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← A Theology of Fasting - Tim Conway

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Showing Revision 107 created 05/27/2018 by Carrie Spradlin.

  1. Our church is designating this week
  2. as just a week where
  3. we are going to give ourselves
  4. to seeking the Lord in a special way.
  5. Often times, we call it a
    week of prayer and fasting.
  6. Not that everybody in
    the whole church fasts
  7. for an entire eight days.
  8. But during that time, what we want to do
  9. is encourage the folks in
    the church to fast.
  10. Meals, days, and often times,
  11. when I am encouraging
    the church and others,
  12. we're encouraging the church
  13. to give ourselves to this,
  14. inevitably, somebody asks -
  15. (You asked, right?)
  16. Inevitably, somebody asks:
  17. What about fasting?
  18. How often?
  19. (Incomplete thought)
  20. This is not useless at all -
  21. I mean laying hold on
    the Lord like this is not.
  22. He has heard our prayers
    again and again and again.
  23. We do this, not out of ritual,
  24. not out of just tradition.
  25. We do this because we
    lay hold upon the Lord
  26. in a special way and the Lord answers.
  27. The Lord has blessed us
  28. with so many answers to
    our prayers through the years.
  29. He is a God who hears prayer
  30. and He has vindicated Himself
  31. as that kind of God repeatedly.
  32. We talk about fasting.
  33. I get questions on a
    pretty much quarterly basis.
  34. Every three months, we
    try to set aside a week
  35. where we give ourselves
  36. to some very special praying,
    fasting, seeking the Lord.
  37. When I use the term fast,
    questions come up.

  38. What is it?
  39. What do we fast from?
  40. How often?
  41. Are you talking about
    fasting for an entire week?
  42. What are you talking about here?
  43. How often? What should be the frequency?
  44. So what I thought I would do tonight,
  45. I think this is a very healthy study,
  46. just by way of remembrance.
  47. What I want us to do
  48. is to just do a topical study tonight
  49. on this theme of fasting.
  50. Let's look at what Scriptures says.
  51. So what I want you to
    do is to go out of here
  52. with a good feeling
    of what it's all about.
  53. You are trying to think about,
    how often should I do it?
  54. And by the way, just because
    we call special fasting weeks,
  55. doesn't mean that Christians
    can't fast all the time.
  56. They can fast on a regular basis.
  57. (Incomplete thought)
  58. It is not like it is mandatory
  59. and legalistically we're forcing
    everybody to do this.
  60. If somebody didn't fast
  61. during our week of prayer and fasting,
  62. certainly there is no crime in that.
  63. But we just want to encourage it.
  64. For the sake of unity, have the church
  65. really beseeching the Lord
  66. in a special way all at one time.
  67. When you were out of here today,
  68. I really want you to
    have a feel for this,
  69. maybe more than you had when you came in.
  70. What's the significance of it?
  71. And how often should we do it?
  72. And if the church calls a time
  73. of special prayer and fasting,
  74. should I fast for a meal?
  75. Should I fast for a day?
  76. Should I try to fast for
    three consecutive days?
  77. Or seven consecutive days?
  78. I mean, what is this?
  79. For one, when we talk about fasting,

  80. you know what I am talking about.
  81. I am talking about abstaining from food
  82. as prescribed in our Bibles.
  83. And I know that people who
    don't hold to the Bible fast.
  84. People fast for health reasons.
  85. People in other religions fast.
  86. And I am not talking about
    fasting just in a generic way.
  87. I am talking about fasting
    as it's found in Scripture.
  88. I am talking about
    God-prescribed fasting.
  89. What does it look like?
  90. You know, in the New Testament,
  91. it is not like there are huge amounts
  92. of verses that we can go to.
  93. There's a couple of handfuls.
  94. So let's look at them.
  95. Look at Matthew 4:2.
  96. What I want to do is just go through
  97. a number of these verses
  98. from the New Testament
  99. and just see what we can glean from them
  100. just in a casual reading.
  101. (Incomplete thought)
  102. The purpose for this
    is a theology of fasting.
  103. That's what we can call
    the message tonight:
  104. "A Theology of Fasting."
  105. What does God teach us?
  106. What is the teaching of God on fasting?
  107. So Matthew 4:2.

  108. After I get done with these
    New Testament passages,
  109. I want to look at one
    in the Old Testament,
  110. which I think is very helpful.
  111. Matthew 4:2.
  112. Jesus - we know that
    our Lord Jesus Christ
  113. fasted for how long?
  114. Forty days.
  115. Now look, as I was saying on Sunday,
  116. you do not want to say:
  117. Well, He was God. Or, He is God.
  118. He is God.
  119. I am not denying the deity of Christ.
  120. But I am saying Jesus Christ
    fasting and his hunger
  121. was the fasting and the
    hunger of a human being.
  122. God becoming flesh.
  123. God taking upon Himself,
  124. robing Himself with mankind in a way,
  125. in a manner in which He is like us
  126. in every respect, save sin.
  127. What I mean by that is his hunger
  128. was just as real as yours.
  129. And when He fasted,
  130. His fasting affected Him
    just like yours does.
  131. You know where I am going with that?
  132. It's possible for you to fast
    for forty days and not die.
  133. If you are not accustomed to fasting,
  134. you may think one day
    and you are ready to die.
  135. You may think you miss breakfast
  136. and get about to three
    o'clock in the afternoon
  137. missing lunch and you are ready to die.
  138. There are people that feel that way.
  139. You just feel like I can't do this.
  140. Jesus Christ fasted for forty days.
  141. (Incomplete thought)
  142. I know two pastors that
    just in the last year
  143. did forty day-fasts.
  144. You can fast for forty days.
  145. So if you're wanting to know
  146. how long it is even safe?
  147. I am not saying go without
    water for forty days.
  148. We'll have another casket
    up here if you do that.
  149. But you know, you can go
    forty days on water, you can.
  150. You can go forty days on juice.
  151. My point here is our Lord Jesus Christ
  152. fasted for forty days as a man,
  153. as one made like us in every respect.
  154. I just point that out.
  155. And by the way, our
    Lord was given to fasting.
  156. He did it.
  157. It was something that
    was part of His life.
  158. At least here.
  159. At least when He was being
    tempted by the devil.
  160. We see that He fasted.
  161. Now, let's go to Matthew 6.

  162. Matthew 6 has one of the
    most important texts
  163. on fasting in our Bible.
  164. Because it is one of the two passages,
  165. or one of the two incidents
  166. where our Lord gives us instruction -
  167. very specific instruction on fasting.
  168. Of course, these different accounts
  169. can be found in the
    different synoptic Gospels.
  170. But we basically have two accounts.
  171. We have His teaching
  172. in the Sermon on the Mount
    here in Matthew 6
  173. and then we have that occasion
  174. where the disciples of John
  175. and the disciples of the Pharisees
  176. came and they asked Him -
  177. the disciples of John
    and the Pharisees fast
  178. and your disciples don't fast.
  179. These two passages are Jesus's instruction
  180. in the New Testament on fasting.
  181. If you want to study the most
    important passages on this topic.
  182. These are the ones you want to look at.
  183. He teaches us some
    very valuable things here.
  184. Matthew 6: 16.
  185. This is often been said:
  186. "When you fast..."
  187. "And when you fast..." verse 16.
  188. "When you fast..."
  189. There is an assumption
    in the way He says that:
  190. "When you fast."
  191. When the Lord Jesus Christ looks at us
  192. as His followers and He says,
  193. "When you fast this is the
    way I want you to do it."
  194. He's definitely implying that He
    believes that as followers of His,
  195. this is something that is going
    to be characteristic of our lives.
  196. "When you fast" doesn't
    mean you won't fast.
  197. When you fast does not mean
  198. that it is going to be
    something that as a Christian
  199. that should be foreign to you.
  200. "When you fast" means
  201. I believe that My followers
    are going to fast.
  202. In fact, His instruction as given
  203. to these disciples of John
  204. and these disciples of the Pharisees
  205. who come to Him and ask Him.
  206. We are going to get to
    that text in a few minutes.
  207. He says, "They don't fast now
  208. because I am here. I am with them.
  209. But when I go, they will fast."
  210. Jesus is saying My followers
    are going to fast.
  211. He is not speaking specifically
    to His followers there.
  212. Although indirectly He does.
  213. Here He is, directly to us.
  214. He is looking at His disciples.
  215. And you remember.
  216. He gathered,
    Sermon on the Mount.
  217. He especially called
    out His disciples there
  218. and He began to teach them.
  219. There were crowds behind there.
  220. He kind of have the inner group there.
  221. And he would say to us: "When you fast..."
  222. This is part of the Christian life.
  223. "Do not look gloomy like the hypocrites."
  224. Okay, He does not want us fasting
  225. in a hypocritical manner.
  226. In other words, He
    doesn't want us appearing
  227. to be something that we are not.
  228. He doesn't want fasting
    just to be seen by men.
  229. He says: "They disfigure their faces
  230. that their fasting may be seen by others.
  231. Truly I say to you,
  232. they have received their reward."
  233. What's their reward?
  234. Their reward is that they
    want to be seen by men
  235. and get what they want.
  236. They get seen by men.
  237. They got what they wanted.
  238. They didn't want anything more than that.
  239. They fasted to be seen by men.
    They got seen by men.
  240. Everything is good.
  241. They got what they wanted.
  242. "But when you fast, anoint your head
  243. and wash your face."
  244. (Incomplete thought)
  245. This doesn't mean that nobody else
  246. can ever know that you're fasting.
  247. If they do, if they find out
  248. then all of a sudden all
    your fasting is negated.
  249. That's not what this means.
  250. I mean, look, if you're married,
  251. and your wife is
    cooking meals for you,
  252. (Incomplete thought)
  253. There's times when you need to
    communicate with people
  254. that you're fasting.
  255. I don't believe for us to have
    a week of prayer and fasting
  256. where we kind of know
  257. that there is a lot of the one anothers
    in the church that are doing this.
  258. That's not what this is about.
  259. It's got to do with motive here.
  260. It's got to do with whether
    you're doing it to be seen.
  261. Motives is the issue here.
  262. They do it for a motive.
  263. They have a reason.
  264. The hypocrite wants to
    appear to be something.
  265. You don't need to flaunt it.
  266. When you fast, try to cover
    it up as much as possible.
  267. But you're going to get into situations
  268. where you may have to tell somebody
  269. or you may have to make it
    apparent that you are doing that.
  270. "When you fast, anoint your
    head and wash your face
  271. that you fasting may
    not be seen by others
  272. but by your Father who is in secret."
  273. In other words, the
    reason that we're fasting
  274. has to do with our Father
    who sees in secret.
  275. When I fast, when you fast,
  276. Jesus is assuming we will fast.
  277. It is part of the Christian life.
  278. What He is pointing out here
  279. is you do this in a way,
  280. not for the sake of men.
  281. Not for them seeing you.
  282. You do it because it's got something
    to do with God the Father.
  283. In other words, when you fast,
  284. there are implications that have to do
  285. with your relationship with the Father.
  286. You keep reading here.
  287. "Your Father who sees
    in secret will reward you."
  288. Now there is a textual issue here.
  289. Some translations actually add "openly"
  290. or "in the open," for everyone to see.
  291. It is a textual issue.
  292. Whether it is there or not,
  293. It does not take away from the fact
  294. that God is going to reward you.
  295. In other words, we fast,
  296. because there is a
    Fatherly reward in fasting.
  297. There are benefits. I
    want you to see that.
  298. Jesus is saying there is
    a spiritual benefit to fasting.
  299. You need to see that.
  300. This is not a vain exercise.
  301. It's not like, oh,
    fasting - well that's neat,
  302. you know, you tack it on our life.
  303. We are not like the hypocrites.
  304. You remember how Jesus tells us a story
  305. about tax collector and the Pharisee
  306. that go to the temple to pray?
  307. You remember that story? Luke 18.
  308. What is Jesus say about the Pharisee?
  309. Well, he began to pray:
  310. "God, I thank you I am not like other people
  311. and I am not like this
  312. and I am not like this
    tax collector over there.
  313. I fast twice in the week."
  314. Let me tell you this,
  315. all fasting is not profitable.
  316. But there is fasting that's profitable.
  317. That's plain from Scripture.
  318. There is fasting that
    doesn't do you any good.
  319. There is the hypocrites here in Matthew 6.
  320. All they get is seen by others.
  321. That's the end of what they get.
  322. (Incomplete thought)
  323. You know what's not explicitly said,
  324. but is definitely implied through here?
  325. Faith.
  326. Because you're doing this in secret,
  327. which means you believe that God...
  328. Remember how it says over in Hebrews 11?
  329. We must believe that God is
    and that He's a rewarder.
  330. That's what we have here.
    The Father rewarding.
  331. He is a rewarder of them
    that seek Him diligently.
  332. You know what fasting is?
  333. It is one of the things that
    God has given to us;
  334. one of the methods God
    has given to us of seeking Him.
  335. It is turning away from
    the physical appetites
  336. and seeking the Lord in special ways.
  337. Turning away from gratifying
    that physical appetite
  338. and seeking the Lord
    in a very special way.
  339. That's what this is for: seeking the Lord.
  340. Faith. You do this in secret.
  341. You do this when nobody is watching.
  342. Because you know God is watching.
  343. You know the Father is watching.
  344. You know He is there in secret.
  345. And you're fasting because you're wanting
  346. to lay hold on Him.
  347. You want to seek Him.
  348. Let us jump to Matthew 9 now

  349. in the other account that
    I was telling you about
  350. where you get the disciples.
  351. Matthew tells us it is
    just disciples of John.
  352. The three synoptics
  353. kind of present the people
  354. that are asking from
    different perspectives.
  355. But in Matthew 9:14,
  356. the disciples of John -
    this is John the Baptist -
  357. they come to Him saying:
  358. "Why do we and the Pharisees fast,
  359. but your disciples do not fast?"
  360. I guarantee
  361. it is not a good thing
  362. to be in one of the first two groups.
  363. You know what? It was okay to
    be disciples of John at first.
  364. But you do not want
    to stay a disciple of John.
  365. You want to make that transition over
  366. to being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
  367. Why? These guys are out of touch.
  368. These guys are out of touch
  369. with what is happening in this world;
  370. what is truly happening.
  371. They're out of touch with
    the significance of Christ -
  372. the fact the Messiah has come.
  373. The Kingdom of God is at hand.
  374. They are out of touch with that. Why?
  375. Because, fasting as Jesus
    teaches us right here,
  376. has everything to do with Him.
  377. Notice. Jesus said to them in verse 15,
  378. "Can the wedding guests mourn
  379. as long as the bridegroom is with them?
  380. The days will when the bridegroom
  381. is taken away from them
    and then they will fast."
  382. Here is what I want you to see.
  383. (Incomplete thought)
  384. Can the wedding guests mourn as long as
  385. the bridegroom is with them?
  386. You all see that. Matthew, mourn.
  387. This exact account in Mark, chapter 2.
  388. You do not have to turn over there.
  389. But you know, it does not
    use the word mourn there.
  390. You know what word it uses?
  391. You know what word Mark uses? Fast.
  392. Mark uses the word fast.
  393. Let me just read the Mark
    account - Mark 2:18-20.
  394. "Now John disciples and
    the Pharisees were fasting.
  395. And people came and said to Him:
  396. 'Why do John's disciples and the
    disciples of the Pharisees fast,
  397. but your disciples do not fast?'
  398. Jesus said to them,
    'Can the wedding guest fast
  399. while the bridegroom is with them?'"
  400. As long as they have the
    bridegroom with them?
  401. "They cannot fast.
  402. The days will come when the
    bridegroom is taken away from them,
  403. And then they will fast in that day."
  404. Mark's account is actually more extensive,
  405. more detailed account than
    what Matthew gives us.
  406. What is very interesting is this:
  407. Matthew uses the word mourn
  408. in exactly the same place
  409. where Mark uses the word fast.
  410. Interchangeably.
  411. That means they are synonymous.
  412. I hope that helps in thinking
    about what fasting is.
  413. Mourning. Why do we mourn?
  414. Why would you mourn when the
    bridegroom is taken away?
  415. Because there are longings there.
  416. There is desire there.
  417. I want Christ back.
  418. This is not good. I don't like this.
  419. And you know what,
    we should not be content.
  420. This is a healthy discontent.
  421. You should not be
    content to live by faith.
  422. Say what?
  423. The Bible says we should
    live by faith. No!
  424. What I mean is you should
    not be content to stay here
  425. and live by faith forever.
  426. You should want to see Him face to face.
  427. You should want to embrace God.
  428. You should want to see Him.
  429. You should want to stand in His presence.
  430. You should want to walk with Him
  431. and talk with Him and
    fellowship with Him forever.
  432. This isn't any good.
    Well, it is kind of good.
  433. It is good if you are a Christian
  434. and you are walking with the Lord here.
  435. Even the most that Christians
    experience here is not what we want.
  436. We want consummation.
  437. This is like we have been betrothed.
  438. (Incomplete thought)
  439. Who gets engaged and wants
    to stay engaged forever?
  440. That's what we are dealing with here.
  441. We don't want this.
  442. We don't want to walk by faith,
    not by sight for eternity.
  443. We want to walk by sight.
    We want to see Him.
  444. It doesn't mean we don't trust Him.
  445. But we want to see Him;
    we want to be with Him.
  446. We want the veil ripped back.
  447. And until that happens, we
    are longing after something.
  448. We want more. I want more.
  449. I want Him to manifest Himself more.
  450. I want more of His presence,
    more of His power,
  451. more of His help. I want more.
  452. Don't you want more?
  453. That seems to be what this is all about.
  454. They can't fast while I am here.
  455. Why? They've got the bridegroom.
  456. This isn't just random
  457. or sporadic exercise of the Christian.
  458. This has to do with what we desire.
  459. That's what I want the church to do
  460. and I want the church to fast
    several times a year at least.
  461. I hope you are fasting outside of the
    times the church calls for a church fast.
  462. I don't want people to do it mechanically
  463. or just because we got into the tradition
  464. of starting the year with a
    week of prayer and fasting.
  465. This has to come from desire.
  466. This has to come from unfulfilled desire,
  467. unfulfilled passion, unfulfilled longing.
  468. That is what He is talking about here.
  469. Let us go further with this.
  470. How about Luke 2:36?

  471. We are going to get
    closer to the heart of this.
  472. I think we are already hitting on it.
  473. I hope this will help bring
    it into even greater clarity.
  474. Luke 2:36.
  475. You may remember,
  476. there was a prophetess named Anna,
  477. the daughter of Phanuel
    of the tribe of Asher.
  478. "She was advanced in years,
  479. having lived with her husband seven years
  480. from when she was a virgin."
  481. Then as a widow until she was 84.
  482. She did not depart from the temple.
  483. Notice this: "Worshiping with fasting
  484. and prayer night and day."
  485. Here is what I want you to see.
  486. Look, our lives are to be
    lived for the glory of God;
  487. whatsoever we do,
  488. whether we eat or drink,
  489. or don't eat and drink.
  490. We are to do everything
    for the glory of God.
  491. This is about worship.
  492. Worship comes from the
    Old English "weorthscipe."
  493. It has to do with the
    worthiness of something.
  494. Worship is when we are recognizing
  495. the worth of something.
  496. There is nobody more
    worthy than God Almighty.
  497. There is nothing more worthy.
  498. He, alone, is worthy of our worship.
  499. And she, Anna, was
    worshiping with fasting.
  500. Fasting is a form of worship. Why?
  501. (Incomplete thought)
  502. Think about this:
  503. When I fast because of the
    reason given in Matthew 6,
  504. because I long for the Father's reward.
  505. When I fast because the bridegroom
  506. has been taken away,
  507. and my longing is for Him.
  508. When I need God;
  509. when I need what God can give me;
  510. when I need God Himself;
  511. when I am longing for that,
  512. that's worship.
  513. Look, when we're needy people
  514. and we are coming to God
    and we are desperate,
  515. and we need His help -
  516. but more than that; more
    than what He can give us.
  517. We need Him.
  518. We want Him.
  519. That's worship.
  520. Isn't it? Isn't it the heart
    and soul of worship
  521. when we are wanting God
    more than anything else?
  522. When I say, you know what?
  523. I want God!
  524. I will give up food for
    these seasons in my life
  525. because I really want Him.
  526. I want Him more than food.
  527. I need food. I get hungry.
  528. But I have a hunger in my soul for Him.
  529. And you see, that is worship.
  530. (Incomplete thought)
  531. The last New Testament verse
    (well, actually, there's two)

  532. I would take us to are found in Acts.
  533. The early church.
  534. We see them fasting. Acts 13.
  535. Acts 13 is the chapter in Scripture
  536. where we see the missionary endeavor
  537. taking root and form.
  538. Paul and Barnabas are sent
    out of the church of Antioch.
  539. Paul's first missionary journey.
  540. Acts 13:1.
  541. "Now there were in the church at
    Antioch prophets and teachers,
  542. Barnabas,
  543. Simeon who is called Niger,
  544. Lucius of Cyrene,
  545. Manaen, a lifelong friend of
    Herod the tetrarch and Saul.
  546. While they were worshiping
    the Lord and fasting..."
  547. Now we know that with Anna who
    was worshiping with fasting,
  548. Here, the ESV anyways says
  549. "worshiping the Lord and fasting."
  550. The Holy Spirit said: "Set apart
    for me Barnabas and Saul
  551. for the work to which I have called them.
  552. And after fasting and praying,
  553. they laid their hands on
    them and sent them off."
  554. Now, were they fasting
    just as a typical practice
  555. and that's when the Spirit came?
  556. Or did the Spirit somehow
    move through a prophet
  557. and indicate these men
    needed to go the mission field?
  558. They saw this as being
    such an important event
  559. that they needed to fast.
  560. I don't know the exact order here.
  561. It almost seems like if
    you take it at face value,
  562. it seems like they were fasting.
  563. The Spirit in the midst of their fasting
  564. indicated maybe through
    a New Testament prophet
  565. that these were the two
    guys that were to be sent.
  566. And they continued in
    their praying and fasting.
  567. But anyways, the prayer and fasting
  568. seems to go hand in hand
  569. with the sending out
    of the first missionaries.
  570. They are going out and cross
  571. from Asia over into Europe
  572. and we know all the churches
    that would be established.
  573. This is a major matter.
  574. This missionary movement
  575. is flowing out of this praying and fasting.
  576. We go a little further
    in the book of Acts.

  577. Acts 14:23.
  578. Now Paul and Barnabas -
    they're moving around
  579. through the churches and are coming back
  580. to churches that they've
    already established.
  581. Churches that were already planted.
  582. Acts 14:23,
  583. "When they appointed elders
    for them in every church..."
  584. and now they are going back to these
    churches that they originally planted.
  585. Now they are going back to them.
    These churches are springing up
  586. and they are appointing elders
  587. and they are doing this
    with prayer and fasting.
  588. It is like when Paul and
    Barnabas are designated
  589. from the church of Antioch to go out.
  590. When Paul and Barnabas themselves
  591. go into these churches
  592. and elders are being appointed.
  593. It is being done with prayer and fasting.
  594. Why? Because there's this
    desperate need then.
  595. You want to be right about the leaders
  596. that you are choosing to take the Gospel
  597. out on missionary endeavors
  598. and who is going to be
    overseeing the churches.
  599. This is a time of desperation:
  600. Lord, we need answers from You.
  601. We need Your help.
  602. We need clarity. We need discernment.
  603. You can just see, it's
    times of great need.
  604. They commit themselves
    to prayer and fasting.
  605. Those are the verses in the New Testament

  606. where you find fasting come up.
  607. You get a feel for what it's about.
  608. Now, I want to take you to
    an Old Testament passage
  609. in the remaining 25 minutes or so.
  610. This is a great passage.
  611. Turn in your Bibles first to Ezra 4.
  612. We have to build the setting here
  613. before we can just dive right into it.
  614. If you don't get a feel for the setting,
  615. you kind of lose some of this.
  616. So if you go to Ezra...
  617. Let me just tell you,
  618. if you want to do a
    real interesting study,
  619. very carefully study Ezra,
  620. Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah.
  621. Haggai and Zechariah are the two prophets
  622. that God sent into Jerusalem
  623. in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.
  624. Those four books are all
    from the same time period.
  625. It's that time period of the
    rebuilding of the Temple
  626. after the Babylonian captivity.
  627. They all go together.
  628. Two of them are side by
    side in the minor prophets
  629. and two of them are right before
    the Book of Job and Psalms
  630. and that area of your Bible.
  631. But they go together.
  632. It is very interesting if you start
    looking at the timetables.
  633. And often, they measured the time
  634. by whoever was in the leadership,
  635. whether that was Cyrus or Darius.
  636. And they talk about if
    you go back before that,
  637. it was Nebuchadnezzar -
  638. in the certain year
    of Nebuchadnezzar.
  639. Anyway, let's look at this.

  640. Ezra 4:24.
  641. Actually, glance back up to Ezra 4:4
  642. since you're right in the same chapter.
  643. I want you to see this.
    What happens in Ezra 4:4?
  644. What do you see happen there?
  645. Fear.
  646. Let me tell you what happened.
  647. 70 years of Babylonian captivity go by.
  648. 70 years.
  649. Which prophet prophesied
    they'd be in Babylon 70 years?
  650. Jeremiah.
  651. Daniel picked up on that,
  652. Daniel prayed right there towards the end.
  653. What happens?
  654. Cyrus comes along and Cyrus says:
  655. "Any Jews that want to go back
    to Jerusalem and rebuild?
  656. Go back. "
  657. So they go back.
  658. And first thing they did,
    they built the altar.
  659. That was the first thing they did.
  660. Second thing they did, was they laid
  661. the foundation for the Temple.
  662. In 4:4, they quit work on the Temple
  663. after they have the
    foundation laid out of fear.
  664. (Incomplete thought)
  665. Listen, even though they had
    a commission to do this,
  666. the capital is a long way away.
  667. By the time they get to this point,
  668. Cyrus isn't even there anymore.
  669. What they get is that people
  670. who did not like the Jews.
  671. Antisemitism was very
    much alive back then.
  672. They did not want these
    Jews rebuilding the walls,
  673. or rebuilding the Temple.
  674. They did not want that.
    They were opposed to it.
  675. They tried various ways
    to stop them, scare them.
  676. They managed - they scared them.
  677. They got the foundation completed
  678. and then they terrified them.
  679. The Jews quit.
  680. Now I want you to jump down to Ezra 4:24.

  681. "Then the work of the house of God
  682. that is in Jerusalem stopped."
  683. They got the foundation
    done and it stopped.
  684. And notice this:
  685. "It ceased until the second year
  686. of the reign of Darius, king of Persia"
  687. Cyrus was gone by the
    time this work would resume.
  688. It would resume in the second year
    of the reign of Darius, king of Persia.
  689. Now jump to Haggai and Zechariah.

  690. We want to look at those two momentarily.
  691. They are right at the end of the Old
    Testament in the minor prophets.
  692. Haggai is very short.
    Zechariah is a bit longer.
  693. But remember that,
  694. the work would not resume
  695. until the second year
    of this reign of Darius.
  696. So now, if we go to Haggai -
  697. are you all there?
  698. Everyone got it?
  699. Old Testament. Last book is Malachi.
  700. Jump back before that.
    You've got Zechariah.
  701. Before that, you've got Haggai.
    Little tiny book.
  702. Notice how it starts. Haggai 1:1.
  703. Remember, back in Ezra,
  704. we saw that the work on
    the house of God ceased
  705. until the second year of the reign
    of Darius, king of Persia.
  706. Now, Haggai picks up in the
    second year of Darius the king.
  707. This is the precise year
  708. that the building is going to resume.
  709. The second year of Darius the king.
  710. Now jump over to Zechariah 1:1,
  711. which is your next book in your Bibles.
  712. Zechariah 1:1.
  713. And you're going to see,
    it starts in the eighth month,
  714. in the second year of Darius.
  715. Again it is the same. It's the same.
  716. That text that we had there in Ezra 4:24,
  717. that the building would resume,
  718. is the exact same year that
    both of these books start.
  719. Why? Well, I'll tell you what happened,
  720. they quit out of fear
  721. and God sent both these prophets
  722. in the very year that they would resume
  723. to kick start these people
    into resuming the building.
  724. They were wrong to quit.
  725. They weren't trusting the Lord!
  726. They were living in fear.
  727. And if you go back and read Ezra,
  728. what you find is God sent
  729. Haggai and Zechariah to them.
  730. These are the prophets sent to them
  731. to kick them in the rear
    and get them building again.
  732. God was not happy that
    they stopped building.
  733. Now, let's just keep moving along here.
  734. Go to Zechariah 7.
  735. Zechariah 7:1 starts in the
    fourth year of king Darius.
  736. Now, I'm just going to tell you this.
  737. In Ezra, we find out that the Temple
  738. was completed in the sixth year of Darius.
  739. Zechariah 7 starts in the fourth year.
  740. The construction was kicked back
    into gear in the second year.
  741. We know that it's finished
    in the sixth year.
  742. Guess where the fourth year puts you?
  743. Right in the middle of the reconstruction
  744. of the new Temple.
  745. We are going somewhere with this.
    Just hang with me here.
  746. You got to picture yourselves.
    This is Jerusalem.
  747. They have been in fear of their enemies.
  748. They quit.
  749. After they foundation was laid, they quit.
  750. God was not pleased.
  751. God sent these prophets.
  752. Told them: "You need to start
    rebuilding, you need to trust Me."
  753. (Incomplete thought)
  754. What you've tried to do
    has not been blessed,
  755. because you have
    not given first priority
  756. to the rebuilding of My Temple.
  757. That is what He told them
    through these prophets.
  758. And so they resumed building
  759. in the second year of Darius.
  760. They finished it in the sixth year.
  761. Zechariah chapter 7 is in the fourth year.
  762. It is when the Temple
    is half-way restored.
  763. That is key.
  764. Now, look at Zechariah 7:2.

  765. Now, the people of Bethel...
  766. Bethel was 11 miles north of Jerusalem.
  767. There were Jews there as well.
  768. Jews that came back -
    they didn't all go to Jerusalem.
  769. Many of them went back
  770. to where their families came from.
  771. Not all of them went to Jerusalem.
    Many were in the surrounding cities.
  772. And so you've got a
    bunch of Jews in Bethel
  773. 11 miles north of Jerusalem.
  774. "And they sent Sharezer
    and Regem-melech..."
  775. Interesting - these are still
    Babylonian names on these Jews.
  776. And they're men to entreat
    the favor of the Lord.
  777. In other words, they are sending
  778. an entourage from Bethel
    11 miles to Jerusalem.
  779. Why? Check this out - verse 3.
  780. "Saying to the priests
  781. of the house of the Lord..."
  782. You see, they sent them
    to where the priests were
  783. and where the house of the Lord was
  784. which at this time is halfway rebuilt.
  785. "And the prophets..."
  786. We know who the prophets are.
  787. You can see that in Ezra.
  788. That's these two guys,
    Haggai and Zechariah.
  789. Notice what they say:
  790. "Should I weep and abstain?"
  791. Abstain? What is that? That is fasting.
  792. If you doubt it, down to a few verses,
  793. he tells us that is exactly what it means.
  794. Abstain from food.
  795. Should we weep?
  796. Doesn't it go hand in hand with mourning?
  797. Like we saw in the New Testament,
  798. where mourn and fasting
    are used interchangeably.
  799. They are talking about
    weeping and abstaining.
  800. It goes hand in hand.
  801. I was leading you back to fasting.
  802. "Should I weep and abstain
    (or fast) in the fifth month
  803. as I have done for so many years?"
  804. Now, the "so many" years is seventy years.
  805. He is going to tell us
    that precisely in verse 5.
  806. God is going to tell us.
  807. What are the seventy years?
  808. The seventy years are
    when they were in captivity.
  809. What they are saying is this:
  810. they sent these two select
    men with their entourage
  811. 11 miles to Jerusalem to the
    priest and to the prophets,
  812. and they are saying, hey guys,
  813. go ask the priests and the prophets
  814. whether we are supposed
    to continue to fast
  815. in the fifth month like we
    have been for seventy years.
  816. Why would they have done that?
  817. To express their mourning for the fact
  818. that Nebuchadnezzar came in and wiped out
  819. the temple and burned
    it and it was destroyed.
  820. That is basically what is going on here.
  821. Fifth month of the year, these people
    have been fasting for seventy years.
  822. They have a question as to
    whether they should continue.
  823. And here's the thing,
    the temple is being rebuilt.
  824. It's like, well, we want to know,
  825. should we keep fasting
  826. for the sake of the Temple,
  827. when the Temple is actually
    now getting rebuilt?
  828. Does is make any sense to keep fasting?
  829. We fasted before because
    we lost the Temple.
  830. Nebuchadnezzar burned it.
    We were mourning.
  831. But now that it's being rebuilt,
  832. should we still keep on
    weeping and mourning?
  833. Is that even right?
  834. And we are hearing word
  835. the thing is well under construction.
  836. It is likely to be completed.
  837. Do we keep fasting?
  838. So they sent this delegation
  839. to the priests and prophets in Jerusalem.
  840. Notice Zechariah 7:4- 5.
  841. "Then the word of the
    Lord of hosts came to me."
  842. This is Zechariah.
  843. Verse 5:
  844. "Say to all the people of
    the land and the priests,
  845. when you fasted and
    mourned in the fifth month..."
  846. They not only fasted then; they
    were asking about the fifth month,
  847. but God throws in here the
    seventh as well for these.
  848. Here we get the exact number of years,
  849. these seventy years
    while they were in captivity.
  850. "Was it for Me that you fasted?"
  851. Was it for Me that you fasted?
  852. Now we are getting back
    at the heart of why we fast.
  853. Was it for Me? What an answer!
  854. But there is more! Read verse 6 with me.
  855. This is interesting because
    their question is about fasting.
  856. "When you eat and when you drink..."
  857. Wait, God just said to them:
  858. "When you fasted and
    mourned in the fifth month
  859. and the seventh for seventy years,
  860. was it for Me that you fasted?"
  861. And then He goes right on to say -
  862. their question isn't even
    about eating and drinking,
  863. It's about whether they should continue
    mourning and abstaining - fasting.
  864. But He goes on to say,
  865. "When you eat and when you drink,
  866. do you not eat for yourselves
  867. and drink for yourselves?"
  868. It's like, wow... Lord.
  869. Why do You give them
    that bit of information
  870. when they are not even being
    asked about eating and drinking.
  871. Do you get the idea that
    what was so important
  872. to the Jews - and it is!
  873. This is a really important
    question for these Jews.
  874. They felt it so critical to figure out
  875. whether they should continue
    this or not continue this,
  876. that they actually go
    to the extent of sending
  877. a party of men to
    Jerusalem to get an answer.
  878. They obviously find Zechariah.
  879. Zechariah's a man who can
    give them an answer, right?
  880. He is a prophet of God,
  881. He's got a connection with the Lord.
  882. They want to know.
  883. Why would you even ask that question?
  884. Why would you even send
    this delegation to find out?
  885. Because you want to know
    what pleases the Lord.
  886. They are thinking, they are
    discussing among themselves.
  887. They are getting together
    at Bethel and thinking,
  888. "Should we continue this?"
  889. Which is pleasing to the Lord?
  890. Is it pleasing to the Lord that
    we continue to fast?
  891. Or is it pleasing to the Lord that
    we discontinue this fast?
  892. That is what they are asking about.
  893. But you see how God answers?
  894. God is saying to them what's
    really and truly important to Me
  895. is missed by your questions altogether.
  896. You see, you are sitting there thinking
  897. that whether you fast or don't fast
  898. is going to make the difference.
  899. And God is saying it's not
    going to make any difference.
  900. I am not pleased with you
    when you eat and drink.
  901. Nor I am pleased with you
    when you don't eat and drink.
  902. You see the Lord's point?
  903. Your fifth month fast has been no
    good because you don't do it for Me!
  904. You don't do it for Me.
  905. If that's all the Lord has said;
    if He had stopped right there,
  906. they'd be going home thinking:
  907. Oh, okay, so God is not
    pleased with the fast.
  908. Ok guys, Bethel we need to stop fasting.
  909. God will be pleased with this.
  910. No! It was necessary that
    He say the next thing,
  911. so that they really get the point.
  912. You guys have a bigger issue
  913. than whether you are
    fasting or not fasting.
  914. The way to please God
    is not for these people
  915. to simply quit the fast.
  916. The Lord says that's
    no good either because
  917. you give the fast up and then you
    go back to eating and drinking.
  918. You don't do that for Me either.
  919. Our primary question about fasting,
  920. because you get all the time:
  921. How often should I fast?
  922. How long should I fast when I do fast?
  923. What should this look like?
  924. Do I fast for a meal?
  925. Do I fast for a whole day?
  926. Three days? Seven days?
  927. (Incomplete thought)
  928. Look, I'll tell you this,
  929. if you are Christian,
  930. Jesus is clearly saying
  931. that fasting can be beneficial to you
  932. in order to receive the
    reward that God has.
  933. The greatest reward that
    God can give you is Himself,
  934. and greater manifestations of Himself.
  935. That is the greatest thing
    He can give you.
  936. He is the greatest treasure
    that He has to give.
  937. And the thing is
  938. When you try to concern
    yourselves with how long?
  939. What should my frequency be?
  940. What should this look like?
  941. There is definitely benefit in it
  942. if you are doing it for the sake of God.
  943. If you are just doing it mechanically;
  944. if you're just doing it because
    it has become tradition or habit,
  945. because the rest of church does it
  946. because GCC has this tradition
  947. of starting out each year with
    a week of prayer and fasting.
  948. Okay, you're going to do this because...
  949. Look, the real issue in this is
  950. you can eat and drink to the glory of God.
  951. You can fast and do that
    to the glory of the Lord.
  952. And then you can go back to eating
  953. and you can do it to
    the glory of the Lord.
  954. You don't have to feel a bit guilty.
  955. But the driving motivator here
  956. should be desire for God;
  957. it should be desire for Him;
  958. it should be doing it for Him.
  959. He is saying you did not fast for Me
  960. and when you eat and drink,
  961. you do that for yourselves.
  962. Our sights are set on the Lord.
  963. This is all God-perspective
    here in fasting.
  964. That's the real issue.
  965. We don't want to get
    so hung up on ritual.
  966. The Pharisee: "Oh, I
    fast twice in a week."
  967. You can get to where fasting
    just becomes ritualistic.
  968. You just do it to do it.
  969. You do it because it is almost like
  970. you feel there is some magic about it.
  971. I fast and somehow I
    am twisting God's arm
  972. to do this or do that for me.
  973. That's not what this is about.
  974. You have to remember,
  975. Jesus is talking about when we fast,
  976. there is a God who sees in secret.
  977. What's He looking at?
  978. Not just your fasting exercise.
  979. He is looking at your heart!
  980. Didn't Jesus come along and say,
  981. "You know, Isaiah said the
    right thing about you guys!"
  982. He was specifically talking about
  983. where Isaiah said that these people
  984. draw near to Me with their mouth.
  985. But their hearts - they are far from Me.
  986. God looks at the heart.
  987. When you are taking about fasting,
  988. (Incomplete thought)
  989. there are times not to fast.
  990. There are times when
    the bridegroom is there.
  991. It is time not to fast.
  992. But the bridegroom has been taken away.
  993. We ought to be desperate.
  994. There ought to be lots of times
  995. when we're just desperate for
    having Him draw nearer.
  996. Do you ever get just desperate?
  997. It is like I don't have enough of God!
  998. This is clearly the most important
    question we need to be asking:

  999. "Are we doing this for God?"
  1000. As far as frequency, it is something
    you and I have to work through.
  1001. It's something we have
    to ask questions about.
  1002. Just the question about
    whether we fast or don't fast,
  1003. you can tell, God thinks that's
    not the most important thing.
  1004. It's a trifle.
  1005. They totally miss what's essential
  1006. when they are asking a question like that.
  1007. That's all we ask.
  1008. Brethren, we need to beware of ceremony,
  1009. tradition, and ritual in all of this.
  1010. We need to be guided by desire,
  1011. That's a good thing to fast for!
  1012. God, give me more desire for You!
  1013. You got this promise sealed
    with the blood of Jesus Christ,
  1014. that if you fast in secret,
    there are rewards.
  1015. I'll tell you this,
  1016. Jesus did not say you
    will get these rewards
  1017. whether you fast or not.
  1018. He did not say that.
  1019. He did not say that this
    whole thing of fasting
  1020. is just indifferent whether
    you do it or not
  1021. you get the same thing that you
    would have gotten anyways.
  1022. That's never said about prayer
    and fasting in Scriptures.
  1023. What you need to know is this:
  1024. there are people in this
    world, Christians that fast,
  1025. and they received rewards from the Father
  1026. that other people don't receive
  1027. because they don't seek
    the Lord the same way.
  1028. They are not as desperate.
  1029. They don't need Him.
  1030. And so they don't get.
  1031. Scriptures says you don't
    have because you don't ask.
  1032. We can easily say, you don't
    have because you don't fast.
  1033. There may be things that you will not get
  1034. unless you seek them
  1035. with real diligent prayer and fasting.
  1036. Again, there is a textual issue,
  1037. but there is a place where Jesus in Mark 9
  1038. talks about this kind only
    goes out by prayer and fasting.
  1039. He is talking about spiritual battles,
  1040. won or lost, that hinge
    on prayer and fasting.
  1041. The textual issue is that
  1042. some of the manuscripts have
    fasting and some don't.
  1043. But even that regardless,
  1044. prayer is there in all of them.
  1045. It is the fact that there is a kind of
    prayer that goes along with fasting.
  1046. It is an intensified way
    of seeking the Lord.
  1047. When you heart is towards Him
  1048. and you heart is yearning towards Him,
  1049. God sees us fasting like that,
  1050. it is very pleasing to Him.
  1051. Very pleasing when we're desperate.
  1052. When we're longing because the
    bridegroom has been taken away.
  1053. It is worship.
  1054. Do we not see that with
    Hannah? It is worship.
  1055. This is a way to worship.
  1056. God never wants you to worship
    when it's only with your lips
  1057. or it's only in a mechanical way
    performed by your body.
  1058. We can grit our teeth and not eat.
  1059. God does not want that.
    That's not true worship.
  1060. Worship is from the heart.
  1061. God wants us to worship with all our
    heart, mind, soul and strength.
  1062. That is what He is looking at.
    That's what is pleasing to Him.
  1063. That's not just a matter of
    "Should I fast or should I not fast?"
  1064. It is more about where
    the heart is in all of it.
  1065. If our heart is desperate for God,
  1066. you would think fasting
    is going to be something
  1067. that is going to be simultaneous
    to our desperation.
  1068. In this life, when we
    want, and we desire,
  1069. and we hunger, and we
    long for more of Him,
  1070. more of that reward that only He can give.
  1071. We know by faith He is watching,
  1072. by faith we know that He rewards us.
  1073. The big things are things
    you are desperate for in life -
  1074. those things you know if God
    does not give them to you,
  1075. you will not have
  1076. the salvation of people's souls,
  1077. the advance of the Gospel,
  1078. big things in life, major things.
  1079. You are trying to figure out,
  1080. you know, if you want to marry somebody,
  1081. or you're trying to figure out
    leadership for the church,
  1082. what missionary is going to be sent...
  1083. These are appropriate
    times to be fasting -
  1084. big decisions in your life where
    you need to lay hold on God.
  1085. You need an answer. You need Him.
  1086. You do it for Him.
  1087. Any approach to God that makes Him great.
  1088. Not that we do, but you know how
    we talk about magnifying the Lord.
  1089. That doesn't mean we make
    Him bigger than He already is.
  1090. When we magnify the Lord,
  1091. all we do is come closer and
    closer to a proper perspective
  1092. of what He is, who He is, how He is,
    what His attributes are.
  1093. But brethren, when we are
    going to God in desperation,
  1094. you know what that does?
    You know what it communicates?
  1095. I recognize, I am needy,
    I am desperate, I am helpless,
  1096. I am bankrupt, and He is
    the fountain of all good.
  1097. He is Jehovah Jireh. I need Him.
  1098. He is the provider.
  1099. He is glorified when
    we view Him like that.
  1100. If we really recognize how
    utterly desperate we are
  1101. and bankrupt we are in ourselves,
  1102. and just the riches that are to be had;
  1103. this treasure house of
    riches that are in Christ.
  1104. Like I say, the greatest riches that
    God can give us is His own Son
  1105. and His own Self, fellowship with Himself.
  1106. Brethren, you get overwhelmed
    by the presence of God
  1107. and you don't want anything
    else in this world.
  1108. There is nothing greater than that.
  1109. And for Him to sweep us
    ultimately up into His presence
  1110. where we can behold Him face to face
  1111. and be married to Him, be His bride,
  1112. walk with Him and talk
    with Him, behold His glory.
  1113. There will be nothing greater that just
    beholding the glory of Jesus Christ.
  1114. Don't you want more now?
    Aren't you desperate for that?
  1115. That's what it is all about
    when you hunger after that
  1116. and you actually fast
    because you long for that.
  1117. That is worship.
  1118. God is very pleased
    when your heart is in it.
  1119. If you get to the place
    where you feel like
  1120. my heart is not in prolonging this fast.
  1121. I feel like right now, I could
    sit down and eat a steak.
  1122. I could do that more to His glory.
  1123. Then do it. Eat your steak!
  1124. If there is nothing in your life that
    is that desperate at that moment,
  1125. go eat your steak!
  1126. And praise God for it!
  1127. That's a word on fasting.
    Brief theology on fasting.
  1128. Hopefully, that helps maybe
    bring a little more clarity.
  1129. Father, we pray that the reality of this
  1130. that we've seen in Scriptures might be
    true in our lives and true in our church
  1131. especially in this season
  1132. where we give ourselves just such fasting.
  1133. Make us desperate for You, Father,
    we pray in Christ's name. Amen.