Joel 2:12 NIV
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
If one were to look at the kind of fasting that took place in the Old Testament, it would be easy to assume that the reason for fasting is to gain forgiveness. In the book of Joel, the Israelites had wandered far from God, and their sinfulness had resulted in famine and pestilence in the land. Through the prophet Joel, God called them to repentance, ordering them to declare a sacrificial fast that along with mourning and weeping, would show God the sincerity of their repentance. In return, the prophet said, perhaps God would, “turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.”
Such a fast of repentance is seen under the Old Covenant time and again, because under the Old Covenant man had to rely on his works and sacrifices to avert the wrath of God. But under the New Covenant, we don’t have to fast for forgiveness. Every wrong we have done and will do was forgiven at the cross, and when we accept Christ, we walk under a New Covenant of grace and forgiveness! We don’t have to fast, weep and mourn to convince God of our sincere repentance or to avert His wrath. I Thessalonians 5:9 tells us that, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” So then, why do we, as people under a New Covenant, need to set aside special times devoted to fasting and prayer?
As we walk with God, there are times that we feel far from Him or disconnected. Joel’s words resonate with us who live in a context of grace – “return to me with all your heart.” There are times we realize that, though we have chosen to follow Jesus, the flame of our love for Him has grown cold. It is during these times we can return to God with our whole heart, put aside the distractions of the world and focus solely on loving Him. Your time spent in prayer each day of the fast can result in a new richness, a rewarding connection with the Father. No matter where you are on your journey with Jesus, you can always take a step closer towards Him.
As we begin this time of prayer and fasting, let’s turn our hearts toward God. Make a commitment to seek God daily. Pray that your love for Christ will be increased and your passion for Him will be reignited over the next 20 days.