Fasting has been around a long time. In my unscholarly opinion it is older than Elvis, but younger than a T-Rex. Throughout the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and the Heavy Metal Age during the 80’s that I was raised in fasting has been a way to get ahold of something greater than ourselves.
By the way, if you intend to fast be sure to check with your healthcare provider first.
I’ve compiled several interesting fasts that I found in the bible. Here they are:
The Three Day “Oh My God We’re Gonna Die” Fast. The details of this fast are recorded in the book of Jonah. I’ll abbreviate, but remember, a scholar I am not. There was once this ancient city named Ninevah. Population: 120,000 degenerates. People your folks would have forbid you to date or even be seen with. God sends Jonah to proclaim to Ninevah that in three days God will smack them upside the head with destruction because the whole city was rotten. Surprisingly they listened (who says people can’t change?) and proclaimed a city-wide fast:
Jonah 3:7 “…Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water...”
A little observation: If I ever tried to make my fourteen year old and my three cats go without food and drink for three whole days it would be absolute anarchy, caterwauling, and furniture-scratching at my house. Kudos to Ninevah for pulling it off.
God saw their actions and looked inside their once evil hearts and witnessed true regret for their deeds. So He called off the smack down and Ninevah was saved.
The Ten Day “Rich Food” Fast. The book of Daniel has a couple of fasts, and this one is recorded in chapter one. Daniel and his three buddies were selected to be trained to serve the Babylonian king. But the food, made by the king’s own chef, wasn’t cooked according to Jewish law. So Daniel and company asked that they be excused from eating it. Daniel’s supervisor wasn’t thrilled about it, but Daniel threw out a compromise: let them fast the rich food and drink for ten days, and only eat veggies and water. If after ten days they still looked healthy then they earned the right to eat whatever they wanted.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I get a little testy when someone doesn’t like my cooking. And real chefs are notorious for being sensitive to food critics. Imagine the reaction of a royal chef! So this was a big gamble for Daniel. But it paid off. Daniel and friends looked way better than all the others and they went on to have great careers.
The Forty Day “You’d Almost Have To Be God To Pull This Off” Fast. This is the most extreme fast ever recorded, so of course it was Jesus who did it. Found in several places in scripture, Jesus is led by the Spirit into a wilderness for forty days of no food. No McDonalds, no Taco Bell, no KFC, just Him and the wild beasts.
Obviously I’m not Jesus. But I’d like to think I was the kind of woman who would have nobly endured the forty days, singing old gospel hymns and knitting a sweater out of forest moss. I like to think that I had enough mojo to hike the tallest mountain while starving to near death. That I would do Pilates and push-ups out there in the wilderness every day no matter how terrible I felt.
In reality after two days I’d have leapt from behind a rock to ambush me a wild beast, such as a ferocious squirrel or a mighty rabbit. I’ve heard that when you are starving lizards taste like chicken and ants like crunchy peanuts.
But Jesus resisted temptation, in more ways than one. Jesus proved He was all-wise, all-knowing, and all-cool.
The “I Need To Hear From God ASAP” Fast. 2 Chronicles 20:3 records the fast of an entire nation when they learned all of their enemies had declared war on them at the same time. Talk about having a bad day! They were scared witless and had no idea what to do.
So the whole country fasted and prayed. I remember when I first fasted, not much happened. But when I began to pray while I fasted things started to change.
And it changed for this dedicated group of non-eaters also. They heard from God and were miraculously delivered from their enemies v. 22.
The Twenty One Day “Meat, Wine and Soap” Fast. I’ll tell you right now I could never do this fast longer than three days. I get a little panicky at the thought of no sudsy goodness, no foaming fragrant cleanser, no deodorant, no perfume to disguise the stench for three whole weeks, yuck!
But I digress. Daniel chapter 10:3 finds Daniel seeking the meaning behind a strange God-given vision. Instead of doing a traditional ‘food only’ fast he gives up three things he really enjoys: steak, merlot and a bathtub.
A friend I know could give up two of the three, but she’d stab you in the chest with her fork if you touched her beef. Some of you feel that way about chardonnay.
But thankfully for Daniel, and everyone around him, he received the answer to his prayer and the meaning of the vision was revealed.
The “I Just Got A Promotion” Fast. In today’s world it is common to celebrate a new job or a big promotion at work with a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, or a big family meal at home. But that wasn’t the case in the New Testament church of Antioch.
Acts 14:23 “Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”
Can you imagine your boss calling you in to the office and offering you a great promotion, and then he invites you to work through your lunch hour to celebrate?
But Paul and Barney had been around the block, they knew that being in charge of a church meant the elders would need wisdom, self-control and closeness with God. So prayer and fasting was the obvious solution.
The Three Day “God Save The Queen” Fast. The book of Esther records this fast during some pretty tense and dangerous times. The Jews were living in Persia under the rule of King Xerxes who had, unbeknownst to him, married a Queen who was secretly a Jew.
The plot gets interesting when this really bad dude named Haman got a burr up his saddle about the Jews, so he got the King to proclaim an irrevocable law allowing the mass slaughter of all the Jews in the land.
So the Queen comes to the realization that it is up to her to save her people. Talk about stress! If that was me a year ago, I would have rushed out to the nearest donut shop. I would have bought every box of Betty Crocker in town. I would have deep fried everything in my fridge, including the pickles and olives.
Instead, Queen Esther shows some guts and self-control. In Esther 4:16 the Queen says to her cousin, “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the King. If I must die, I must die.”
Ever feel like you are caught up in some serious drama and need some help? Try gathering some of your friends together and have them fast with you. It worked for the Queen. She saved the Jews and beat that nasty old Haman at his own game.