Our FASTING should ULTIMATELY result in JOY: Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.'" (Zech 8:18-19)
In the above verse, Jehovah God mentions four different fasts that were held in memory of events surrounding the siege and fall of Jerusalem. These fasts commemorated four tragic events in Israel’s history as follows:
- The siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1-2; Jer. 52:4–7)
- The breaching of the walls of Jerusalem (Jer. 39:2)
- The destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:8; Jer. 52:12, 13), and
- The murder of Gedaliah (2 Kin. 25:25; Jer. 41:1, 2)
God wants the Israelites to discontinue these empty expressions of false piety and to replace them with demonstrations of the true joy that springs from a right relationship with Him. The people are commanded to embrace the truth that these fasts have been annulled, and to enjoy the peace that their removal will bring to the individuals. When God blesses his obedient people, these former fasts will become feasts and occasions of joy for them!
Normally in Scripture, fasting is a sign of humility and sorrow before the Lord. But during the time of Zechariah, God urged His people to observe a number of their appointed fasts as opportunities to celebrate the hope and expectation of their coming Lord (v. 19). This prediction of mourning turned to rejoicing is alluded to in Esther 9:30 (see also Isaiah 61:2–7; 65:18, 19; Amos 8:10).
During the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people were encouraged to break their fasting and mourning in order to rejoice before the Lord: And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved." And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them. (Neh. 8:9-12)
Today fasting is a means toward spiritual focus by concentrating on God rather than on food and other personal needs. Fasting will be a fitting way to honor God in the situation and ask for His help. In the future kingdom, there will be no need for fasting. The events of the past will be forgotten in the glory of the worship of the Lord. Jesus came to bring us joy, not sorrow (Matt. 9:14–17).
Let us understand that God will turn our fasting into feasting and our mourning into joy when we return to God in repentance. There will be a reason for us to rejoice when God will restore our relationship with Him, and revive us to wholeheartedly obey God and do His will.