It was on this day in the year 586 B.C. that news of the destruction of the Temple reached the Prophet Ezekiel, who was then in Babylon. In commemoration of this event, Judaism regards today as a fast day in connection with the destruction of the Temple.
Fasting is something we do voluntarily, sometimes are encouraged to do and, on occasion, are even commanded to do. Whatever the motivation, fasting is something that we should do for the right reasons. It is intended to challenge us to deny our physical appetites in order to teach us to deny those other more deadly appetites that we may draw closer to the Creator. That’s the point of fasting; denying ourselves so that there might be more of Him dwelling in us. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that there are some things aren’t possible unless we do fast.
In Matthew’s gospel, we have record of a boy who was oppressed with a spirit of infirmity. When he was brought to Christ’s disciples, they were unable to cast the demon out. When they came to Messiah, they asked, “Why couldn’t we do this?” He replied, “It’s because of your unbelief,” and then He added this:
“However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)
This verse makes it very clear that fasting is an important element of our walk, for when we deny ourselves, it enables us draw closer to the Creator. Yet, we also need to emphasis the other side of this. You can fast and never deny yourself. Going through religious routine without allowing for a change in our heart is pointless and powerless. We can fast physical foods, but never surrender our appetites for other things thus rendering our fast useless. The Creator makes it clear that fasting bread is one thing, but if you’re going to fast bread without fasting self, it’s pointless:
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
Though this Scripture speaks of fasting specifically, the principle can be applied to many situations. We can keep the Sabbath, we can keep the Feasts and obtain from unclean foods, but if we don’t allow the principle inherent in these commandments to change our heart – if we don’t allow ourselves to die – then are these things acceptable to God? From the very beginning, it’s always been about the intention of the heart.
If you are called to a fast, that’s what you need to do. But we all need to understand and reaffirm, that when we do these things, the emphasis is to be placed on us dying to ourselves that we might draw closer to Him.