Many religions engage in fasting as part of their practices, such as in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the Christian season of Lent, or the Jewishholy day of Yom Kippur.
Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights and so do we, but this still leaves the question: why 40?
If we look at Jesus’ temptation in the desert in Matthew 4:1-11, we find a few clues. Each time Jesus responds to the devil, he replies with Scripture. When th
e devil says, “Turn these stones to bread,” Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” When the devil tell Jesus to throw himself down from the temple, Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” When the devil commands Jesus to worships him, Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:13 (10:20): “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Deuteronomy! Deuteronomy! Deuteronomy! Could the answer to “why 40 days?” be found in Deuteronomy?
The number 40 does come up in Deuteronomy in some pretty significant ways. For example, Moses twice fasts for 40 days. The first time is when he was preparing himself to receive the Ten Commandments to give to Israel at the base of the mountain (Deuteronomy 9:9-11). Curiously, Jesus gives the New Law on the Sermon on the Mount shortly after his 40-day fast (Matthew 5).
The second time Moses fasts for 40 days comes immediately after he gives the law. Moses returned from the mountain to find the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. God wished to wipe out Israel and make Moses into an even mightier nation (Deuteronomy 9:14), but Moses — being a good mediator — fasted another 40 days for the sins of his people (Deuteronomy 9:18).
Afterward, God permitted Israel to continue to the promised land (Deuteronomy 10:10-11).
Once there, the people rebelled again. They doubted whether they could overcome the inhabitants, so they sent scouts to assess their chances. After 40 days the scouts returned, saying it was impossible. Their discouraging report caused to people to rise up in rebellion.
Their punishment for this rebellion? Forty years in the desert. One year for each day their scouts reconnoitered the land (Number 14:34). Wandering 40 years in the desert was a period of testing, to “find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments” (Deuteronomy 8:2). But during this trial, the Israelites had to rely wholly on the Lord: “…Your clothes did not fall from you in tatters nor your sandals from your feet; bread was not your food, nor wine or beer your drink. Thus you should know that I, the LORD, am your God.’” (Deuteronomy 29:4-5).
Deuteronomy shows us that Jesus is a new Moses who after fasting for 40 days gives us a New Law and suffers for the sins of the people. He is also like a new Israel. Unlike the Israelites who fell repeatedly in the desert, Jesus response to temptation with the same words with which they should have responded.
By uniting ourselves with the mystery of Christ’s trial in the desert, we’re reminded that the 40 days of Lent are like our journey through the desert in this life. If we remain faithful, following the new Moses, Jesus Christ, we too will enter into the true promised land of heaven.
Matthew, Mark and Luke recorded the events surrounding Christ’s temptation in the wilderness.The three gospels report that Jesus had fasted for 40 days, and then the temptation of Jesus followed immediately. Each gospel provides some common details and some unique details.
Individual Gospel Accounts
Consequently, some individuals have claimed that the three gospels are in disagreement, but a good trial lawyer would expect this to be the case. Each one reported different details as each one had a different focus in what he wrote. In a criminal trial, a trial lawyer would charge three witnesses with collusion if they reported the exact same thing. In fact, most trial lawyers are suspicious when all of the witnesses give the exact same information. It becomes obvious that their testimonies are coordinated. The beauty of the three gospels is that we get a fuller picture with Luke giving us the exact chronological sequence of events (Luke 1:3). Here is the picture the gospels give us.
Did Christ Drink Water?
None of the gospels say anything about Jesus drinking water or sleeping, but they do report that Christ fasted or did not eat anything. Even though there are no comments about Christ drinking water, it appears that Jesus did drink water. Medical experts state that the typical man or woman cannot live more than ten days without water, however, some individuals have lived 21 days without water. We can live much longer without food.
What is wonderful about Jesus’ temptation by Satan is that He was tested and did not sin.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (NASB) Hebrews 4:15
Jesus is sinless!
We are staying focused on 40!
Rain fell for “forty days and forty nights” during the Flood (Genesis 7:4). Spies were sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan (promised to the children of Israel) for “fortydays” (Numbers 13:2, 25). … Goliath challenged the Israelites twice a day for fortydays before David defeated him (1 Samuel 17:16).
Can we ‘discover’ what happened each day? I have looked/researched, as we have shared no one can say exactly what Moses or Elijah did on their 40 day fasts. In this case it is no different!
‘Fasting’ is a time of neatness with God. Our wants and needs are placed aside as we focus our attention fully on God; Who in His deity is ALWAYS focused on us.
Fasting. Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. … For example, a person is assumed to be fasting once 8–12 hours have elapsed since the last meal. Metabolic changes of the fasting state begin after absorption of a meal (typically 3–5 hours after eating).
1. The Scriptures Teach Us to Fast and Pray
The Bible has a great deal to say about both fasting and praying, including commands to fast and pray. The Bible also gives us examples of people who fasted and prayed, using different types of fasts for different reasons, all of which are very positive results. Jesus fasted and prayed. Jesus’ disciples fasted and prayed after the Resurrection. Many of the Old Testament heroes and heroines of the faith fasted and prayed. The followers of John the Baptist fasted and prayed.Many people in the early church fasted and prayed. What the Scriptures have taught us directly and by the examples of the saints is surely something we are to do.
2. Fasting and Prayer Put You into the Best Possible Position for a Breakthrough
That breakthrough might be in the realm of the spirit. It may be in the realm of your emotions or personal habits. It may be in the realm of a very practical area of life, such as a relationship or finances. What I have seen repeatedly through the years-not only in the Scriptures but in countless personal stories that others have told me — is that periods of fasting and prayer produce great spiritual results, many of which fall into the realm of a breakthrough. What wasn’t a reality . . . suddenly was. What hadn’t worked . . . suddenly did. The unwanted situation or object that was there . . . suddenly wasn’t there. The relationship that was unloving . . . suddenly was loving. The job that hadn’t materialized . . . suddenly did.
The very simple and direct conclusions I draw are these: First, if the Bible teaches us to do something, I want to do it. I want to obey the Lord in every way that He commands me to obey Him. And second, if fasting and praying are means to a breakthrough that God has for me, I want to undertake those disciplines so I might experience that breakthrough!
Every person I know needs a breakthrough in some area of his or her life. I am no exception. I need breakthroughs all the time — it may be a breakthrough in understanding a situation, a breakthrough answer to a problem, a breakthrough idea, a breakthrough insight, a breakthrough in financial or material provision, a breakthrough in health. If you have any need in your life, you need a breakthrough from God to meet that need! Fasting and prayer break the yoke of bondage and bring about a release of God’s presence, power, and provision.