On Fasting…

T.C. has a little post on organized fasting. It made me try to remember what I knew of the biblical practice. I came up with:

Mat 6:16-18 NET. “When you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. (17) When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, (18) so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Then I came up with this:

Isa 58:3-10 NET. They lament, ‘Why don’t you notice when we fast? Why don’t you pay attention when we humble ourselves?’ Look, at the same time you fast, you satisfy your selfish desires, you oppress your workers. (4) Look, your fasting is accompanied by arguments, brawls, and fistfights. Do not fast as you do today, trying to make your voice heard in heaven. (5) Is this really the kind of fasting I want? Do I want a day when people merely humble themselves, bowing their heads like a reed and stretching out on sackcloth and ashes? Is this really what you call a fast, a day that is pleasing to the LORD? (6) No, this is the kind of fast I want. I want you to remove the sinful chains, to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke, to set free the oppressed, and to break every burdensome yoke. (7) I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people. When you see someone naked, clothe him! Don’t turn your back on your own flesh and blood! (8) Then your light will shine like the sunrise; your restoration will quickly arrive; your godly behavior will go before you, and the LORD’s splendor will be your rear guard. (9) Then you will call out, and the LORD will respond;  you will cry out, and he will reply, ‘Here I am.’ You must remove the burdensome yoke from among you and stop pointing fingers and speaking sinfully. (10) You must actively help the hungry and feed the oppressed. Then your light will dispel the darkness, and your darkness will be transformed into noonday.

And again this:

Zec 7:2-10 NET. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech and their companions to seek the LORD’s favor (3) by asking both the priests of the temple of the LORD who rules over all and the prophets, “Should we weep in the fifth month, fasting as we have done over the years?” (4) The word of the LORD who rules over all then came to me, (5) “Speak to all the people and priests of the land as follows: ‘When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and seventh months through all these seventy years, did you truly fast for me — for me, indeed? (6) And now when you eat and drink, are you not doing so for yourselves?’ ” (7) Should you not have obeyed the words that the LORD cried out through the former prophets when Jerusalem was peacefully inhabited and her surrounding cities, the Negev, and the Shephelah were also populated? (8) Again the word of the LORD came to Zechariah: (9) “The LORD who rules over all said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. (10) You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’

And the Old Testament passages fit in quite well with the New Testament:

Mat 25:31-46 NET. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (34) Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (35) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, (36) I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ (37) Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? (38) When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? (39) When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ (40) And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’ (41) “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! (42) For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. (43) I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ (44) Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?’ (45) Then he will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ (46) And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

All in all, I can’t see that fasting, especially organized public fasting, has that much going for it. God seems more concerned with what we do for our fellows in His name, than what we do alone, in His name. And that’s a Hard Saying of the Bible. I feel the pain of the pinch; don’t you?

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