Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Tina Hsu. Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Fasting That Produces Hope”
And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary brought their child Jesus to Jerusalem to fulfill the required offering to the Lord, Anna, the prophetess, recognized the significance of this child, and perceived that he was central to the redemption of Jerusalem. Having been at the right place in the temple at the right time, and without any former announcement to her, Anna was under God’s divine orchestration to witness the arrival of the Messiah in the child, Jesus Christ. Thus, she praised God and shared about the child to those around her.
Whenever I read through the Gospel of Luke, I am always amazed at these few verses, and how three sentences speak volumes about Anna’s character and focus. As a person who faced heartache and loss, she didn’t live a life of regret; instead, she looked forward to God’s promises and lived richly in hope. In this short passage, we can see Anna’s single-minded devotion to the Lord in her many years of widowhood. Fasting and prayer had been a regular focus. The beginning of her fasting may have stemmed from facing the loss of her spouse and navigating the path of widowhood. It may have been an act of mourning and the pouring out of her soul to God. However, it didn’t end in her own life circumstances, but her expression of piety through fasting and prayer was larger than herself. It was a way of accessing hope and practicing patient waiting for Israel’s salvation. Considering that meals were of social significance in her time and culture, regular fasting meant a departure from the norms, a way of asserting that something is not yet complete and to hope in God to bring about His redemption.
The end of the year involves busyness, travel, holiday gatherings or much needed rest. While there are many praises to be sung, some of us may sense unease as we look back in 2018, and recognize goals that were not met, unfinished business, or expectation that ended in disappointment. This morning, allow God’s Word to invite you to access hope again in the Lord through setting apart time to pray and increments of time (or days) to fast. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
Prayer: Dear Father, thank You that You are the God of hope and You are the lifter of my head. Guide me to look at my circumstances through the eye of faith and renew my strength to wait upon You to reveal Your good and perfect plans. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 20
Lunch Break Study
Read Matthew 9:14-15: Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Questions to Consider
- Why did the disciples of John approach Jesus with this question about fasting?
- Who is the bridegroom and who are the attendants?
- What is Jesus implying in his response? What does Jesus expect of His disciples?
- During that time, a teacher (or rabbi) was responsible for the disciplines of his disciples. Religious groups such as the Pharisees commonly fasted twice a week, though the Law only required the Jews to fast on the Day of Atonement. The disciples of John were probably sincerely curious as to why Jesus, being a teacher, seemed to avoid this spiritual practice altogether for His disciples.
- Jesus is referring to an analogy that He is the bridegroom, the attendants are His disciples, and the wedding feast (celebration) is the present time in which He has arrived as the Messiah.
- Wedding feasts in the Jewish culture lasted several days, and it was crucial as part of the culture for rabbis to pause their instruction and acts of mourning to observe with joy the bridal processions. Jesus is defining the appropriateness of fasting for His disciples. Before He came, and after He is “taken away,” it is appropriate and expected to fast and devote time to prayer and waiting, but while He is with His disciples, He expects His disciples to take joy at the presence of the bridegroom.
Reflect on Isaiah 40:31: “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
Tonight, as you reflect on God’s promise for those who wait patiently, write out or say a prayer expressing your desire for God’s answer to your hopes. Consider how you may position yourself to wait upon God with patience that honors Him and expect Him to reveal Himself to you in ways greater than you imagined.