As we fast over the next six weeks from sundown on Wednesday to sundown on Thursday we are also going to take some time and share some ideas around why we fast as Christians. If we were honest, those of us living in the Western world are not lacking in food or water. The question then is: why would we, who have so much at our disposal, give up food for extended periods of time?
In our introductory teaching on fasting we shared six reasons why we fast. There are no doubt other reasons why we fast, but we’ve chosen to hone in on these six. (You can listen to the full teaching at http://www.cityview.cc/teaching/2018/2/14/fasting). The plan is to unpack these six reasons over the next six weeks. This will give you a little foundation, if you are practicing with us, why you are doing what you are doing.
Before we get into the reasons of why we fast we should probably take a minute and look at the the story of Israel and their relationship with fasting. This will give us an idea of why they practiced this and also help dissolve some of the reasons why we’ve maybe attempted to do this in the past.
So why did Israel fast?
Scot McKnight, in his excellent book on fasting, shows that Israel (in our Old Testaments) fasted around three primary things:
- in preparation for Yom Kippur (preparing for confession, atonement and forgiveness)
- as a spontaneous response to a sacred or grievous event
- in response when God’s glory was dishonoured, will was thwarted and when God people experienced sickness, tragedy or death
I think the main thing we can take from Israel’s story is that they fasted in response to something. Growing up, I always thought we fasted to get something, but there seems to be a deeper reason in Israel’s story. McKnight puts it like this:
“When people tell us they are fasting, we should ask, ‘In response to what?’ instead of, ‘What do you hope you will get out of it?’”
With all of this in mind, maybe the question for our community is: what are we responding to?