But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 6:17-18 NASB)
Let me set up the scenario. Israel has been in captivity for decades. King Cyrus comes to power and is moved to allow the Jews to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem and so he sends them and equips them.
The work progresses quickly and Israels enemies are threatened. The complain to the next King (reading the book of Ezra we seem to be cruising through kings at quite a pace) and he halts progress.
Then yet another King – Artaxerxes – gives Ezra commission to move forward with the rebuilding yet again.
It is quite a task to get all the names and who’s who straight here, but for the purpose of this post here is where we stand. Ezra needs to travel to Jerusalem with a fairly large group of people, and he has some pretty serious opposition.
What does he do? (you probably guessed by now)
He calls a fast! Hear Ezra tell it:
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty. (Ezra 8:21-23 NASB)
Another example from almost the same time in history comes from the wonderful story of Esther.
Queen Esther is of course a Jew, and so determines to go before the king and make this right, but as you can imagine she is afraid for her life.
“Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him. (Esther 4:16-17 NASB)
As you probably know, God honored Esther’s entreaties, and used her to save the Jews. This is one of the greatest stories in the Word, and well worth a read if you are not familiar with it.
So here we have 2 great hero’s of the faith, and the Bible faithfully showing the fear they had to overcome in order to be great hero’s of the faith. Fasting was a key part of overcoming the fear they faced.
See you tomorrow