There are certain times that come in most everyone’s life that call for unusual measures. Days of grief and mourning that are so severe they do more than fill your time with preoccupation, they interrupt your function as a human being. Sleep flees from you. Meals are missed and meals are avoided. Not because you are not hungry and not because you do not need sustenance, but because now is not the time for food. It is a time for uninterrupted, focused and constant prayer.
David had a time like that in his life. His new wife had recently given birth, but the child had fallen gravely ill. 2Sam 12 records, “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.” Of course, if you know the whole story, you know that David was fully responsible for what was happening. He had conceived the child while Bathsheba was married to another man, and then he had ensured that her husband would be killed in battle.
God had seen what David did and so purposed to humble him severely. To that point He sent Nathan the prophet, who accused David to his face and prophesied that the child would die. Then, “the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.” David, aware of his part in what was now happening, was struck to the core with remorse and sought God’s face for forgiveness through prayer and fasting.
Nevertheless, it is not a small thing to commit so grievous a sin when you are the leader of many. The child still died as prophesied. Solomon’s blood brother never saw his first birthday. There were other consequences too. David’s family became horribly dysfunctional. There was civil war for years. The sword never left Israel during his tenure as King. Many people died. Yet amazingly and through it all, God forgave David. David didn’t lose the throne or his relationship with God. Instead of becoming a footnote in history or an example of failure, David was enabled to persevere. Ultimately, he became the epitome of Israel’s success. But surely if David had not humbled himself before God at that critical time, the outcome would’ve been quite different.
Thankfully, David knew there is something about ‘making oneself empty’ that is appropriate to repentance. Not only that, it helps one focus on God our Father – which is always helpful. Fasting is therefore not only a way for us to grieve over sin and brokenness (ours or others), it is a way to enter into God’s grief. Doing so draws His attention in a very positive way.
Grief and hardship are not always the result of our own foolishness. But whether they are inflicted upon us or not, fasting (with prayer) is always an appropriate response.
The Scripture says that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Cor 5:21) If the sinless Son of God could ‘take on’ our sin for us, surely we as His followers can ‘take on’ an act of repentance for those around us. Indeed, this is part of our calling. For we have been given a ministry of reconciliation that we might help bring the lost back into relationship with God Most High.Marcus Verbrugge
Have you ever fasted for the benefit of someone else? What happened when you did?