Matthew 6:16-18

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

FASTING

INTRODUCTION:

 

In Matthew 6 Jesus deals with the subject of loving God above all else.

 

Jesus said in Luke 10:27 ,

 

Luke 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

 

In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus demands the sincere devotion of the heart to God the Father; while in Matthew 6:19-34 Jesus demands undivided trust in God the Father, no matter what the circumstances.

 

Unfortunately, there is much pretense in religious worship. Practices which are intended to bring attention to oneself are forbidden.

 

In Matthew 6:1 Jesus says,

 

Matthew 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

 

In Matthew 6:2-4 Jesus says,

 

Matthew 6:2-4 – (2) Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (3) But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: (4) That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

 

When thou doest thine alms in verse 2 is literally whenever you do your alms. This is the first of three parallel statements in the first half of chapter 6 which begin with the word when or whenever.

 

Alms are charitable giving.

 

Thus, in verses 2-4 Jesus shows how His listeners are not to be doing their alms or their charitable giving as well as how they are to be doing their alms or charitable giving.

 

In Matthew 6:5-8 we have seen how Jesus’ listeners are not to be praying.

 

Matthew 6:5-8 – (5) And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (6) But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (7) But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (8) Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

 

When thou prayest is whenever you pray. This is the second of three parallel statements in the first half of chapter 6 which begin with the word when or whenever.

 

                  1.   They are not to be praying as the hypocrites do in order to gain the attention and admiration of men.

 

                  2.   They are also not to be praying using vain repetition as the pagans do who think that they will be heard by their much speaking.

 

In Matthew 6:9-13 we see how Jesus’ listeners are to be praying.

 

Matthew 6:9-13 – (9) After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (10) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (11) Give us this day our daily bread. (12) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (13) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

 

In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus explains one of the things He has said about how His listeners are to be praying,

 

Matthew 6:14-15 – (14) For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: (15) But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus teaches how to fast as well as how not to fast. The Pharisees loved to put on a big show when fasting. In telling the people that their righteousness needed to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus tells them that those who put on a show so that they will impress others have already received their reward in full. In contrast to them, Jesus tells those listening to Him to do nothing which will in any way call attention to the fact that they are fasting. They will receive their reward from God the Father. The Pharisees were guilty of fasting in a way which called attention to what they were doing.

 

Matthew 6:16-18 – (16) Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (17) But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; (18) That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

 

When ye fast is whenever ye fast. This is the third of three parallel statements in the first half of chapter 6 which begin with the word when or whenever.

We see –

    I.     HOW YOU SHOULD NOT FAST – 6:16

 

Moreover introduces a change of direction in what Jesus is saying. It is understood in the sense of now or but.

 

When ye fast is whenever you are fasting.

 

Thus, fasting is assumed. It is taken for granted.

 

The reference here is obviously not to general public fasts, but to voluntary individual fasting. This was common among the godly Jews, but the Pharisees had reduced it to a system. They were fasting twice in the week.

 

Luke 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

 

In the Old Testament, fasting was commanded of the Jews on the Day of Atonement, but the necessity of fasting on the Day of Atonement ceased with the completion of the law when Jesus died on the cross in payment for our sins. God did not command any other fast.

 

Fasting, meaning abstinence from food and drink for a longer or shorter period, is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. Sometimes, instead of the single word “fast” the descriptive phrase “to afflict the soul” is used, the reference being to physical fasting rather than to spiritual humiliation. This term is used in various parts of the OT, but is the only one used to denote the religious observances of fasting in the Pentateuch (Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 278).

 

Leviticus 16:29-3129 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls [i.e. you shall fast], and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: 30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. 31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls [i.e. you shall fast], by a statute for ever.

 

Leviticus 23:27-3227 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls [i.e. you shall fast], and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted [i.e. that will not fast] in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. 30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. 31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls [i.e. you shall fast]: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.

 

Following Jesus’ death on the cross, fasting is individual and voluntary. It is neither commanded nor forbidden in the New Testament. It is something which should come naturally out of a sincere heart before the Lord.

 

So, if you wish to fast, go ahead and fast. It’s completely up to you. If you don’t want to fast, don’t. It’s completely up to you.

 

Be not as the hypocrites is, Stop being as the hypocrites or, Stop becoming as the hypocrites. The tense of be not forbids an action which is already going on from continuing.

 

As the hypocrites suggests as (or like) the hypocrites (are).

 

Of a sad countenance is with a sad appearance, with a gloomy appearance, or with a sullen appearance.

 

For introduces an explanation of the appearance the hypocrites put on for the benefit of others.

 

They disfigure their faces suggests they are rendering their faces unrecognizable or they are changing their appearance.

 

That they may appear unto men to fast is the real reason (or motive) they disfigure their faces. It is in order that (or for the purpose that) they may appear to men (i.e. to people) to be fasting.

 

Men is the generic term for human beings and may include females as well as males.

 

Verily is truly, indeed. It is the word often translated amen and is used in this verse in the sense of assuredly.

 

Verily I (i.e. Jesus) say unto you is, Assuredly, I am saying (i.e. declaring or asserting) to you.

 

They have their reward is they have their reward in full, they have received their reward in full, or they have all their reward. In other words, they have all the reward they are going to get. There will never be any additional reward for them for their fasting.

We have seen how you should not fast. Next, we see –

  II.     HOW YOU SHOULD FAST – 6:17

 

Matthew 6:17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face.

 

In verse 17 Christ advises the individual who is fasting to act normally and do nothing to call attention to what he is doing. When fasting, he should dress on that day exactly as he would on other days. Rather than showing the world that he is fasting, he should purposely conceal it.

 

But introduces a statement in mild contrast to the pretension of the hypocrites when fasting in verse 16.

 

Thou is you and is emphatic.

 

When thou fastest suggests while you are fasting. Both uses of thou are singular and individualize the audience, treating each listener or reader of the Sermon on the Mount on an individual basis.

 

Anoint thine head suggests that you do this by applying oil to your head. It is something the Jew would do every day.

 

And introduces something else: wash thy face.

 

Wash suggests cleanse it with water.

 

The anointing of the head was an established custom among the Jews from an early period.

 

Ruth 3:3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking.

 

II Samuel 12:20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.

 

Psalms 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Finally, we see –

 III.     YOUR MOTIVE IN FASTING – 6:18

 

Verse 18 provides the reason for Jesus’ instruction in verse 17 to anoint your head and wash your face when you are fasting.

 

We note that –

            1.   You should not appear unto men to fast – 6:18a

 

Matthew 6:18 a – That thou appear not unto men to fast. . . .

 

That thou appear not unto men to fast suggests in order that (or for the purpose that) you not appear to men to be fasting.

 

Men is the generic term for human beings and includes females as well as males. Jesus’ implication is that someone’s fasting is a private matter between himself and God and should not be done with the intent of impressing other people.

 

We also note that –

            2.   You should appear unto God to fast – 6:18b

 

Matthew 6:18 b – . . . But unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

 

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to that thou appear not unto men to fast.

 

Unto thy Father which is in secret suggests (that you appear) to your Father, to the One Who is in the secret (place).

 

Thy Father is God the Father.

 

And introduces the result of fasting to God the Father privately.

 

Thy Father, which seeth in secret is your Father, the One Who sees in the secret (place).

 

Will reward thee is will recompense you.

 

Openly is in the open and suggests that His reward will be open to view by others. Although others may never know why this person who fasts in secret to God the Father is rewarded, they will be able to see God’s blessing in his life.

CONCLUSION:

 

In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus demands the sincere devotion of the heart to God the Father.

 

His first statement is when thou doest thine alms or whenever you do your alms. Jesus demands sincerity toward God the Father in your charitable giving.

 

His second statement is when thou prayest or whenever you pray. Jesus demands sincerity toward God the Father in your praying

 

His third statement is when ye fast or whenever ye fast. Jesus demands sincerity toward God the Father in your fasting.

 

Let’s serve the Lord faithfully and in all that we do be careful that we not do any of it in order to impress people.

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