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Rev. Ronald C. Purkey, a Baptist minister, claims no originality for this Bible study outline.
However, every Bible study posted on this website has been taught by Rev. Purkey.
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FEASTING AND FASTING
February 1, 2015
SCRIPTURE: Daniel 1:5, 8-17; Matthew 6:16-18
KEY VERSES: 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:17-18)
INTRODUCTION: Imagine four Hebrew boys, teenagers, being snatched from their lovely homes in Jerusalem and moved to faraway Babylon. “Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (Daniel 1:7).
· Four Refined Young Men.
Since all of them were princes, belonging to the royal family, they were probably not accustomed to this kind of treatment. It is too bad when the youth of the land must suffer because of the sins of the parents. The Jews had refused to repent and obey the Lord, so (as Jeremiah had warned) the Babylonian army came in 606-586 B.C. and conquered the land.
· Four Godly Young Men.
It was their custom to take the best of the youths to Babylon for training in the king’s court. In Daniel 1:3 we see what fine specimens these four boys were: they were physically strong and handsome, socially experienced and well-liked by others, mentally keen and well-educated, and spiritually devoted to the Lord. Their lives were balanced, as we see Christ’s in Luke 2:52 – they were perfect examples of godly teenagers!
· Four Troubled Young Men.
A difficult trial lay ahead of them: the king wanted to force them to conform to the ways of Babylon. He was not interested in putting good Jews to work; he wanted these Jews to be good Babylonians! Christians today face the same trial: Satan wants us to become “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:1-2). Sad to say, too many Christians give in to the world and lose their power, their joy, and their testimony.
I. THE UNWAVERING DEVOTION OF FOUR JEWISH YOUTHS. (Daniel 1:5, 8-17)
A. The Dilemma. (Daniel 1:5)
(Daniel 1:5) 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
For the next three years, the four young people were supposed to eat the king’s diet, which, of course, was contrary to the dietary laws of the Jews. No doubt the food was also offered to the idols of the land, and for the Jewish young people to eat it would be blasphemy.
Note: Daniel and his friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) won the victory over trials, but the very first victory was the foundation for the other victories. Because these Jewish boys were faithful to God while they were yet teenagers, God was faithful to them in the years that followed.
B. The Solution. (Daniel 1:8-17)
1. Daniel determined to do right. (Daniel 1:8)
(Daniel 1:8) 8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
The Babylonians could change Daniel’s home, textbooks, menu, and name, but they could not change his heart. He and his friends purposed in their hearts that they would obey God’s Word; they refused to become conformed to the world. Years ago Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “Do right! Though the stars fall, do right!” And I say, “Amen!”
Of course, they could have made excuses and “gone along with” the crowd. They might have said, “Everybody’s doing it!” or “We had better obey the king!” or “We’ll obey on the outside but keep our faith privately.”
2. Daniel was accountable to authority. (Daniel 1:9-14)
a. Daniel and his friends did not compromise.
(Daniel 1:9) 9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
Daniel and his friends dared to believe God’s Word and trust God for victory. They had surrendered their bodies and minds to the Lord, as Romans 12:1-2 instructs, and they were willing to let God do the rest.
b. The servant was afraid to change the king’s orders, lest anything happen to the young people and to himself, so Daniel’s proposed test was a good solution to the problem.
(Daniel 1:10) 10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
Of course, God honored their faith. The boys were fed vegetables (pulse) and water for ten days, thus avoiding the defiled food of the Babylonians.
c. Daniel asked for a ten-day test, which was not very long considering that they had three years of training ahead of them.
(Daniel 1:11-13) 11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
d. The head servant agreed with their plan.
(Daniel 1:14) 14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
(Proverbs 16:7) “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (See also Matthew 6:33 and Proverbs 22:1.)
3. Daniel was committed to the Lord. (Daniel 1:15-17)
(Daniel 1:15-17) 15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. 17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
At the end of the test, the four lads were healthier and more handsome than the other students who ate from the king’s table. It takes faith and obedience to overcome the temptations and pressures of the world. 1 Corinthians 10:13 had not yet been written, but Daniel and his three friends knew its truth by experience. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Note: Observe how polite and kind Daniel was to the Babylonian servant; he did not “parade” his religion or embarrass the man. This is a good example for us to follow: we may hold to our convictions without becoming “Pharisees”!
Refusing The Easy Way
Looking out the window of an airplane, you can see the winding paths of rivers below. Except for some man-made waterways, all rivers have one thing in common -- they all are crooked. The reason is simple -- they follow the path of least resistance. Rivers find their way around anything that blocks their flow because they take the easy way.
The same can be said for some people. Because they fail to resist the devil, they yield to temptation and deviate from the path God would have them follow. Unlike Daniel, who "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself" (Daniel 1:8), they bend to worldly pressures and compromise what they know is right.
Writing to followers of Christ, John said that we can be victorious in our struggle against evil, because "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Rather than being overcome, we can be over comers. Nothing should deter us from the course God wants us to travel. We don't have to yield to any temptation or foe. The Holy Spirit who lives in us will strengthen us so that we can remain steadfast.
We won't become "crooked" if we refuse to follow the path of least resistance. – Richard De Haan, Our Daily Bread, December 5, 2002
II. THE HYPOCRITICAL PRETENSE OF THE PHARISEES (Matthew 6:16-18)
Note: The Bible teaches that the Lord wants God’s people to have a sincere obedience and devotion to God’s commands leading to humble, genuine worship. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7) reveals the type of spiritual devotion and discipline that apply to God’s people in every age. In this Sermon Jesus gives us the true meaning of fasting.
A. Jesus tells us what NOT to do when fasting. (Matthew 6:16)
(Matthew 6:16) 16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Fasting has a value for believers in our day, but it is best if it is done privately. It should be a personal matter between the soul and God.
B. Jesus tells us what TO DO when fasting. (Matthew 6:17-18)
(Matthew 6:17-18) 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
1. Private fasting.
Fasting consisted of abstinence from food to express dependence on God and submission to his will. The fasting Jesus refers to is private fasting probably done as an aid to prayer.
2. Group fasting.
Although the early church collectively fasted and prayed, it seems to have been done primarily by Jewish Christians. The practice is never mentioned in any of the NT letters and while Jesus was with them the disciples did not fast (Matthew 9:14).
3. Devotional fasting.
Like alms and prayer, fasting is to be done as an act of devotion to God. Fasting is not to be done to win the approval of anyone else.
Fasting In The Bible
By Dr. John R. Rice
· First, remember that fasting is NOT a command.
The Bible never anywhere says that Christians ought to fast any certain length of time or with any definite regularity. The Pharisee who said, "I fast twice in the week” (Luke 18:12) was an unsaved man who is not commended. Catholics who do without meat on Fridays and during Lent, for example, are not following any Bible command.
· Second, we should remember that fasting, as taught in the Bible, is never an end in itself.
I think we could say that generally one who fasts is no better than one who does not fast, as far as the value of fasting for its own sake is concerned.
· But fasting in the Bible was always for a particular purpose in seeking the face of God.
If one is in great trouble and is waiting on God for help, it is perfectly proper to do without sleep or without food or to leave off business, to give first attention to seeking God's face. If one is burdened for lost people, and waiting on Him, pleading for their salvation, it is perfectly proper for a burdened Christian to leave off other things to give himself wholly to prayer. Fasting is an aid to prayer in such cases, just as it may be sometimes an aid to concentration and study, or during extreme exertion.
· If one has sinned and greatly grieved God, it is perfectly proper to do what Daniel did in Daniel 9:3, what Nehemiah did in Nehemiah 1:1-7, or what others likewise have done, trying to wholly seek God's face.
Yes, I have found great help in prayer when God laid it on my heart to wait on Him and seek His face. But I regard fasting as more or less an emergency measure which God does not usually require.
· How long should one fast?
Until some definite object is obtained. One should not fast without a definite object and then probably the fast should be ended when the object is attained, whether it be a revival, the winning of a soul, or assurance in the heart of an answer to the prayer.
· In summing up, I think fasting is perfectly right, provided it is simply a part of earnest, whole-hearted prayer, provided it is not simply a formal exercise for its own sake.
One should beware of fasting like a Catholic does penance, trying to gain God's sympathy through suffering, or to gain favor with God by doing without. The Bible does not teach that. One should also be careful not to be a Pharisee and to fast to seem religious. Jesus insisted that people who fasted were to wash their face and to go about their normal business so as not to appear to fast. – John R. Rice, Dr. Rice Here Is My Question, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1962, Wheaton, Illinois
CONCLUSION: Daniel faced a dilemma in King Nebuchadnezzar’s count. Although he was commanded to eat food forbidden under the Mosaic Law, Daniel found a way to remain obedient to the Lord.
As Christians we often find ourselves in complex situations that make it difficult for us to know how to be faithful to the Lord. Yet we must obey God if we wish to please the Lord and live righteously. It might be through what we eat. It might be through what we don’t eat. It may be through feasting. It may be through fasting. DO WHAT PLEASES THE LORD!
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: “Never abandon your commitment to God in order to ‘get along’ in the world.”
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REFERENCES: References used in the Bible study are the King James Bible (KJV), Dr. J. Vernon McGee © Thru the Bible Radio Network ( www.ttb.org ), the Scofield Study Bible, the Believer’s Bible Commentary, Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge Bible Outlines, Dr. Lee Roberson’s Sermons, Dr. Charles Stanley: ( http://www.intouch.org/ ), Don Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Women’s Study Bible, The Bible Reader’s Companion Ed. 3, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version, KJV Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the New Testament ed. 4, Dr. David Jeremiah: ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/ ), Dr. Cliff Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the Old Testament, With the Word Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s “Be” Series: Old & New Testaments, RBC Ministries ( http://rbc.org/ ), selected illustrations, and other references.
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