International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 1, 2015
Purpose: To explore the discipline of fasting and its benefits
Bible Lesson: Background: Daniel 1:5, 8-17; Matthew 6:16-18, 9:9-17
Daniel 1:5; (CEB)
(5) The king assigned these young men daily allotments from his own food and from the royal wine. Ashpenaz was to teach them for three years so that at the end of that time they could serve before the king. ……..
Daniel 1: 8-17 (CEB)
(8) Daniel decided that he wouldn’t pollute himself with the king’s rations or the royal wine, and he appealed to the chief official in hopes that he wouldn’t have to do so. (9) Now God had established faithful loyalty between Daniel and the chief official; (10) but the chief official said to Daniel, "I’m afraid of my master, the king, who has mandated what you are to eat and drink. What will happen if he sees your faces looking thinner than the other young men in your group? The king will have my head because of you!"
(11) So Daniel spoke to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: (12) "Why not test your servants for ten days? You could give us a diet of vegetables to eat and water to drink. (13) Then compare our appearance to the appearance of the young men who eat the king’s food. Then deal with your servants according to what you see."
(14) The guard decided to go along with their plan and tested them for ten days. (15) At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food. (16) So the guard kept taking away their rations and the wine they were supposed to drink and gave them vegetables instead. (17) And God gave knowledge, mastery of all literature, and wisdom to these four men. Daniel himself gained understanding of every type of vision and dream.
Matthew 6: 16-18 (CEB)
(16) “And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. (17) When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. (18) Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Jesus teaches us, in Matthew chapter 6, that show-offs whether giving, praying or fasting receive their own rewards, when they get the admiration of those that witness such events.
None of these disciplines are a mandatory part of Christianity. However, Jesus implies that it is expected. Practicing all three of these disciplines can lead to a closer relationship with the Father.
In the case of Daniel and his companions it was a matter of obeying the Law as given in Leviticus 20: 24-26. In a covenant relationship with God, the Israelites were expected to refrain from eating certain food items. Failing to keep this law made them defiled and unfit for worship. For Daniel this was a serious breach of his covenant relationship with God, and he wanted to avoid that, if at all possible.
Aside from the spiritual aspect of eating the king’s food, there may have been a social implication. The rest of those in exile were not eating all that well and many times went without food or drink of any kind.
God empowered Daniel with the wisdom to maintain his covenant relationship and remain an important part of the king’s servant staff. I think this proves that sometimes we can avoid a conflict by seeking wisdom and working around a problem. There is a verse in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that says, “No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.” Too many times we fail to seek a way out and just yield to the problem
Under the Law of Moses there was a required fast on certain days, like the Day of Atonement. Christ has not invoked a mandatory fast for His followers. Fasting is a choice we can make. I think fasting has its own rewards in bringing us into a closer relationship, and it can also turn our fast into a feast at God’s table. We can be “Dwelling in Beulah Land” feasting on the manna.