Welcome to the third part of the 3rd course of Red Bricks.
Read Matthew 6:16-18
We have already looked at the subject of fasting in an earlier instalment of Red Bricks, entitled The Taming of the Flesh. But we look again here because there is a difference in context in the sense of what Yeshua (Jesus) did in the wilderness was in order to prepare Himself for temptation from Satan. Now, Yeshua is talking about how we should approach regular fasting itself.
Continuing on from having a right approach to acts of charity, likewise here, Yeshua tells us that our fasting should not be carried out in the same way that the hypocrites do. The hypocrites to whom He was referring were the like of the Pharisees, in particular. They had created a myriad of additional rules to what the written Law, or Torah had commanded.
Whilst it should be clear to everyone that the act of fasting, of denying oneself, is intended to help us draw closer to God, and therefore be more spiritually minded, the Pharisees had decided to skip the idea of actually being more spiritually, in favour of appearing to be more spiritual in front of others. From the text, it is clear that when they were fasting that they made sure everyone knew they were fasting. We must be careful not to be like this in any way. Yeshua wasn’t applying, as we have already seen, this principle exclusively to fasting – He was encouraging all of us to avoid doing anything in order to impress others. And further to that, Y’shua declares that whatever recognition you receive from others for your apparent spirituality, is actually all you can expect to receive. So, instead of fasting for a particular answer to prayer, if you do it as the hypocrites do, then don’t expect to hear from God.
In today’s modern church, we must be diligent not to fall into these traps, even if others are practicing them. Our walk with God is as an individual, even if we come together with others believers in fellowship. To copy the bad habits of others will never bring us closer to God. It is all about our relationship with the Father, and never about following blindly the actions of others who seek only to impress men.
Yeshua’s message this: Yes, you should fast, but when you do, don’t let other people know you are doing it unless you have to. True fasting is much more than simply not eating or refraining from certain foodstuffs. True fasting is a state of mind. In Leviticus chapter 23, the instruction over fasting for the Day of Atonement festival, is to ‘afflict your souls‘. What does that mean? The soul acts as your appetite for both the flesh and the spirit. If we pursue feeding on flesh, then our flesh governs our decisions. If we pursue satisfying the spirit part of us, then our souls will crave the spiritual nourishment that only God can give. On days in which you fast, you are actually denying the flesh what it wants, over the true nourishment that only God can provide. If you want a more comprehensive explanation of what it means to afflict your soul then try this article: Afflict Your Soul.
When we learn to properly deny the things that our flesh desires, such as food, but also other things, like recognition from others, prestige, social position, designer clothes, nice homes, fancy watches, and, well the list is endless, then we will learn to be fed by God. When that is the priority in our lives, then everything else we need will be provided. None of the things that the flesh desires bring us life. They all lead to death. Life only comes from Y’shua. Society is full of things that tell us we need them for true fulfilment, but none of them actually deliver what they promise. Only God does.
Fasting isn’t just about food. It is also about a state of mind; when we subdue the things that our self desires, in favour of following God’s way, He honours and rewards us. It is a place of surrender. It is a place of truly saying, ‘not my will, but Yours‘.
Read carefully Isaiah chapter 58 for God’s view on true fasting. He talks of justice, and charity, and humility, and righteousness. Yeshua’s words that we have already looked at are true:
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5:20]