6 minutes reading time (1211 words)

WHY Fast on Atonement?

When we keep the Day of Atonement, we normally fast. Why? And if you do, is your fasting effective – OR is it honestly just a day of feeling hungry, thirsty and probably headachy without your morning coffee?

And am I the only one who 12 minutes after we can’t eat or drink for 24 hours – gets this overwhelmingly strong, strong craving desire that I just have to have a drink or a snack. Am I the only one?

We’re told to “afflict your souls” on the Day of Atonement (Lev 23:27, 32). But nowhere do I know that we’re commanded to fast, at least in plain English or plain Hebrew, but we do. And I do. I do have a sermon about the meaning of this day on this website, but what about the fasting?

It goes back to God’s call to make this a day when we “afflict” our souls and do no work.

            Leviticus 16:29 and 31 say “you shall afflict your souls…”

            This theme is repeated in Lev 23:27, 32 and Numbers 29:7.

This phrase “afflict your souls” is widely understood to mean fasting.

The Day of Atonement was commonly called “the Fast” – and Paul says when they sailed, it was dangerous, it was late in the season for sailing, “because the Fast was already over…” Acts 27:9. The Fast was synonymous with Yom Kippur/Atonement.

So “afflict your souls” was understood to mean one should fast. David said he afflicted and humbled his soul with fasting (Psalm 35:13; 69:10)

Psalm 35:13 -- David says he even fasted for those who were against him. “I humbled my soul with fasting”. In Psalm 69:10 he chastened his soul with fasting. David tells us that sometimes we have to wake up and deal seriously with issues in our lives.

During times when people were diligently seeking after God, and repenting, it was common to fast as a symbol you were serious about this and to use the time of preparing and eating the meals to be time to do extra diligent praying. Oftentimes people would dedicate an entire day or more to just fasting and prayer.

When was the last time you and I fasted for at least 24 hours - besides the commanded Day of Atonement?

*** The apostle Paul said he was in “fastings often” (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). 

*** Anna the prophetess “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37) and God rewarded her diligence. 

People in the Bible equated fasting with deep repentance and seeking after God; seeking a closer walk with our Maker.

For example, when Daniel was personally repenting for himself and the nation, he fasted (Daniel 9:3). He says he was intent on seeking YHVH God “by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes”. You can read his heart-rending prayer in the rest of Daniel 9. But during all that time he was fasting.

When was the last time you and I fasted for someone suffering with cancer, severe pain, or other severe trials? I would say we should be fasting at least once a month or more – and yes, I preach to myself too. I want to commit to that in the coming year myself.

 Click on “Continue reading” to finish the rest of this lesson. Learn about what the Ninevites did, and the main chapter all about fasting, and how we can make this day of fasting result in meaningful changes in our lives.

When the Ninevites were told of their impending doom for their sins, they fasted. Even the animals fasted. And God heard them and relented on destroying their city. Please read Jonah 3:4-10. Even the king rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself in sackcloth and sat in ashes (v6) and then made a proclamation that nobody – not even could eat or drink (v. 7-9). But what was most notable was that the fasting caused them to TURN from their evil way and God relented from the disaster he had planned.

That reminds me of another point: don’t just go hungry on this day of fasting. Read all of Isaiah 58. It’s all about fasting for a good purpose and one that results in powerful changes in your life. Be sure on the Day of Atonement you are spending much time in prayer and meditation as you ask God to help you change your life.

***   Write out areas of your character that need changing.

*** Decide on areas of your life where sin still lurks and you have to finally put a stop to those areas – such as drinking too much, drunkenness, thoughts of lust and adultery, fornication, flirting at work, watching porn, or being mean when things don’t go your way. Or maybe you give in to worry, instead of trusting in God. Or perhaps you see horrible pride in your life.

*** Look for areas where you and I are just plain selfish in our interactions with our wife or husband or children or others.

*** Are you too tight with money and just don’t share it much with the more needy? Remember God says when we help out the poor, he takes it personally, as if we were helping HIM. Proverbs 19:17 says “He who has pity on the poor lends to YHVH, and HE will pay back what he has given.”

*** Where in our lives are we indistinguishable from unconverted people of the world? Do we still enjoy “dirty jokes” or watch things on TV that Christ wouldn’t watch? Do you let the values of this world cause you to speak, act and dress in ways that would be unpleasing to our Father?

*** Do we waste time on things that matter little? Do we spend more time on Facebook and other social media – than we do with God himself? Put that dumb phone down and TALK with people. Turn it off at mealtimes and when you’re visiting with people in their homes. I think it’s so rude to be at someone’s home but be spending much of your time checking your social media. It’s so self-centered. Repent of it and decide to change that.

*** What about the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—none of which is of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:16

*** Where have we become calloused to sin? Does abortion no longer alarm us, for example? What sins do you find yourself casually allowing into your life? It’s gotta stop. A day of fasting can help.

So be sure to slowly read Isaiah 58 and see how fasting should CHANGE us.

So with that, I gotta go – and re-read Isaiah 58 myself. One more time. The fasting on Day of Atonement should change you and me.

I need to go meditate and pray for my Redeemer to show me and help me grow in his image. And so do you. Let’s let THIS Day of Atonement be a day that is much more profound than just missing our meals. It’s a day that results in real changes in our lives – as God guides us by His spirit.


Where is the POWER of GOD among His People?
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