People also fasted in advance of special experiences or in connection with prayerful inquiry. Moses fasted prior to receiving the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments on the two separate occasions they were given (Exod 34:28; Deut 9:9). Immediately after his baptism, Jesus retreated into the wilderness where he too fasted as he initiated his public ministry (Matt 4:1-2). Fasting also accompanied special inquiry of the Lord, whether interceding on behalf of a

dying child, seeking direction in the face of an advancing army, requesting safe travel, or commissioning church workers (2 Sam 12:16; 2 Chron 20:3; Ezra 8:21; Acts 13:2-3; 14:23).

Fasting was also practiced in connection with mourning those who had died (2 Sam 1:12; 3:33-35; 1 Chron 10:12). This is the category in which the fasting of Nehemiah 1:3-4 and Esther 4:3 seems to fit. In the first case, Nehemiah sat before the ruined walls of Jerusalem to mourn for a dead city. In Esther, when the Jews across the provinces of Persia heard the king’s annihilation order, they enacted mourning rituals on behalf of their nation, which seemed as good as dead.

The fasts mentioned in connection with each of these occasions appear to have had a similar purpose: they acknowledged the real position of humans in relation to their Creator. This included admitting their failure to live up to the Creator’s high demand’s recognizing their general vulnerability to the consequences of sin, and developing a proper and heartfelt humility. Fasting led the Israelites to negate their focus on themselves and their abilities in order to better see and acknowledge God’s presence and power. END OF PART 2.

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