Updated: Jan 31, 2021
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, under “Fasting and Fast Days,” it is said, “The Rabbis compared fasting to sacrifice, and considered the affliction of one’s body as the offering up of one’s blood and fat upon the altar.”
That source goes on to state, “Of regular fixed fast-days the Jewish calendar has comparatively few. Besides the Day of Atonement, which is the only fast-day prescribed by the Mosaic law, there were established after the Captivity four regular fast-days in commemoration of the various sad events that had befallen the nation during that period.”
According to the website Hebrew for Christians, two other days of fast were recognized from rabbinical literature, bringing the total of official fast days to seven.
Perhaps it is mere coincidence, or perhaps it is through the all-knowing mind of God, but in the Isaiah reading today there are seven times the words “fast” or “fasting” appear.
1. God spoke through Isaiah, saying, “Why do we (the Jews) fast, but you (God) do not see?”
2. “Look, you (the people) serve your own interest on your fast day,”
3. “Look, you (the people) fast only to quarrel and to fight”
4. “Such fasting as you (the people) do today will not make your voice heard on high.”
5. “Is such the fast that I (the LORD) choose [supposed to be] a day to humble oneself?”
6. “Will you (the people) call this a fast [to bow down like a bulrush and to lie in sackcloth and ashes]?
7. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free?”
Seven times said, with each use indicating the people had changed the Law, to suit their own needs, as if ceremonial fasting was a quick-fix and the fast-track to heaven.
God said the fast He chose was to share your bread with the hungry; to bring the homeless into your house; to cover the naked; to not hide from your own kin.
God then said through Isaiah, IF you are doing those things, THEN “your light shall break forth like the dawn.”
He said, THEN “your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, (and) the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.”
How many times did Jesus fast, according to what we know in the Gospels?
The answer is once, just as the Lord commanded, by Law. In Matthew, chapter 4, verse 2, we read, “And after (Jesus) had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, then he became hungry.”
You have to be hungry. Look, I will put an all-you-can-eat buffet right down there, if you follow me.
A day of “fasting” is usually seen as “abstaining from food and drink,” where “drink” means beverages other than water. The intent of “food” can mean abstinence from meat, with a forty day fast implying a minimum of eating unleavened bread, which would have less chance of molding.
The Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the one day each year that the Law demands a child of Israel fast. The Day of Atonement is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, and it represents the day that Moses returned from the mount with the tablets inscribed by God.
That day occurred forty days after Moses ascended Mount Sinai; so the fast of Jesus (what we call Lent) reflects a “Season of Teshuvah,” or the “Period of Repentance,” the same as Moses experienced. It is a time of purification, and as such the children of Israel were purified through the Law sent by Moses.
And the Jews, those who would welcome Jesus as the Messiah, would become purified through the new covenant sent by Jesus.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew, we hear Jesus asking the crowds of Jews who came to be near him, “If salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?”
The answer is a re-purification. Each year, God commanded a day of atonement be recognized. Each year, the ten days before that day of repentance are recognized as the Days of Awe. That period commences with Rosh Hosana, the New Year, or the “Head of the Year.”
The days of awe are for prayer and meditation, where all wrongs one has done against others must be repented and forgiveness sought. The Day of Atonement is when one’s wrongs against God can be forgiven. The Ten Days are therefore an opportunity to mend one’s ways in order to alter the judgment of God in one’s favor – Do unto others as you would have God do unto you.
Atonement and purification are like taking an unlit stick and turning it into a torch, or striking a match to candlewicks upon a lampstand. Salt that has lost its saltiness can have its saltiness restored in the same way, by becoming a “light of the world.”
Fasting, as a ritual for anything other than repentance, so one can become restored to service for God, will do nothing towards getting one to heaven.
“And as you can see … behind me … I gave up smoking the second Joe told me today is Ash Wednesday.”
The season of Lent (which is the Season of Teshuvah) has been altered to be a period of ceremonial sacrifice, where some vice is set aside for 40 days. It has become like a New Year’s resolution; but instead of our Lenten commitments being for a whole year, they are just for 40 days.
Who thinks giving up chocolate for 40 days will get you to heaven?
Who thinks 40 days of playing only nine holes of golf, instead of 18 each week, is a great sacrifice of purification and repentance?
Jesus said, according to Matthew, “I have not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill.”
Jesus said, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”
In this period of Epiphany, are we preparing to have ourselves to be lit anew as servants to God’s commandments, to be priests who will free the oppressed and break every yoke? Are we prepared to become lights for the world?
Are we readying ourselves to shine before others, so they may see our good works?
Or, will we find ourselves “no longer good for anything,” worthy of only being “thrown out” and walked on, like dirt, like the dust of the material plane we come from?
Paul wrote to Apostles in Corinth, explaining to them, “Remember we are special. We have been enabled to speak God’s wisdom, which is secret and hidden from normal people.”
Paul rekindled the Corinthians by saying, “We have seen what no eye has seen, nor ear heard.” He said it was written that no “human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
If you only follow God’s commandments to Moses, you can never achieve the Holy Spirit and God’s wisdom. If you do not know God’s commandments, how can you ever conceive what the Holy Spirit is?
Of those who do not follow the Law, Paul wrote, “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s spirit, for they are foolishness to [those gifts]. They are unable to understand [the gifts of the Holy Spirit] because they are spiritually discerned.”
“They are spiritually discerned” means they must be properly investigated, fully questioned, completely examined. Anything less than “proper, fully, and complete” discernment means an inability to understand the Holy Spirit, the gift of God.
Because there are those who do not have a full year to dedicate to God, because there are crowds of followers who only want healing, but are unwilling to teach others how to heal, the light of Christianity’s promise goes unrewarded. Still, it beacons to those in darkness.
Whoever breaks one of the least of God’s commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. You are salt without taste, earthbound.
But, whoever abides by all the commandments and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Teaching in a school requires a degree from a university. Teaching the covenants of God and Christ goes beyond what any colleges or universities know to teach. One needs a degree from God, which shows you have completed all the requirements of gaining wisdom AND you stand prepared to pass that wisdom on.
We have entered a new year, already 9 days into February.
How are those New Year’s resolutions working for you?
It is hard to make things happen alone; but with God’s gift, with God as your rear guard, you can work miracles.
Can you hear the call?