Based on Matthew 6:16-18
MEMORY TEXT: “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” (Matthew 6:16).
We used to live in a country where a month-long fast is observed once a year. From sunrise until sunset the people neither eat nor drink. Restaurants are closed during that time, so if you venture away from home, you had better bring your own lunch!
I remember one particular incident while flying on this country’s international airline. It was around 3:00 o’clock in the morning, and I was trying to catch some sleep. Suddenly the cabin lights came on, and the attendants began to serve a full-course meal to the passengers. I wondered what was going on. We had not crossed any time zones that I knew of. Then it occurred to me that for most of the people on the fight this meal before sunrise would be their only meal until sunset.
The reasons for the yearly fast, say the devout, are 1) when they are hungry and thirsty, they are reminded of the suffering of the poor, and 2) fasting is an opportunity to practice self-control and to cleanse body and mind.
In this particular country there are three groups of people who are not required to fast—the very young, the old, and the sick. One man confessed to me that he just happened to be “sick” every year at the time of the fast!
Is the Lord pleased when we are hungry? What does He say about fasting? “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. 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? 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” (Isaiah 58:4-6).
I prefer the fast that the Lord has chosen.