Fasting and Repentance

Fasting carries the imagery of penitence ( Repentance).
For example, Ahab, the king of Israel, fasts at Elijah’s threat to destroy his household for having taken Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:27). He tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth and goes about despondently. Ahab humbles himself before the Lord and seeks his mercy. The Lord sees this and withdraws the evil he had proclaimed against him (v. 29).

When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.

Israel as a corporate group fasts on the occasion of repentance. Particularly on the Day of Atonement, the people of Israel are commanded to fast in repentance (Lev 16:29, 31; 23:27, 29, 32).

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves (Fast) and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you-

31 It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny (FAST) yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.

27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny  (Fast) yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire.

At the time of Nehemiah the people of Israel assemble in sackcloth with dirt on them and fast. They confess their sins and the iniquities of their fathers (Neh 9:1–3; 1 Sam 7:6; 2 Sam 12:16). Fasting is practiced during the course of repentance of sins as a symbol of humility and as a means of seeking the mercy of the Lord.
I Samuel 7:6

6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.

Ryken, Leland ; Wilhoit, Jim ; Longman, Tremper ; Duriez, Colin ; Penney, Douglas ; Reid, Daniel G.: Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1998, S. 273

2 comments on “Fasting and Repentance

  1. October 29, 2009 Dave

    The Nashville Cokesbury folks had a variable definition for fasting and the kind God really liked: seeking justice for the downtrodden, getting outside ourselves. It might be easy to feel good about missing a meal and saying it made me feel closer to God. The second half of the Chap. 25 of Matthew suggests, rather strongly, I might say, taking a couple of hours and going down to the cty. jail and visiting with a few prisoners and sharing some bible study, maybe even taking along a few $4 paperback bibles to share.

    • October 29, 2009 imagebearer

      Thanks Dave, I plan to preach on this topic Sunday night and I appreciate this insight. I am going to be looking at it a lot today. I have the day off and have had a very busy week. I have preached 5 times already this week. I love it but I am very tired. Appreciate your prayers and your insight. Don’t ever stop sharing, it pushes me to search.


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