Fasting is used throughout the Bible by people as a way to approach God in time of need. For the most part you see the fast initiated by man and not by God. People would spend a day, three days, seven days, and even forty days in prayer. They would not eat during this fasting time so as to keep their attention focused on God. It is a good thing to hunger and thirst to be right with God. God says the person who hungers and thirsts after righteousness shall be filled. When you are hungry for God - God feeds you. When you are thirsty for God - God gives you drink: Not physical food but a knowledge of God and His Word.
NOT SELF CENTERED
Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
Fasting for God is not a religious ceremony or practice. These people set up religious days for fasting throughout the year and followed this practice for seventy years. But God was not at the center of their fast. When they did not eat - it was not to look for God to fill them. And when they did eat they were not thinking about God and thanking Him for supplying their needs. They did it all for themselves. They mourned and acted so sad. "Oh, look at poor me." Hunger and thirst for God is not a negative or self-centered thing. God tells them (and us) that when we seek Him He fills us. When we have our hearts on God it is a joyful time.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts [festivals]; therefore love the truth and peace.
Joy and gladness - cheerful feasts. Not a time to mourn and starve yourself - a time to be positive. A time to rejoice and be peaceful because you love the truth and are looking to God.
NOT FOR SHOW
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Fasting for God is not something done to show others how religious you are. The Word of God says that those who are fasting to "show men" their piety have their reward. Their reward is that other men notice. Being noticed by others is what they are seeking and that is what they get. If you are looking for God's approval then what you do should be directed to God (which is in secret) and God will reward you openly. God will fill you. God will bless you. Others will see you peaceful, joyful, full of gladness and abundantly blessed.
THE FAST GOD HAS CHOSEN
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
These people were "afflicting their soul." They were showing God how miserable they were. They took pleasure in listing for God all their works. God says this is NOT the way to make your voice to be heard on high!
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
God never chose to have man "afflict his soul." Religious practices are always opposite of godliness and reflect self-centeredness. This is not fasting for God. This is not an acceptable day to the Lord.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Fasting for God - the fast that God has chosen - is to do the Word of God. It is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as yourself. When you are God centered your actions will be to deliver others from oppression and help others escape the bondage of this world and become God centered. Fasting for God was demonstrated by the calling and life of the Lord Jesus Christ:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
In God's Word you do not see the Lord Jesus Christ "afflicting his soul" for God. Jesus Christ stayed God centered. He always did God's will. He set people free and healed them. He preached the acceptable year of the Lord.
Fasting the fast
that God has chosen means looking to God and doing God's Word and Will.
When you are God centered you call upon God and God answers.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday;
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
It is a good thing to hunger and
thirst to be right before God because God will fill you. God will
make your darkness as bright as high noon. God will guide you.
God will make you like a watered garden or a spring of water. God
will bless you.