstinence, makes a person readier to receive the divine powers of fertility. In practice, fasting in the setting of religious rites and as a defence against trouble was common in the whole of the ancient world, but not fasting for ethical motives (asceticism).
In the LXX the Greek words represent the Heb. sûm, fast. Along with this the MT has 'innâh nepes, afflict oneself (lit., humble one’s soul), referring to a purification rite in which fasting played a part (Lev. 16:29, 31; 23:27, 32; Num. 29:7; Isa. 58:3; Ps. 35:13). Frequently too we read simply of “eating no bread and drinking no water” (e.g. Ex 34:28).
The forms and purposes of fasting are many. Fasting is practised in Israel as a preparation for converse with God (Exod. 34:28; Deut. 9:9; Dan. 9:3):
(a) It was practised by the individual, when oppressed by great cares (2 Sam. 12:16-23; 1 Ki. 21:27; Ps. 35:13; 69:10).
(b) It was practised by the nation in imminent danger of war and destruction (Jdg. 20:26; 2 Chr. 20:3; Est. 4:16; Jon. 3:4-10; Jud. 4:9, 13); during a plague of locusts (Joel 1 and 2); to bring success to the return of the exiles (Ezr. 8:21-23); as an expiatory rite (Neh. 9:1); and finally in connection with mourning the dead (2 Sam. 1:12).
Fasting and prayer go constantly together (Jer. 14:11-12; Neh. 1:4; Ezr. 8:21, 23). Fasting usually lasts from morning to evening (Jdg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 14:24; 2 Sam. 1:12), although Est. 4:16 tells of a 3-day fast. In the description in Ps. 109:24 the torments of fasting during the period of accusation are at the same time a reflection of the inward torments suffered by the suppliant.
The Israelite law ordained fasting only on the day of atonement (Lev. 6:29-30; 23:27-32; Num. 29:7). After the destruction of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) four fast-days were laid down as days of remembrance (Zech. 7:3-5; 8:19). (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology)
Fasting consisted of abstinence from food to express dependence on God and submission to his will (cf. Mt 4:1). The fasting Jesus refers to is private fasting, probably done as an aid to prayer (cf. Luke 2:37). Although the early church collectively fasted and prayed (e.g., Acts 13:3, 14:23), it seems to have been done primarily by Jewish Christians. The practice is never mentioned in any of the NT letters and while Jesus is with them the disciples do not fast (Mt 9:14). Like alms and prayer, fasting is to be done as an act of devotion to God and not to win the approval of anyone else. (Matthew - The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study).
The New Testament Christians regularly prayed and fasted (Acts 13:3, nesteuo in Greek). Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights without food or water, just as Moses had—an impossible human feat in each case; but God empowered each one (compare Ex. 24:18; 34:28; Matt. 4:2). We see in these cases that God’s presence and word was more life-giving than food Jesus Himself indicated that the time after His ascension would properly be a time of fasting, for He would be gone (Mark 2:19). But He clearly instructed His followers to fast with the heart, in secret to God, and not as a show for other people (Matt. 6:16–18). When fasting, keep your focus on the Lord and His will for you. (Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words- 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Explained and Defined- Philip W. Comfort, Eugene E. Carpenter)
Nesteuo - 20x in 15v but in seven major segments emphasizing fasting…
Matthew 4:2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
Matthew 6:16 "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Matthew 9:14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 15 And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
Mark 2:18 John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 19 And Jesus said to them, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 "But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.
Luke 5:33 And they said to Him, "The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink." 34 And Jesus said to them, "You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 "But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days."
Luke 18:12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'
Acts 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Nesteuo: 19x in the Septuagint
Ex 38:8; Jdg 20:26; 1Sa7:6; 31:13; 2Sa 1:12; 12:16, 21, 22, 23; 1Kgs 21:9, 27; 1 Chr 10:12; Ezra 8:23; Neh 1:4; Esther 4:16; Isa 58:3, 4; Jer 14:12; Zech 7:5;
Fasting is a valid discipline and one which Jesus did not annul. The only fast God commanded was once per year on the Day of Atonement. The Jewish religious teachers had added two fasts to be performed each Monday and Thursday, a practice which was observed ritualistically by the "pious" Pharisees.
Phil Newton writes that…
What principles for fasting are given in Matthew 6:16-18? Don't fast like a hypocrite, putting on a gloomy face to impress men - that's your entire reward! If you give, pray or fast for the admiration of man, you will lose the smile and reward of your Father! When you fast take care of your appearance so men don't know you are fasting - then your Father will repay you. Notice that Jesus says "when you fast" not "if you fast" indicating it is expected by our Lord. However, He does not command fasting. Thus fasting is a choice we each must make. It is a voluntary spiritual discipline.
Fasting is a Christian’s voluntary, non-coerced abstinence from food or water for spiritual purposes.
Fasting by a non-Christian has no eternal value since the discipline’s motives and purposes are to be God-centered.
Fasting runs counter to America's self-indulgent, "me, my, mine" mindset, and thus it is not surprising that many Christians have not given serious consideration to the discipline of fasting. The act of fasting directly opposes the desires of our fallen flesh, which are continually appealed to by the world and the tempter. Of course, there are some people who cannot and should not fast because of medical reasons. However, for the majority of Christians, it be prudent to consider engaging in the practice of fasting, as saints have done throughout the Old Testament and in the early church (cf Acts 13:2, 3, 14:23).
Fasting is not to impress God not to earn His acceptance, our acceptance having been made full and complete on the basis of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Fasting does not earn God’s favor! Like alms and prayer, fasting is to be done as an act of devotion to God and not to win the approval of anyone else. When we fast, we must not do anything that will draw attention to our appearance, our hungry state or our dedication to God. Fasting is between the saint and his God.
Fasting is mentioned in Scripture more than several other important doctrines including such teachings as baptism (about 77 times for fasting, 75 for baptism). Most believers have been baptized but how many have fasted?
Fasting in Scripture is almost always associated with prayer. Some feel that fasting helps one focus our prayers of intercession and supplication. We should not however assume that fasting is like a "spiritual hunger strike" that in any way compels or manipulates God. Clearly, if we petition for something out of God’s will, fasting does not incline Him produce an affirmative response. In short, fasting does not change God’s hearing so much as it changes our praying.
Fasting for God's guidance is clearly seen in Scripture (see Jdg 20, Acts 14:23), but fasting does not ensure certainty that we will receive clear guidance. On the other hand, fasting rightly motivated does make us more receptive to our Father Who seeks to guide us.
Fasting is often a manifestation of grief or mourning, as when King Saul was killed by the Philistines resulting in the men of Jabesh Gilead fasting seven days (cf 1Sa 31:13)
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote that…
David R Smith adds that…
Fasting in the Old Testament was commonly associated with seeking of God's deliverance and/or protection before one made a critical decision or pursued a potentially dangerous or difficult course of action (cf 2Chr 20:1, 2, 3, 4-29, 2Chr 30:3, 4, Ezra 8:21, 22, 23, Neh 1:4). Queen Esther called for a "cooperative fast" from the Jews of Susa as she prepared for an uninvited and therefore potentially dangerous entrance into the presence of King Xerxes. In this hour of great need, Queen Esther requested Mordecai to…
Fasting can be associated with confession and repentance (see Da 9:3, 4-note). In First Samuel 7 we read a study of national revival (read the entire chapter 1Sa 7:1-17) in which God raised up Samuel, who called the people to repentance, confession, and cleansing. Intercession was made through the blood of a lamb, and there was victory over the Philistines. Fasting was a component of this "revival"…
The prophet Joel in light of impending judgment (The Day of the Lord) asked "Who can endure it?" and then provided the "way of escape"…
Here God Himself associates fasting with a changed change (repentance) and a return to Him. This passage also warns that fasting without a changed heart is a meaningless dead work. Beloved, is God calling you to deal with a specific sin in your hardened heart, so that you might return to Him in brokenness and repentance with fasting, weeping and mourning? Jesus promised that blessed are those mourn over their sins for they shall be comforted (see Mt 5:4-note) Don't try to substitute a spiritual discipline such as fasting, for God' clear call to confess and forsake that sin which so easily entangles you (cf Pr 28:13). It is a perversion of fasting from food or drink when we refuse God's "chosen fast" (cf Isaiah 58:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, especially v6-7) to cease feeding a sin we want to continue feeding.
Fasting, rightly motivated, is a physical expression of humility before God, just as kneeling or prostrating yourself in prayer can reflect humility before Him. For example first Kings records that one of the most wicked men in Israel's history, King Ahab, eventually humbled himself before God and demonstrated it by fasting…
David, a man after God's Own heart, illustrates the relationship between prayer, fasting and humility recording that…
Fasting is not always associated with humility, as illustrated by the self-righteous Pharisee who boasted…
The Jews of Jesus' day had a teaching that Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Law on a Thursday, and returned with it on a Monday. Consequently, the Pharisees considered fasting on those two days was considered a special mark of holiness.
Fasting can be the work of God in a place that has experienced tragedy, disappointment, or apparent defeat as seen with Nehemiah when he heard that despite the return of many Jewish exiles to Jerusalem, the city still had no wall…
Nehemiah had a deep sense of Jerusalem’s significance to God and was greatly distressed that affairs there had not advanced the cause and glory of God. Note that Nehemiah's focus was toward the God of heaven and for the glory of God. When I fast is that my focus and my goal?
Fasting can be an act of sheer devotion to God as we see with the godly prophetess Anna, Luke recording that…
Anna is one of those people that I cannot wait to meet. Luke gives details of her life which suggest that for well over half a century she was at the Temple serving God with “fastings and prayers.” Clearly for Anna, her fasting as an incredible expression of worship to her Lord. Here we see fasting can be an expression of finding one's greatest pleasure and enjoyment in God.
May you and I dear reader yearn for times when God causes us like Anna to crave the spiritual banquet of His presence more than any physical, temporal and earthly meal. Remember that Jesus promises that our Father in heaven will reward us when He sees a rightly motivated, pure in heart fast for His eyes only.
Happy would it be if both churches and their individual members, were more frequently to set apart special seasons of fasting and prayer to seek a renewed communication of divine influence - John Angell James (The Church in Earnest)
Complete Gathered Gold Quotes on Prayer and Fasting…
><> ><> ><>
There are a number of books available on this discipline but many are less than spiritually sound and border on the mystical. In his Preface to A Hunger for God (I highly recommend this excellent resource which is generously made available at no charge online) Dr John Piper gives believers wise counsel regarding the spiritual discipline of fasting writing…
DO NOT PUT ON A GLOOMY FACE AS THE HYPOCRITES DO, FOR THEY NEGLECT THEIR APPEARANCE SO THAT THEY WILL BE NOTICED BY MEN WHEN THEY ARE FASTING: me ginesthe (2PPMM) hos hoi hupokritai skuthropoi, aphanizousin (3PPAI) gar ta prosopa auton hopos phanosin (3PAPS) tois anthropois nesteuontes; (PAPMPN) (Mt 6:2,5; 1Kings 21:27; Isaiah 58:3, 4, 5; Zechariah 7:3, 4, 5; Malachi 3:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 18:12)
Do not put on a gloomy face - Young's rendering is more literal "be ye not as the hypocrites, of sour countenances". The present imperative is a command that is coupled with a negative particle (Greek = "me") which calls for them to stop this practice.
Gloomy (4659) (skuthropos from skuthros = sullen, grim + ops = countenance) means to look sad, somber, downcast or gloomy.
Spurgeon writes that…
Noticed by men - This is the reward the hypocrites desire. If we are honest, we will all agree that it is in a sense "rewarding" when others compliment us on our spiritual discipline, zeal, or devotion?
How you fast depends on whom you want to impress. If your fast is for your spiritual benefit and God’s glory, no one else needs to applaud your commitment.
Harry Ironside reminds us that our Lord Jesus…
Piper adds that…
TRULY I SAY TO YOU, THEY HAVE THEIR REWARD IN FULL: amen lego (1SPAI) humin apechousin (3PPAI) ton misthon auton
Reward in full - Jesus is saying that that if you love to be "rewarded" with praise and admiration from people, you will receive that "reward" but nothing more.
The following Topical summary is modified from Torrey's Topical Textbook (See also ISBE article on fasting)
Spirit of, explained- Isaiah 58:6,7
Not to be made a subject of display -Matthew 6:16, 17, 18
Should be to God -Zechariah 7:5; Matthew 6:18
For the chastening of the soul -Psalms 69:10
For the humbling of the soul -Psalms 35:13
OBSERVED ON OCCASIONS OF
Judgments of God-Joel 1:14; Joel 2:12, 13
Public calamities -2Samuel 1:12
Afflictions of the Church -Luke 5:33, 34, 35
Afflictions of others -Psalms 35:13; Daniel 6:18
Private afflictions - David over illness of infant son by Bathsheba 2Samuel 12:16
Desire for God's protection-Ezra 8:21
Approaching danger- Esther 4:16
Approaching judgment of God-Jonah 3:5-8
Sorrow of Hannah over her barrenness 1Samuel 1:6, 7, 8
Death of friends or enemies David -Saul & Jonathan died 2Sa 1:12
Desire to serve God -Anna serving w/ fasting & prayers Lk 2:37
Ordination of ministers-seeking wisdom & guidance -Acts 13:3; 14:23
Prayer-Ezra 8:23; Daniel 9:3
Confession of sin -1Samuel 7:6; Nehemiah 9:1,2
Mourning -Joel 2:12
Humiliation -Deuteronomy 9:18; Nehemiah 9:1
Promises connected with -Isaiah 58:8, 9, 10, 11, 12; Matthew 6:18
Described -Isaiah 58:4,5
Ostentatious -Matthew 6:16
Boasted of, before God -Luke 18:12
Rejected -Isaiah 58:3; Jeremiah 14:12
Our Lord -Matthew 4:2
Moses-Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9,18
Elijah -1Kings 19:8
Israel -Judges 20:26; Ezra 8:21; Esther 4:3,16; Jeremiah 36:9
Men of Jabesh-gilead-1Samuel 31:13
Ninevites -Jonah 3:56, 7, 8
Of Saints Exemplified
David -2 Samuel 12:16; Psalms 109:24
Nehemiah -Nehemiah 1:4
Esther -Esther 4:16
Daniel -Daniel 9:3
Disciples of John -Matthew 9:14
Anna -Luke 2:37
Cornelius -Acts 10:30
Christians -Acts 13:2
Apostles -2Corinthians 6:5
Paul -2Corinthians 11:27
Of the wicked-Exemplified
Elders of Jezreel -1Kings 21:12
Ahab -1Kings 21:27
Pharisees -Mark 2:18; Luke 18:12
|The following summary on FASTING is from Easton's, Smith's Bible Dictionaries and other resources…
The sacrifice of the personal will, which gives to fasting all its value, is expressed in the old term used in the law, afflicting the soul . Fasting is usually born out of a need (approaching danger, approaching judgment, death of someone, ordination of ministers) as shown especially in the occasions mentioned above.
Fasting can be sincere and for proper reasons. It can also be done for selfish purposes. The first is pleasing to God, the latter isn't. In Zechariah 7:5, God asks His people the question,
The question one must always ask when fasting deals with our motive for fasting
Fasting calls us from the preoccupations of body and soul in the day-by-day pressures of life. It summons us into such serious communion with our Lord that we voluntarily abstain from our normal absorption with such needs as food and drink.
Fasting although national at times is predominantly a private matter, an expression of personal devotion linked to three major crises lamentation/penitence, mourning, and petition. Without exception fasting has to do with a sense of need and dependence, of abject helplessness in the face of actual or anticipated calamity.
As an expression of lamentation and/or penitence, fasting nearly always is associated with weeping (Judges 20:26; Esther 4:3; Psalm 69:10; Joel 2:12), confession (1Sam 7:6; Da 9:3), and the wearing of sackcloth (1Ki 21:27; Neh 9:1; Esther 4:3; Psalm 69:10; Da 9:3).
Fasting was frequently associated with supplication (prayer). David prayed and fasted over his sick child (2Sa 12:16), weeping before the Lord in earnest intercession (2Sa 12:21, 22). Nehemiah, having heard of Jerusalem's desolation, wept, fasted, and prayed that God would give him favor with King Artaxerxes of Persia so that he might return to his homeland and repair its ruins (Neh 1:4-11). Esther, under similar circumstances, urged Mordecai and the Jews to fast for her as she planned to appear before her husband the king (Esther 4:16). Clearly, fasting and petition are here one and the same (cf. Jer 14:12).
It is interesting that the purpose of fasting is never explicitly stated in Scripture. From the Scriptural examples connecting fasting to penitence, mourning, and supplication it appears that fasting is a means of self-denial that opens one to God. Fasting is a spiritual practice in which believers are given the opportunity to express themselves in an undivided and intensive devotion to the Lord.
There are several types of fasts
The sole fast required by the law of Moses was that of the great Day of Atonement, Leviticus 23:26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32. It is called "the fast" (Acts 27:9).
The only other mention of a periodical fast in the Old Testament is in Zechariah 7:1-7; 8:19, from which it appears that during their captivity the Jews observed four annual fasts. (Ed note: But these were not prescribed by God)
The fast of the fourth month, kept on the seventeenth day of Tammuz, the anniversary of the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; to commemorate also the incident recorded Exodus 32:19. (Compare Jeremiah 52:6,7)
The fast of the fifth month, kept on the ninth of Ab (Compare Numbers 14:27), to commemorate the burning of the city and temple (Jeremiah 52:12,13).
The fast of the seventh month, kept on the third of Tisri (Compare 2Kings 25), the anniversary of the murder of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:1,2).
The fast of the tenth month (Compare Jeremiah 52:4; Ezekiel 33:21; 2KIngs 25:1), to commemorate the beginning of the siege of the holy city by Nebuchadnezzar.
There was in addition to these the fast appointed by (Esther 4:16).
By the ninth century BC fasting had become institutionalized or formalized to the extent that days or other periods of fasting were called as occasions for public worship. The usual way of describing such convocation is "to call for" or "proclaim" a fast.
Thus, Jezebel, to provide an occasion whereby Naboth would be unjustly accused and condemned, proclaimed a fast (1Kings 21:9,12). Jehoshaphat later, and with much nobler motives, called for such an assembly in order to implore God's intercession on Judah's behalf (2Chr 20:3). The same formula appears in Ezra 8:21 and Jonah 3:5, in the last instance initiated by the people of Nineveh as an expression of their repentance at Jonah's preaching.
Public national fasts on account of sin or to supplicate divine favour were sometimes held.
1 Samuel 7:6;
2 Chronicles 20:3;
Jeremiah 36:6, 7, 8, 9, 10;
Nehemiah 9:1 (Three days after the feast of tabernacles, when the second temple was completed, "the children of Israel assembled with fasting, and with sackcloth and earth upon them," to hear the law read and to confess their sins. (Nehemiah 9:1)
There were also local fasts.
1Kings 21:9, 10, 11, 12;
Ezra 8:21, 22, 23:
Jonah 3:5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
There are many instances of private occasional fasting (1Samuel 1:7: 20:34; 2Sa 3:35; 12:16; 1Ki 21:27; Ezra 10:6; Ne 1:4; Da 10:2,3). The instances given of individuals fasting under the influence of grief, vexation or anxiety are numerous. Moses fasted forty days (Exodus 24:18; 34:28), and so also did Elijah (1Kings 19:8). Our Lord fasted forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2).
In the lapse of time the practice of fasting was lamentably abused (Isaiah 58:4; Jeremiah 14:12; Zechariah 7:5). Our Lord rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical pretences in fasting (Matthew 6:16). He himself appointed no fast. The early Christians, however, observed the ordinary fasts according to the law of their fathers (Acts 13:3; 14:23; 2Cor 6:5).
In the New Testament the only reference to the Jewish fasts are the mention of "the fast" in (Acts 27:9) (generally understood to denote the day of atonement) an the allusions to the weekly fasts. (Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33; 18:12; Acts 10:30) These fasts originated some time after the captivity.
John Calvin wrote the following on fasting…
Throughout its course, the life of the godly indeed ought to be tempered with frugality and sobriety, so that as far as possible it bears some resemblance to a fast. But, in addition, there is another sort of fasting, temporary in character, when we withdraw something from the normal regimen of living, either for one day or for a definite time, and pledge ourselves to a tighter more severe restraint in diet than ordinarily. (Institutes of Christian Religion)
Matthew Henry (1662-1714) wrote that…
If the solemnities of our fasting, though frequent, long and severe, do not serve to put an edge upon devout affections, to quicken prayer, to increase Godly sorrow, and to alter the temper of our minds, and the course of our lives, for the better, they do not at all answer the intention, and God will not accept them as performed to Him.
William Law (1668-1761) said that…
If religion requires us sometimes to fast and deny our natural appetites, it is to lessen that struggle and war that is in our nature; it is to render our bodies fitter instruments of purity, and more obedient to the good motions of divine grace; it is to dry up the springs of our passions that war against the soul, to cool the flame of our blood, and render the mind more capable of divine meditations. So that although these abstinences give some pain to the body, yet they so lessen the power of bodily appetites and passions, and so increase our taste of spiritual joys, that even these severities of religion, when practiced with discretion, add much to the comfortable enjoyment of our lives. (William Law-A serious Call To A Devout and Holy Life)
The great American Theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote…
One thing more I would mention concerning fasting and prayer, wherein I think there has been a neglect in ministers; and that is that although they recommend and much insist on the duty of secret prayer, in their preaching; so little is said about secret fasting. It is a duty recommended by our Savior to his followers, just in like manner as secret prayer is; as may be seen by comparing the 5th and 6th vs of the 6th chap. of Matt. with vs 16-18. Though I don’t suppose that secret fasting is to be practiced in a stated manner and steady course as secret prayer, yet it seems to me ’tis a duty that all professing Christians should practice, and frequently practice. There are many occasions of both a spiritual and temporal nature that do properly require it; and there are many particular mercies that we desire for ourselves or friends that it would be proper, in this manner, to seek of God. (Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival)
Phillip Brooks (1835-1893)…
Andrew Murray (1828-1916)…
Amplified: But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face, (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
NLT: But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: No, when you fast, brush your hair and wash your face (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: But as for you, when fasting, massage your head with olive oil and wash your face (Wuest: Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: 'But thou, fasting, anoint thy head, and wash thy face,
|BUT YOU, WHEN YOU FAST, ANOINT YOUR HEAD AND WASH YOUR FACE (Ruth 3:3; 2 Samuel 14:2; Ecclesiastes 9:8; Daniel 10:2,3)
Jesus' point is that when a hypocrite fasts, and not only does he not conceal it but he makes it plain to others that he is fasting. But if hypocrisy means "putting on a mask", it would seem at first glance that anointing your face, etc, is hiding from others what you are doing. Isn't hypocrisy trying to look different on the outside from what you really are on the inside? Jesus says that hypocrites demonstrate to others that they are fasting, because as in all of the Sermon on the Mount, He is gazing into our hears! Ouch!
Piper explains that…
Fasting is often connected with vigilant, passionate prayer (cf. Neh. 1:4; Ps. 35:13; Dan. 9:3; Matt. 17:21; Luke 2:37), and includes either a loss of desire for food or the purposeful setting aside of eating to concentrate on spiritual issues
C H Spurgeon's comments…
J C Ryle (1816-1900)…
Amplified: So that your fasting may not be noticed by men but by your Father, Who sees in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: 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.
NLT: Then no one will suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: so that nobody knows that you are fasting - let it be a secret between you and your Father. And your Father who knows all secrets will reward you. (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: in order that you may not appear to men to be fasting but to your Father who observes in the sphere of the secret, and your Father who observes in the sphere of the secret will reward you. (Wuest: Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: that thou mayest not appear to men fasting, but to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father, who is seeing in secret, shall reward thee manifestly.
|SO THAT YOUR FASTING WILL NOT BE NOTICED BY MEN, BUT BY YOUR FATHER WHO IS IN SECRET; AND YOUR FATHER WHO SEES WHAT IS DONE IN SECRET WILL REWARD YOU (2Corinthians 5:9; 10:18; Colossians 3:22, 23, 24; 1Peter 2:13)
Noticed by men - Let's all be honest. Whether we have walked with Christ 1 year or 30 years, is this not a challenge in ever area of Christian endeavor, be it preaching, teaching, ushering, etc? O, how easy it is to do religious things if other people are watching! Preaching, praying, serving, etc all take on a certain pleasantness of the ego if we know that others will find out about our spiritual accomplishments and think well of us.
The natural human tendency in all of us is that deadly addiction for the esteem of others. We all of us a latent desire to be noticed by men! Why? The explanation is simple -- believers still live mortal bodies of frail flesh which house our fallen nature, the "Sin virus" inherited from Adam (Ro 5:12-note). But now because we have said "Yes" to Jesus, we have His power in us to say "No" to the old Sin nature that once dominated and contaminated everything we said and did. Now believers can live each new day as more than conquerors in Christ. And yet the battle between the flesh and the spirit is very real, intense and incessant. And thus Paul exhorts us (in the context of believers having difficulty loving one another as they loved themselves - see prior verses)…
The "secret of spiritual success" whether in fasting or any other supernatural endeavor of course is a lifestyle of surrender to our Resident Guide and Teacher, the Spirit of Christ, Who leads us into all righteousness. Because of the believer's identification or union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. (See discussion of "Crucified with Christ - Galatians 2:20), we now have His potential within us to enable us to "walk in newness of life" (resurrection power) (Ro 8:4-note), energized by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph 3:16-note; Ep 5:18-note). And when we allow Him to fill us and control us, we can fast for the glory of God, caring less for the notice (and praise) of men. Hallelujah, what a great salvation!
In secret - Fast with the clear intention of being seen by your Father, not by men.
Piper reminds us that…
Who measures how we’ve done in life
God wants you to spend your time and treasure
Will reward you - Is not the fact that we are pleasing to our Father reward enough? And yet Jesus says He will reward us. It is good and right to want and to seek the reward of God in fasting. Jesus would not have offered this to us if it were wrong to reach for it. Seeking the reward of the Father is not irreverent or unloving or contrary to true virtue.
Spurgeon wrote that…
C. S. Lewis wrote that
Piper adds that…
Luke describes a woman who was hungering for God and His glory…
What was Anna's reward? Because of Anna's hunger for God (fastings and prayers), He granted to her the gracious insight of recognizing His Son, her Messiah.
John Piper explains Anna's reward this way…
Matthew Henry has an interesting comment related to Anna's fastings and prayers writing that…
F B Meyer (Our Daily Homily) has the following devotional on this passage…