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Jan 29 2018

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:1-3

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

Jesus’ point is not that we should make every attempt to get rid of all possessions and become poor. Instead, we need to recognize that we are already poor in the things that matter most – that when we come to God, God has everything we need and we have nothing to offer in exchange. The currency that matters in our world – money, status, popularity, good works – is not the currency of heaven. Those currencies also fail to bring the fulfillment we seek. We’re never fully satisfied. The blessing we desire can come only from God. What God wants from us is simply brokenhearted openness, poverty of spirit. When we come to God with humility, we are blessed. We are the recipients of the kingdom of heaven.

Warning!

Before fasting, check with your doctor, especially if you are taking medication.

Fasting

fasting as a spiritual disciplineOne way we can learn poverty of spirit is through the spiritual discipline of fasting. I recommend fasting one day in the coming week, your doctor permitting.

Fast one day and bring the equivalent of the food you missed to a Food Pantry or make a donation.

Fasting can be a water only diet
Or Juice & vitamins only diet,
Or rice & beans only.
You might fast from social media and television.

When you break your fast, be sure to ease back into your routine. Start with a little bland food.

The point is to voluntarily give up something you are dependent on so that you can listen and walk more closely in tune with God.

Let’s share our experiences.

Leave a comment below or Email me

  • How did you feel?
  • How did you feel about people around you.
  • What was it like to pray while fasting?
  • What (if any) benefits did you get from fasting?
  • What questions do you have about fasting?

The Bible on Fasting (New Bible Dictionary)

FASTING. Fasting in the Bible generally means going without all food and drink for a period (e.g. Est. 4:16), and not merely refraining from certain foods.

  1. In the Old Testament

The Heb. words are ṣûm (verb) and ṣôm (noun). The phrase ‘innâ nap̄šô (to afflict the soul) also refers to fasting. First, there were certain annual fasts. Thus the Hebrews fasted on the Day of Atonement (Lv. 16:29, 31; 23:27–32; Nu. 29:7). After the Exile, four other annual fasts were observed (Zc. 8:19), all of them, according to the Talmud, marking disasters in Jewish history. Est. 9:31 can be interpreted as implying the establishment of yet another regular fast.

In addition to these there were occasional fasts. These were sometimes individual (e.g. 2 Sa. 12:22) and sometimes corporate (e.g. Jdg. 20:26; Joel 1:14). Fasting gave expression to grief (1 Sa. 31:13; 2 Sa. 1:12; 3:35; Ne. 1:4; Est. 4:3; Ps. 35:13–14) and penitence (1 Sa. 7:6; 1 Ki. 21:27; Ne. 9:1–2; Dn. 9:3–4; Jon. 3:5–8). It was a way by which men might humble themselves (Ezr. 8:21; Ps. 69:10). Sometimes it may have been thought of as a self-inflicted punishment (cf. the phrase ‘to afflict the soul’). Fasting was often directed towards securing the guidance and help of God (Ex. 34:28; Dt. 9:9; 2 Sa. 12:16–23; 2 Ch. 20:3–4; Ezr. 8:21–23). Fasting could be vicarious (Ezr. 10:6; Est. 4:15–17). Some came to think that fasting would automatically gain man a hearing from God (Is. 58:3–4). Against this the prophets declared that without right conduct fasting was in vain (Is. 58:5–12; Je. 14:11–12; Zc. 7).

  1. In the New Testament

The usual Gk. words are nēsteuō (verb), and nēsteia and nēstis (nouns). In Acts 27:21, 33 the words asitia and asitos (‘without food’) are also used.

As far as general Jewish practice is concerned, the Day of Atonement is the only annual fast referred to in the NT (Acts 27:9). Some strict Pharisees fasted every Monday and Thursday (Lk. 18:12). Other devout Jews, like Anna, might fast often (Lk. 2:37).

The only occasion when Jesus is recorded as fasting is at the time of his temptations in the wilderness. Then, however, he was not necessarily fasting from choice. The first temptation implies that there was no food available in the place he had selected for his weeks of preparation for his ministry (Mt. 4:1–4). Cf. the 40 days’ fasts of Moses (Ex. 34:28) and Elijah (1 Ki. 19:8).

Jesus assumed that his hearers would fast, but taught them when they did so to face Godward, not manward (Mt. 6:16–18). When asked why his disciples did not fast as did those of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees, Jesus did not repudiate fasting, but declared it to be inappropriate for his disciples ‘as long as the bridegroom is with them’ (Mt. 9:14–17; Mk. 2:18–22; Lk. 5:33–39). Later they would fast like others.

In Acts leaders of the church fast when choosing missionaries (13:2–3) and elders (14:23). Paul twice refers to his fasting (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). In the former passage voluntary fasting, by way of self-discipline, appears to be meant (nēsteia); the latter passage mentions both involuntary ‘hunger’ (limos) and voluntary going ‘without food’ (nēsteia).

The weight of textual evidence is against the inclusion of references to fasting in Mt. 17:21; Mk. 9:29; Acts 10:30; 1 Cor. 7:5, though the presence of these references in many mss in itself indicates that there was a growing belief in the value of fasting in the early church.

[1]

 

[1]Wood, D. R. W., Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary. Includes index. (electronic ed. of 3rd ed.) (Page 364). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.