Let’s Discuss The “Daniel Fast”
Question: What is the “Daniel Fast” and how does it fit into a Christian’s life?
Reply: The main approach with this question is to keep things simple, and in keeping with that, I would say the Daniel Fast is just that, a Fast. And a Fast, where Christians are concerned, is for the purpose of depriving oneself of something and then trusting God, through your faith in his love, his power, his wisdom, his knowledge and his grace all towards us, his children, to provide for us in every situation. Even in situations where we deprived ourselves for the express purpose of spiritual growth. Well, maybe it’s not so simple after all?
The submitter of this question might also ask, as I have over the years… “How does depriving ourselves of something, help us to grow spiritual? And while you’re answering that, please answer… Should the thing we deprive ourselves of in a Fast, be something that is otherwise good for us or something bad for us (in the normative situation)? In other words should we deprive ourselves of something that we should already be praying to give up; or should we deprive ourselves of something that is perfectly ok to have, but we are simply sacrificing it during the fast period for the clarity we seek?
Maybe convoluting things even a bit more… If we achieve the transcendental goal that we seek by undertaking the Fast …will it manifest as a lasting or transitory success in our lives? The best way to get to the bottom of these questions is to exegete the passages from the bible, where Daniel undertook the fast in the first place. Not from a sense that he (Daniel), was the first to fast, or that this was the most important fast ever undertaken. But, rather from a standpoint of how (in Daniel’s case) the Fast aided in the final outcome of his situation, and to determine if fasting really did have an effect on the outcome. Additionally, it would be good to understand …how “spiritual principles” such as fasting, operate in the place where we live, at the very seam of where the physical world and the spiritual world meet, that is… in these temporal Christian bodies.
[Matthew 4:1-4] “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”(ESV)
[Jeremiah 12:5] “If you have run with men on foot and they have made you tired, then how can you run as fast as horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the jungle among all the trees beside the Jordan?”
In the verses from Matthew 4:1-4, Jesus had just been baptized by John the Baptist at the end of the previous chapter and then he was (seemingly) immediately led out into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tempted by the greatest tempter of all, Satan. After Jesus had fasted for forty days the devil began his temptations.
The scripture states that Christ was led to go out in the wilderness by the Spirit of God, for an expressed purpose “to be tempted by the devil”. Hebrews 4:15 states, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.(ESV)
After a forty day fast the body is very weak and desires nourishment to maintain life. This is the point I mentioned earlier, where the physical and spiritual meet at virtually “the seam of humanity”. Although this is not quite where, in the modern context, we are going with the Daniel Fast or other fasts of its kind. For God has placed us in a goodly land, where we faint more easily, and therefore, most don’t employ 40 days of fasting, just so many days of deprivation from the tempting things we have come to love.
Our present day model of temptation, through deprivation seems strangely similar to the temptations of the people of Israel in the wilderness, where the Book of Exodus recounts what the people of Israel said to Moses… “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” This passage of scripture, shows that God, who does not change, was just as good to them as he is to us today, for he gave them manna (a divinely supplied spiritual nourishment). This manna was provided at the 45 day point on their journey out of Egypt.
The Israelite would have definitely taken a greater than 45 day supply of food with them, especially when you consider all the silver, gold and jewels the Lord enlightened the Egyptian people to give to the Israelites at their departure. If they took those items, they would have certainly taken more food than a 45 day supply; so they probably, were not staving, just missing the food of their native land. Later, though they were feed with the heavenly manna, the people cried out to Moses for some meat to eat. God sent enormous flocks of quail into the Israelite encampment, so much so that they became so full of meat that they became very sick of meat. That is a very telling story of temptation. It shows that even when, God sends a miraculous source to sustain his people (holy all-sustaining-manna from heaven and the delicacy of quail proliferating, falling out of the sky at their feet); God still requires us to make a choice of whether we will go back to the old temptations or stay with the spiritual things he provided. Christ in his hunger temptation chose to continue in the Faith of the Word, quoting scripture, he defeated the devil and defeated the physical trials, which are temptations that test our Faith.
In Daniel 1, Daniel and three other captives (in exiled) with him were all Hebrew royalty, which implies, that they were also scholars, who knew the Word of God. They did not want to defile themselves by eating the diet provided them by their captors, but asked to be given a test, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” They were all Hebrew royalty, so they were surely accustom to drinking wine, and eating decadent meals with exotic meats and sweets and all types of opulent edible things. And they could have likely gotten the food prepared how they might have eaten it in Israel. Equally, Babylon was no second rate nation, at that time Babylon was considered the World’s great power. So the meals of the King would have surely been healthy in preparation and delightful in taste. So it seems clear that Daniel and the three, were not just choosing “the health Choice Meals”, but abstaining from a position of religious conviction. They were conscientious objectors (persons who for reasons of conscience, object to complying with a particular requirement). They faced being killed by taking that stand, but they learned to trust God for deliverance, for all provisions for their body and spirit, for all aspects of their life, even while in captivity.
Later, Daniel and the three (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) would face the lions’ den and a fiery furnace (speaking of our fiery trials as the Apostle Paul does). All for continued obedience to their God, whom they believe could deliver them from all things, and indeed did just that. These men, by managing their choices, by refusals, by declinations, by deprivation and by Faith, were strengthened and sealed with an understanding of the mighty power of God to deliver his own.
I’m sure that the person submitting this question and many of those reading this, have given up some things in their life and so have I. Things which were otherwise wonderful to have, yet for the spiritual purpose of building up resistance to deprivation and temptation, we counted those things lost to us. And in the hours, days, months and years associated with such fasting or deprivation, we lived and fed on prayer and meditation, God’s Word, his love, his power, his deliverance and his grace.
For the Hebrew young men, in captivity in Babylon, what began as a “Food Fast”, giving up certain foods, in exchange for what could have been considered in that time period, not lesser foods and drink (vegetables, salads and water), but maybe just an incomplete part of a royal good healthy diet, but not a complete diet in itself for sole consumption. In other words, we “should not” conclude that no one else in Babylon was eating healthy foods; but rather that those things were a part of healthy eating habits.
Daniel and the three wanted to totally and only subsist on those food items. We know now, in this age, that people can survive and do quite well on the variety of fruits, nuts, gains and vegetables as a complete diet.
In Daniel’s day, their choice, not to partake, showed onlookers that they were not doing it to possibly get a richer or a better diet like they grew up on; but rather to show that they were different, and not “regally” different, or not even physically different but “spiritually” different. They were what is called “sanctified”, set-a-part or “separated out” for the purpose of doing what God has willed for your life, what He created you for, as opposed to being defeated and ruled by the devil through various yielding to temptations and failed trials.
Fasting (A new definition), is knowledgeable planning and cultivating a spiritual focus in life, which always seeks and prefers the spiritual in order to understand and utilize principles of spiritual growth, strength and sustainment by God; as opposed to gratifying the flesh, and its learned passions, its desirous bents. When we choose the wrong path, it leaves us susceptible to the various and sundry wilds, plans and temptations of evil people and which bonds our will to their enemy, as well as our enemy, Satan.
Summary: The Internet can easily show you the things to eat and not to eat, for the 21 days (or fewer), if someone is undertaking the “Daniel Fast”. But the greater point is that fasting with healthy foods is certainly helpful in clearing the mind and cleansing the body; but be sure to remind yourself as well to “Fast’ in others areas of your life also. By doing so, one can 1) eliminate useless or harmful practices, 2) learn to depend on God to makeup in a wonderful way, the things left behind, and 3) strengthen ourselves against our enemy, and 4) focus us on doing God’s will.
Our very gifted Pastor stated in her sermon once, that we all complain so very much and she of course being the truth teller that she always is, admitted that she “…also complains sometimes a bit too much, even when our lives are going quite well and as we are in a good place, still we are subject to complaining” she preached.
Our summary passage is fitting when we reflect on the Pastor’s statement, it makes Jeremiah 12:5 becomes more meaningful to us…“If you have run with men on foot and they have made you tired, how then will you be able to (when the time comes) keep up with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the jungle among all the trees beside the Jordan?
How will we, in deed? Well by realizing that when we’re fasting in other areas of our lives, God will empowered us, to out run men and horses and to resist the devil, so he will flee; and moreover, so that we may not stumble and fall in a land that looks like plenty; and so that we may stand and doing all to stand, we may even yet traverse the thickets and briars of the surrounding woods of that treacherous Jordan, then standing, falling or crawling, enter into God’s Prepared Eternal Rest.
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