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The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, vol. 73

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    October 27, 1896

    “Fasting and Prayer. (Concluded.)” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 73, 43.

    EJW

    E. J. Waggoner

    (London, Eng.)(Concluded.)

    LIVING BY GOD’S WORD

    That God’s word is indeed food, is clearly set forth in the Scriptures. Jesus said that we should eat His flesh, “for My flesh is meat indeed.” John 6:55. Afterwards He showed that we take His flesh through the word that He speaks. Verse 63. Therefore since His flesh is meat indeed, His words are likewise real food.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 679.1

    Jeremiah said, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” Jeremiah 15:16. Moses told the children of Israel that God suffered them to hunger, and then fed them with manna, “that He might make them know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” Deuteronomy 8:3. These words have special significance in connection with fasting, because Christ quoted them when the devil tempted Him to break His fast by turning stones into bread. Matthew 4:3, 4.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 679.2

    This is not a mere figure of speech, but a reality. It is a literal fact that men live by God’s word, whether they realise it or not. By the word of the Lord everything came into existence (Psalm 33:6), and by the same word are they still upheld. Hebrews 11:3. There is no question but that we live by the food we eat. But all the life there is in the food we eat, is the life that is in the growing plants, and that life comes from the word which said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind,” etc. Genesis 1:11. Although God has ordained that ordinarily we shall obtain life from His word through the grains and fruits which that word causes the earth to bring forth, it is certainly as possible to live directly from the word as from the grain, which gets its life-giving power only from the Lord. When Daniel was absolutely destitute of physical strength, he received full strength at once from the words spoken by the angel of God. Daniel 10:17, 18.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 679.3

    Many suppose that fasting is simply for the purpose of making the mind clearer. It does indeed for a time have that affect on one whose mind is beclouded by overeating, but not on one who habitually eats only according to his needs. Our brain power, as well as our muscular force, is derived from the food that we eat. If under ordinary conditions we go without food for an unusually long time, we become weak in body, and our thinking power is correspondingly weakened. A brain worker requires more nourishment than one who exercises only his muscles. The natural effect of fasting is to diminish one’s thinking power, as well as to weaken the body.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 679.4

    FASTING NOT PENANCE

    Are we then to understand that fasting is after all only a sort of penance, a modification of the body?-Not by any means. Instead of its being a burden, it is the means of undoing the heavy burdens (Isaiah 58:6); instead of being a sorrowful affair, it is a matter of choice and gladness, for Jesus said that when we fast we should not be of a sad countenance, but should anoint the head, an act indicating rejoicing. Matthew 6:17. So in immediate connection with the exhortation to fast, we read also, “Be glad then, ye children of Zion; and rejoice in the Lord your God; for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the former rain and the latter rain.” Joel 2:23. God’s people are to rejoice in Him all the time (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16), and especially in view of Christ’s near coming (Luke 21:28); and yet they are to fast at times. Do we fast because we are in trouble?-We are commanded to rejoice and be of good cheer in tribulation. John 16:33. Do we fast because we desire deliverance from temptation?-The exhortation is, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” James 1:2. There is no time when a man has so good a cause for rejoicing as when he is mourning for his sins; because mourning for sins implies acknowledgement of them; and “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.”ARSH October 27, 1896, page 680.1

    “But how can we rejoice when both the mental and physical powers are almost exhausted by fasting?” That question arises from a misconception of what an acceptable fast is. An acceptable fast is not the mortification of the body, for God does not delight in that; but it is coming into the closest possible connection with God’s Word. It is true that the natural result of a protracted abstinence from food is exhaustion of the powers the body and mind; but a fast to the Lord is not like a forced fast, where one is all the time longing for food. On the contrary, an acceptable fast is one in which we take the living Word in the place of ordinary food, and are so supported by it as not for the time to be conscious of the absence of ordinary food. Note particularly the fact that when Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights, “He afterward hungered.” Luke 4:2. Naturally, He would have hungered during that time of fasting, in conflict with the devil; but His mind was instead occupied with God’s Word, which for the time was food both to body and soul.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 680.2

    He who, while fasting, has a continual longing for food, and who by force of will resists the desire to eat, because he has determined to abstain for a certain length of time, is fasting to little or no purpose. His fast does not indicate undivided faith in God’s Word. Instead of thinking only of God and His all-powerful Word, he is thinking largely of himself. Of such a wavering, but doubting one, the apostle says: “Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” James 1:7.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 680.3

    Whoever fasts should have some definite object in view. This is self-evident, for fasting is inseparably connected with prayer, and prayer that has no definite object is only empty words. The faster must desire special grace for overcoming, or to help in some special time of need. Then when his confidence in God’s living Word is so vivid and strong that he takes it as the reality that it is, and lives for a season upon it instead of upon his ordinary food, he knows that he has his heart’s desire. God, who by His Word supports the physical wants, will much more supply the more essential spiritual needs. By our fasting we indicate that the Word of God is indeed our life, and that of course means that we fully yield ourselves to it. We show our dependence on God’s Word, and our confidence in it for all things that pertain to eternal life and godliness, by taking it for a season absolutely for the support of our physical necessities, letting it take the place of ordinary food, and deriving equal or greater strength from the Word than from ordinary food. Thus the mind is indeed more clear through fasting.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 680.4

    The effect does not end with the season of fasting, but from that time we realize and acknowledge more fully than ever before that even while eating our daily food we are living only by God’s Word, which works effectually in all who believe. This recognition of our dependence on God,-the knowledge that He not only gives us our food, but is able to sustain us by His Word when food is lacking,-tends directly to that dealing of our bread to the hungry, which characterizes a true fast. Isaiah 58:7. As we receive the gift, we minister the same to others, “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 680.5

    May our perception of God’s Word, and our confidence in it be so great that we may fast in spirit and in truth, and thus experience the fullness of the promise, “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; and the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.... And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” Isaiah 58:8-11.ARSH October 27, 1896, page 680.6

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