Main point summary
Don’t fast in order to be seen by others and lose your reward. Rather, hide your fasting so that only your father can see, and he will reward you.
“And t when you fast,
And when you voluntarily refrain from food,
do not look gloomy
don’t make it obvious that you are fasting
like the hypocrites,
like the people do who do righteous things to impress others while pretending to do it out of love for God.
for they disfigure their faces
Because, they work hard to make it obvious that they are fasting
that their fasting may be seen by others.
so that others see their fasting.
u Truly, I say to you,
I tell you the truth:
they have received their reward.
the only reward they will ever get from their fasting is praise from man.
But when you fast,
Rather, when you fast,
v anoint your head
make yourself presentable
and wash your face,
and clean up,
that your fasting may not be seen by others
so that the only person that notices your fasting
but by your Father who is in secret.
is your everwhere-present Father.
w And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And your everywhere-seeing Father will bless you now and in eternity.
When fasting, don’t seek reward from others
Don’t make obvious you are fasting
“And when you fast,
do not look gloomy
like the hypocrites,
for they disfigure their faces
that their fasting may be seen
Truly, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
Instead, seek reward from your Father
Instead, conceal your fasting
But when you fast,
anoint your head
and wash your face,
that your fasting may not be seen
but by your Father
who is in secret.
And your Father ... will reward you.
who sees in secret
Head, heart, hands
1. Head How should I think differently about God/myself/others? God sees everything I do. And even the good works done in secret will be rewarded. Also, God cares about our our motivation for doing good works. What doctrines are taught? What specific contributions to those doctrines does this passage make? This passage teaches the omniscience of God: he sees everything we do. He sees when we do good works to impress others and he sees when we do good works to please him. This passage also teaches that believers are rewarded for devoting ourselves to God. It is not a waste of time to fast. Rather, we will be rewarded now and in eternity. What other scripture texts add to the truths taught here? Are there texts that seem to contradict the truth taught in this passage? What is the deeper truth that both of these seemingly contradictory texts are founded upon? In two separate old testament passages God rebukes Israel about fasting. In Isaiah 58:1-12, God rebukes Israel for neglecting justice while they fast and expecting God to reward them for their fast , adding the dimension of justice to the definition of a fast that is pleasing to God. In Zechariah 7:1-14, God rebukes Israel for fasting only to gain something for themselves. And their selfish fasting seems to be related to their wickedness and lack of justice (Zechariah 7:9-10). God tells Jeremiah that because Israel has been unfaithful, he will not respond to their fasting (Jer 14:12). There are a number of examples of fasting as part of a plea to God. David fasted to petition God to save his son (2 Sam 12:23). Jehoshaphat called a fast to petition God for protection from Israel’s enemies (2 Chron 20:3), Ezra called a fast to petition God for a safe journey (Ez 8:21), and Esther a fast so that God would save them from the impending genocide (Esther 4:16). It also appears that Israel held a communal fast regularly (Jer 36:6,9; Zech 8:19). So, the majority of passages mention communal fasting. However, there are examples of individuals fasting on special occasions such as David (2 Sam 12:23). The command to fast secretly is not in contradiction to the examples of communal fasting because even if one is fasting as an entire community we should not make our fasting obvious. Also, when David fasted others knew about it (2 Sam 12:17). This is not in contradiction to what Jesus is saying because David was not fasting in order to be seen by them. Sometimes it is not possible to hide your fasting from everyone, and that is ok. When we are fasting individually, we should not do it in order to be seen by others. That is the main issue, our motivation for fasting. 2. Heart How should I feel differently about God/myself/etc? I should feel that God is my loving father who sees me when I talk to him and rewards me and answers my prayers. I should feel that my prayers and fasting and good works are not in vain. What emotions are expressed in this passage? It is a sad and pitiful thing that the hypocrites don’t receive any reward for their fasting. Regarding our fasting, because fasting is hard it is tempting to do it to get recognition from others. It is hard to hide our fasting. It his hard to do it if we don’t know if we will be rewarded in some way. So, it is a relief to hear that God will in fact reward us. What emotions does this passage lead/exhort me to feel? This passage leads me to feel joy and relief and comfort that God seeks my fasting. And if God sees my fasting, that is a powerful thing. I am earning rewards for myself both now and in eternity. Fasting is a profitable thing. I should not feel gloomy or feel sorry for myself when I am fasting. I should feel joy that my father sees it. 3 . Hands What does this passage command me to do? What sins do I need to put off and repent of? What good works do I need to put on? Implicitly, this passage assumes that the disciples fast regularly. And Matt. 9:15 implies that all of Jesus will fast after his ascension. So, this passage implicitly encourages me to fast. When I fast, this passage commands me to not make my fasting obvious to others in order that they be impressed by my religious zeal. Instead, I am to keep my fasting secret. How am I to obey? In what manner? This passage doesn’t call me to do anything special when I fast, just act normal and don’t do anything special when I fast. Don’t do anything differently that would suggest that I am fasting. Individual fasting is a secret between me and God. What motivations does this passage give for acting differently (negative or positive)? I should keep my fasting so that I will receive a reward from my Father in heaven. What anchors does this passage offer that give me confidence in obeying these commands (truths about God, truths about man, gospel truths)? This passage reminds me that our Father in heaven sees everything we do. He won’t miss our fasting. It is kind of like a child asking their parents to watch when they do something impressive like stand on one leg or hit a tennis ball. They want to make sure that their parents see it. They don’t want to do it if it won’t
Fasting 16 “And t when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. u Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, v anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. w And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
True and False Fasting 58 1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back; c lift up your voice like a trumpet; d declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 e Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. 3 f ‘Why have we fasted , and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, 1 g and oppress all your workers. 4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5 h Is such the fast that I choose, i a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast , and a day acceptable to the Lord ? 6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: j to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps k of the yoke, to let the oppressed 1 go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not l to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, m and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 n Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, o and your healing shall spring up speedily; p your righteousness shall go before you; q the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away r the yoke from your midst, s the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 t if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, n then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be u like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 v And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
A Call for Justice and Mercy 7 1 o In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is p Chislev. 2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men q to entreat the favor of the Lord , 3 r saying to the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and s the prophets, “Should I weep and t abstain in u the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” 4 Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: 5 “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in u the fifth month and in v the seventh, for these w seventy years, x was it x for me that you fasted ? 6 y And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? 7 z Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed a by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, b with her cities around her, and the b South and the b lowland were inhabited?” 8 And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, c Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 d do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, e or the poor, and f let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But g they refused to pay attention h and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 1 12 i They made their hearts diamond-hard j lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent j by his Spirit through k the former prophets. l Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. 13 m “As I 1 called, and they would not hear, m so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts, 14 n “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all o the nations that they had not known. p Thus the land they left was desolate, q so that no one went to and fro, r and the pleasant land was made desolate.”
3 n Wash therefore and anoint yourself , and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
2 Samuel 12:20
20 Then David arose from the earth n and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord o and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.
2 Samuel 12:15-23
15 Then Nathan went to his house. David’s Child Dies And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. 16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David l fasted and went in m and lay all night on the ground. 17 And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” 20 Then David arose from the earth n and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord o and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, p ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast ? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, q but he will not return to me.”
1 Kings 21:9-12
9 And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast , and set Naboth at the head of the people. 10 And set two w worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, x ‘You have cursed 1 God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” 11 And the men of his city, v the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, 12 y they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people.
2 Chronicles 20:1-4
Jehoshaphat’s Prayer 20 1 After this i the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, 1 came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, 1 from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in j Hazazon-tamar” (that is, k Engedi). 3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face l to seek the Lord , and m proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord ; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord .
Fasting and Prayer for Protection 21 i Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river j Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, k to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.
16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for w three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, x and if I perish, I perish.”
10 Thus says the Lord concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; p therefore the Lord does not accept them; q now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.” 11 The Lord said to me: r “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12 Though they fast , I will not hear their cry, s and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them t by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”
4 Then Jeremiah called o Baruch the son of Neriah, and o Baruch wrote on g a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him. 5 And Jeremiah ordered o Baruch, saying, p “I am banned from going to the house of the Lord , 6 so you are to go, and q on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the Lord ’s house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. 7 l It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the Lord , m and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people.” 8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the Lord in the Lord ’s house. 9 r In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, s in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem t proclaimed a fast before the Lord . 10 Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the Lord , in u the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord ’s house.
19 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the v fourth month and the fast of the w fifth and the fast of the x seventh and the fast of the y tenth shall be to the house of Judah z seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love a truth and peace.
14 z Consecrate a fast ; z call a solemn assembly. Gather a the elders and a all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord .
15 r Blow the trumpet in Zion; s consecrate a fast ; call a solemn assembly;
5 m And the people of Nineveh believed God. n They called for a fast and o put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
15 And Jesus said to them, p “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? q The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and r then they will fast .
Verse 16: gloomy vs. sullen vs. somber Verse 17: NAS has “sees what is done in secret” Verse 18: no significant differences