Consecrate a fast. Call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord, your God, and cry out to the Lord.
This is one of a couple of times in the book of Joel where we see God calling his people through his prophet to consecrate a fast, to set aside time to put aside food and to seek God, to cry out to the Lord specifically in repentance of sin. And as I read this verse, I wonder how regular or significant a role fasting has in your life or your family or your church? I think that for many followers of Jesus today, fasting is not a regular or significant part of our spiritual lives, to our detriment. Jesus, when he taught on fasting in Matthew 6, didn’t say, “If you fast, he said, “When you fast.” Just as basic as when he said right before that, “When you give, and when you pray,” fasting is just as basic, understood for followers of Jesus, as praying is and giving is.
While fasting is not a significant part of many Christians’ spiritual lives, the Scripture seems to assume that we will regularly fast.
And so I just want to encourage you, if you don’t have a regular routine of fasting, setting aside food, what you’re physically able, setting aside food is a physical expression of a spiritual reality, that more than even the basic daily necessity of food, you need God more than you need a meal. You need God’s mercy. That’s the picture of fasting, all throughout the Bible, including here in Joel 1. I would encourage you as a follower of Jesus to have some kind of a regular routine of fasting in your life. And then in addition to that regular routine, whatever that might look like, to periodically set aside a concentrated amount of time, maybe more than your regular routine, to seek the Lord at specific times, like what’s happening here in Joel, there was a clear need for repentance.
You just think about when you are struggling with a particular sin, let your impulse be to set aside time to fast, seek the Lord and to ask him for help, and experiencing his victory over that sin. Or maybe it’s when you’re making a significant decision, set aside time to fast to seek God for grace and discernment and wisdom. And that decision, maybe it’s not just for something in your life, maybe it’s something for your church. Maybe it’s something for your family, something for someone else’s life, that you set aside food to fast for them. I want to pray accordingly, even as I want to encourage us to make, even as I encourage you to make fasting a significant part of your spiritual life.
God, we thank you for these pictures we have in your word of your people setting aside food and crying out to you. God, I think about other times in my own life or times that I’ve learned from others’ lives as they have fasted and sought after you, cried out to you on a regular basis, concentrated times periodically, during specific things they’re walking through, God, we pray that you would teach us to fast. Just like we need you to teach us continually to give in a way that glorifies you and to pray in a way that glorifies you, God, I pray that you would teach us to fast in ways that glorify you, that draw us into deeper intimacy with you, and that lead us to cry out to you just like we read here in Joel 1:14. God, we pray that you would forgive us for neglecting fasting when it’s such a clear picture we see among your people and your word for how we’ve neglected it today. We pray you would help us to recover the joy of fasting, feasting on your word and communion with you in prayer even as we set aside food, something our bodies need, but we need you far more. We need your mercy far more, God, in our lives and our families and our churches and our country. We need your mercy. So teach us to fast. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
As a side note, even as we’ve prayed about fasting, I would just encourage you, if you want some resources on fasting, go to radical.net and something I’ve taught on. We have a variety of different resources on at radical.net that I hope will be helpful for you as you think about what fasting might look like in your life, your family, and in your church.
Throughout the fall, we are following the McLean Bible Church Reading Plan. You can access the reading plan here.