When I was a kid, my parents always insisted we clean our plates at meals. No dessert if you didn’t and no getting up from the table until you did. I remember sitting at the table long after others were gone and slowly choking down liver and onions that I really would rather have skipped.
Many of us will fast from food and water for 24 hours on the Day of Atonement.
We’ll get thirsty. Our mouths will be dry. And we will be reminded that we should be thirsting after righteousness. [Matt. 5:6] We’ll remember the promise of living water that Jesus spoke of to the woman at the well [John 4:10, 13, 14] and give glory to God for the water that ensures we will thirst no more.
We’ll get hungry. Our stomachs will growl. This day will remind us that we do not live by bread alone (or chocolate cake or organic spinach). [Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4] We live by the grace of the Bread of Life: Jesus. [John 6:35]
We’ll read about the ritual of the Azazel goat in Leviticus 16 and be thankful for the time that Satan will be put away from this world so that he can no longer afflict mankind with his lies and snaky ways.
But, sisters, if that is all we gather from this day of “afflicting our souls” we are leaving food on our plates! Good stuff! The prime rib cooked just right stuff and the baked potato loaded with sour cream stuff, and the crisp broccoli with butter stuff, and the fresh spinach strawberry salad stuff, and the decadent triple chocolate fudge brownie with a scoop of ice cream stuff is being left on the plate. (Feel free to mentally edit this to be your “dream dinner.”)
I’m referring to the things we read about in Isaiah 58.
Isa 58:5-7, 10-11 [NIV] 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
I believe it is important to actually fast on this day. It is a ritual filled with symbolism and it is commanded that we do so. Some believers have health conditions or other reasons why they cannot or should not go without food and/or water for hours. We have a compassionate Father that understands the frailty of the human form that He created.
But there isn’t a single one of us that cannot fast from neglecting the poor. I’d call that a fasting from selfishness. There isn’t a single one of us that cannot fast from oppressing others. I’d call that fasting from meanness and bigotry and greed.
No human being can go very long without water. It takes just days to die of thirst. No human can live forever without nourishing food. But I would just love to go for the rest of my life without the temptations and sins that trip me up.
The key to fasting from sin is to eat of the Bread of Life and drink of the Water of Life. The more we fill up on that, the less room there will be in us for the parts of our natures we should give up. So, eat up, my sisters. Lick those plates clean.
I’d love to hear your thoughts too. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org