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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, September 21 2023

A fast commanded by God

The Day of Atonement in 2023 will be observed from Sunday sunset, September 24 until sunset on Monday, September 25. By fasting on the Day of Atonement, we are able to draw closer to God and learn more about the wonderful process of reconciliation of mankind to God, which this Holy Day symbolizes.

Reg Wright

The Day of Atonement is a spiritually uplifting, but physically challenging day, as we are commanded to fast from sundown to sundown (Leviticus 23:27-32). The Bible has much to say about the very important, but often neglected act of fasting. God expects His followers to fast, and not just on the Day of Atonement. Fasting is an important part of building a right and strong relationship with Him (Luke 2:36-37; Acts 13:2).

Godly fasting is poles apart from hunger strikes used to gain political power or draw attention to a personal cause. Fasting liberates us from slavery to our appetites while we focus on the true "Bread of Life", Jesus Christ (John 6:48-51). By fasting, we make a small sacrifice in order to focus on our Savior's awesome sacrifice and plan for us.

Our human nature is egocentric (self-centered), and we must strive to become God-centered. A major purpose of fasting is to learn humility in order to better understand the greatness of God, and how weak, sinful and needy we are. King David understood this when he wrote, "I humbled myself with fasting" (Psalm 35:13). God delights in humble hearts. He said in Isaiah 66:2, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." In Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus also made it clear if we fast to show off –- to "appear to men to be fasting" –- we are hypocrites and will have no reward from God (Matthew 6:16-18). He did not mean it is always wrong to tell someone you are fasting. Often there is a practical need to share this information, such as with your spouse. Jesus was talking about the need for right motives and attitudes and related a parable in which a proud Pharisee bragged to God, "I fast twice a week" (Luke 18:9, 12). Fasting with such a conceited attitude is worthless. God wants us to "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matthew 5:6).

When we fast, we feel hungry and physically weak. In addition to reinforcing the fact that God is the One who sustains us and supplies all our needs, an important lesson we learn is that we can rapidly become weaker spiritually when we neglect the nourishment of prayer and Bible study.

By fasting on the Day of Atonement, we are able to draw closer to God and learn more about how the process of reconciliation of mankind to God will come about. Christ is of course essential in this process as our High Priest (Hebrews:4:14-15) and our eternal sacrifice for sin (Hebrews:9:26-28). The Day of Atonement pictures our High Priest, Jesus Christ, making atonement for our sins, which allows us to be reconciled to God and enter into the "holiest of all", giving us direct access to Him (Hebrews:9:8-14 and 10:19-20).

This Holy Day involves not only the forgiveness of sin, but also has prophetic significance, picturing the removal of Satan, who is the primary cause of sin. The Atonement fast highlights the time when Satan will be bound for 1,000 years (Revelation:20:1-3), without which we could not be completely at one with God and Jesus Christ.

Even though going without food and water for 24 hours causes us to become physically weak, we should celebrate the awesome spiritual significance of this very special Holy Day – the full and complete reconciliation of God and humankind.