Thursday: Beyond Fasting

During Zechariah’s third year of ministry, a delegation from Bethel came to Jerusalem to ask the priests and the prophets a question (see Zech. 7:1-3).

Image © Jeff Preston from

Image © Jeff Preston from

When they were in exile in Babylon, the people fasted during the fifth month to mourn the destruction of the temple (2 Kings 25:8-9). This was in addition to the fasts held in the fourth, seventh, and the tenth months (Zech. 8:19). In the fourth month, the breaching of the wall of Jerusalem was remembered (Jer. 39:2). The fast in the seventh month, the Day of Atonement, was the only fasting day commanded by God through Moses (see Leviticus 16). Finally, in the tenth month, the people mourned the siege against Jerusalem (Jer. 39:1). Because the exile was now over and the temple reconstruction almost was complete, the people wondered if it still was necessary to fast in the fifth month.

Read the Lord’s answer to them (Zech. 7:8-14). In what ways can the words here be applied to ourselves?

God’s answer through Zechariah is twofold: first, it is necessary that God’s people remember the past so that they do not repeat it. The Lord had warned the ancestors that He expected them to live in trust and obedience. The exile was punishment for their persistent rebellion. So, the people are summoned to learn from their past mistakes. Second, the Lord does not take delight in people’s hunger. When they fast and humble themselves before God, repentance and humility need to be reflected in what they do. To fast in order to feel sorry for oneself is a waste of time and effort. Fasting, among other things, should represent the kind of death to self needed in order to be able to put self aside and reach out and minister to the needs of others. “The spirit of true fasting and prayer is the spirit which yields mind, heart, and will to God.”—Ellen G. White, Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 189.


What are ways in which we can make valid religious practices, such as fasting and even prayer, become substitutes for what true Christian faith should be about? Bring your answer to class on Sabbath.

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Thursday: Beyond Fasting — 7 Comments

  1. Thursday's lesson is a moving lesson. God wants true heart service not just going through the motions of worship when the heart is far from Him. May He work in us to do and will of His good pleasure. Amen.

  2. Religious practices become substitutes when our focus changes from God to the deed. This can be easier than maintaining our focus on God. Practices, like commands, are tangible. One can see & touch it to a degree with our physical self. It is something humans can control and use it to hide what is truly in the heart. Since we're obeying and/or initially desiring God, it is hard to know when practice has lost its intent.

    The affect of substitution, God cannot utilize the practice to work His will in the heart and one becomes legalistic; (the practice becomes more important than God.)

    May we lean not on our own understanding but always test our practice through the Spirit's filter. May we keep our minds upon the Lord and may our practice bear fruit for Him. Father forgive us where we fall short and keep us 'til the time of your return.

    • Thank you for this perceptive comment, Dorothy. It serves to apply the lessons of Zechariah to our own lives: "Religious practices become substitutes when our focus changes from God to the deed."

      It seems to me that when we focus on perfecting our character (with the help of Christ), it becomes a substitute for a genuine relationship with Christ which causes us to focus on Christ, rather than ourselves. It's another example of focusing on the deed, rather than on God. With a focus on Christ, all our effort will go towards remaining in submission to Him so that we will fulfill the will of Christ in this earth. The difference is both subtle and profound. (Not sure I expressed it adequately.)

  3. Here the Lord is calling us to Obedience than sacrifice. The Lord does not deligt in our fasting and sacrifies that yield no true repentance. We are better off obeying the word of God rather than come to offer these rituals when we realise we are in trouble because of our own making and ask God to avert the clamitie we are through these same rituals.These become meaningless, they come from not a true repentant heart. Let us not make fasting a mere religion practice, should have a deeper meaning, steming from a contrite heart.

  4. [Moderator note: please use first and last names when commenting on this site. Thanks!]

    It is necessary that God’s people remember the past so that they do not repeat it. The Lord had warned the ancestors that He expected them to live in trust and obedience.
    The more I get into scripture the more I am drawn to these feast/fast days and how God in His infinite wisdom put this plan of Salvation together from the beginning, having set and made His appointments way in advance and has kept everyone down to the minutest detail and been on time everytime and has an appointed time to return and we can be sure He will be right on time again.
    And it would behoove us to study these out on a regular basis (yearly) so to remember and recall where He has brought us from, where we are and where He is leading us to, all protrayed in thest feast, the whole plan of salvation and the Sanctuary system. I have never kept a feast day, yet somehow I am struct with the relevance of them as I read today lesson. God has a plan and we do well to follow His plan and not our own.

  5. Indeed, fasting does nothing at all for God. It is for our own purposes that we fast.; to get ourselves in the right mind and focus to receive what God already has ready for us.

  6. The whole of this lesson today teaches as how God is so delight in obedience from his people. Jesus Christ obeyed God's law and was made king of the world, not the earth only but entire universe and even heaven too. So all that this lesson is saying is to obey God and have hope and faith in his promises...


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