The scripture for today, August 21 (8/21), is Ezra 8:21a as found in the Old Testament of the Bible:
“There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God.”
In our modern society, does anyone fast any more? Not drinking our food (juice) for a day and calling that a fast, but a true fast where we drink only water to stay hydrated, but that’s all. And we turn off all computers, radios and televisions for the day.
Jesus said in his sermon on the mount, “When you fast….” (Matthew 6:16). He didn’t say, “If you fast….” No, he assumed his followers would fast. Do we?
If we do, do we do it as a group? Does anyone else know about it? They shouldn’t know, unless they are the reason for our fast. Fasting is an act of self-restraint. It belongs to the sphere of humble self-discipline. It is strictly a personal and private matter.
All moral and bodily restraint, all humbleness of body and spirit are represented by fasting, and it is a complete failure of self-restraint to want to show the world our self-restraint. An unknown author wrote this:
Let us keep our fast within,
Till heaven and we are quite alone;
Then let the grief, the shame, the sin,
Before the mercy-seat be thrown.
Fasting is a way of starving ourselves temporarily, a way of saying, “God, I would do this and more for you; I would die for you.” Or, “God, I would trade lives with this person I am fasting for to give them rest if it were possible. I would even die for this person.” It is a deep expression to God that goes beyond words.
Also, when we fast, our minds are freed from trying to digest food, so we can think clearer and deeper. And we can face ourselves more honestly. Just what are we deep down? Do we truly love God as much as we claim? Do we truly love our families as much as we claim? Our neighbors? Our fellow Christians? Our enemies? It is a time of self-reflection and self-honesty. And thereby we can grow closer to God.