As we find ourselves in the home stretch of January, many are concluding their various forms of fasting. I honor anyone who makes effort to bring flesh into submission for the purpose of knowing God. In recent years the book of Daniel has become an inspiration and model for set aside seasons of altered diet and holy consecration. We take from his account in chapter ten, a duration of 21 days and observe his diet which omitted “sweets”, meats, breads and wine. In chapter one we discover he maintained a diet of vegetables and water.
I have no intent to debate the details of what we coin the “Daniel Fast”. As stated before, I honor those who deny flesh for spiritual gain. However, over the last two months I have been reading and journaling through the book of Daniel as my morning meditation. Beyond our fasting cues, we could stand to observe the total man and in doing so discover what it means to be a follower of God in a degraded society. The backdrop of Daniel’s account is his residence in a foreign land. As we are introduced to him in chapter one, he was in Babylonian captivity. He was an alien, a stranger, in a land not his own. The customs of Babylon were not only different than those of his homeland of Israel but they often stood in direct opposition to the heart of his faith. In chapter one he restricted his diet not in an attempt to achieve a particular outcome. He was “determined not to defile himself by eating the food” from the king’s table. His “fast” was an indicator of his commitment to a higher culture and an unwillingness to conform to the patterns and norms of the society around him. This is the root of who Daniel was and to boil him down to a system of fasting is to lose perspective on the heart of his unique food intake.
Long before his 21 days of mourning (fasting) in chapter 10, he had a restricted diet, a regulated lifestyle. Daniel’s fasting was not so much about food and attainment as it was an unwillingness to become familiar with and affectionate for the flavors of society. The New Testament paints a picture of this world not being our home. We are citizens of God’s Kingdom. We are strangers, aliens and foreigners much like Daniel. We are intertwined with a higher culture, a more legitimate system of operating, thinking and living. We understand Jesus is the King of kings over America, but we live within our own version of a Babylonian system. Our Nebuchadnezzar comes in the form of government, news media and entertainment. Will we eat from that table or refuse to conform and become comfortable with the “king’s table”? Please fast…please. But let us do so with the heart of Daniel who saw into another realm and had the authority to speak to the culture of Babylon because he didn’t feast on Babylonian culture.