Fasting is a way to worship God from a posture of humility because it highlights the sensation of need, which is a core tenant of the gospel.
Jesus talks about the necessity of humility in worship when He tells the parable of the Pharisee who comes before God and others, boasting in his spiritual life, while the tax collector quietly beats his chest in the shadows, begging for mercy (Luke 18:9-14). Which one, Jesus asks, went home justified? Answer: the one who knew of His need for mercy.
There is perhaps no greater arrogance than trying to use worship as a tactic to force God’s hand. Isaiah 58 describes a people who have tried to wield fasting as a means to control God. How did that turn out? The text says it just made them mean (Isaiah 58:4). We understand this. We get cranky when we’re hungry. Some call this being “hangry.” The ESV Study Bible notes, “When God refuses to be used, the people are offended that their religion doesn’t ‘work.’”
What is the kind of fast God wants? It is a fast of humility. It is one in which we bow our heads and ask Him to help us lay aside other comforts too. It is one in which we pray that He would use our lives to break the chains of wickedness, set the oppressed free, share our food with the hungry, bring in the homeless, and clothe the naked (Isaiah 58:5-7). The fast God calls us to is nothing short of hungering for another world—a world of perfect peace, provision, and satisfaction.
People are always trying to figure out how to achieve satisfaction in this life—some through money, some through sex, some through piety, some through acclaim. We have tried many things, but we have failed to find ultimate satisfaction in this life. Why?
C.S. Lewis, in his classic Mere Christianity, wrote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Fasting assumes a posture before God that confesses there is nothing in this world that can truly satisfy our deepest appetites. But fasting also raises the glorious question: What can satisfy them?
The book of Revelation describes the occasion for our ultimate satisfaction as “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:6-10). This is the meal our hearts have longed for since the foundation of the world—an unending feast filled with glory and gladness in face-to-face fellowship with Christ.
God uses hunger in this life to deepen our longing for the feast that is to come. If we come before God like the Pharisee, boasting in how great we are at worshipping and then expect God to pay us back, we already have our reward. But the gospel tells us that the longing we have for perfect peace and provision is a Godly appetite—and one only He can fill.
Fasting gives us the humble perspective to see that if God doesn’t satisfy us, we will not be satisfied, even as it arouses the hope that, because of the finished work of Christ, preparations for Marriage Supper of the Lamb are already underway.
Written By Russ Ramsey