Archive for the ‘Fasting’ Category

Lent is Biblical?!

February 16, 2012

So proclaims one blog. Of course, there’s no mention of Lent in Scripture. So, how could it be Biblical? The tortured reasoning is that there are “several forty day parallels in Scripture.” Let’s look at those parallels:

Moses’ fasts on the the holy mountain (Ex 24:18; 34:28; Deut 9:9) and his intercession for Israel (Deut 9:25), Elijah’s journey to Mt. Horeb (1 Ki 19:8), Ezekiel’s lying on one side (Ezek 4:6), and Christ’s fast in the wilderness (Mt 4:2).

And what to do the texts say:

Exodus 24:18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 34:28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Deuteronomy 9:9 When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:

Deuteronomy 9:25 Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.

The following was curiously omitted by the author:

Deuteronomy 10:10 And I stayed in the mount, according to the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also, and the LORD would not destroy thee.

1 Kings 19:8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

Ezekiel 4:6 And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.

Matthew 4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Oddly, the author didn’t include the other synoptic accounts:

Mark 1:13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

Luke 4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.

Except for the Ezekiel reference, these are all examples of fasting for forty days. But note:

a) These are not prescriptive. There is nothing about these passages that suggests “imitate this example.” Moreover, while there are three examples (Moses, Elijah, and Jesus) none is described as imitating the other.

b) These are supernatural and miraculous. No normal human being under ordinary circumstances can survive for 40 days without food and water. These are not part of some general plan of godly living.

c) These are isolated, not annual, events. Moses apparently fasted for forty days more than once, but it was an occasional, not regular fast. The others fasted for forty days once.

In short, these fasts are only similar to Lent in a very superficial way. Lent is simply dietary restrictions for forty days (not even consecutive days) and the way it is practiced in places like the U.S. and U.K., it’s’ not even really that.

The Ezekiel example is just a strange inclusion. For you will see that although a special diet is mentioned, it is not simply for forty days:

Ezekiel 4:1-17

Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and pourtray upon it the city, even Jerusalem: and lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about. Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel.

Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.

Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, and thine arm shall be uncovered, and thou shalt prophesy against it. And, behold, I will lay bands upon thee, and thou shalt not turn thee from one side to another, till thou hast ended the days of thy siege.

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof.

And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it. Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drink.

And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.

And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.

Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth.

Then he said unto me, Lo, I have given thee cow’s dung for man’s dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith. Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment: that they may want bread and water, and be astonied one with another, and consume away for their iniquity.

a) As you can, Ezekiel’s curious diet was not for forty days, but for nearly four hundred days.

b) Moreover, the whole point of the diet was to illustrate the coming siege, destruction, and dispersal of the Israelites.

c) Thus, for example, the dung-baked bread was to be dung-baked to illustrate that the Israelites were going to be eating defiled bread. The odd combination of ingredients illustrates the destruction of the usual separation that Israel had experienced. The measured food and water illustrate the times of austerity that were coming. The “eat it as barley cakes” is to show that these austere portions would be considered a blessing.

In short, the Ezekiel fast (if we can call it that) points forward to a curse from God. It is descriptive and prophetic, not prescriptive. Like the fasts, it is occasional – not annual (indeed it could not be annual on this planet).

This seems absurd, ridiculous, and frankly beneath response. Yet it is apparently being offered on Facebook (evidence) as though it were a serious defense of the practice of the Roman communion.

Of course, none of this is to suggest that fasting, in itself, is wrong. Nevertheless, Christian fasting is purposeful and, usually, secret. Jesus taught us:

Matthew 6:16-18
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

See people with ash daubed on their face? They are not following this teaching.

-TurretinFan

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Biblical Basis for Ash Wednesday?

February 24, 2009

One of my readers asked me what the Biblical basis for Ash Wednesday is. I answer:

I don’t see any biblical basis either for Ash Wednesday or for Lent generally (Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent). In fact, the practice of traipsing around throughout the day with ashes on one’s forehead is contrary to Jesus’ teaching:

Matthew 6:17-18

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

-TurretinFan

Samuel Miller on Fasting

February 20, 2008

One of my readers recently pointed out that Samuel Miller’s work on fasting is apparently available in reprint. Here’s a link to a very readable web version (link). Even more significantly, here is a link to an older (and one would think, copyright free) copy of Miller’s Sermons (there are two back-to-back) beginning at page 145 (the first page of the link) of an edition of the National Preacher and continuing to page 160 (link to article from the National Preacher).

Note that since the journal is available as a Google Book, you can download the book in PDF form or page by page in text form, for reading off-line or printing.

-Turretinfan

Public Solemn Fasting according to the Directory for Public Worship

February 19, 2008

Concerning Public Solemn Fasting.
WHEN some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people, or apparently imminent, or by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, public solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expects from that nation or people.

A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint,) but also from all worldly labor, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, and such like, (although at other times lawful,) rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the fast; and much more from whatever is in the nature or use scandalous and offensive, as gaudy attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.

Before the public meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.
So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in public reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:

“Giving glory to the great Majesty of God, the Creator, Preserver, and supreme Ruler of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with an holy reverence and awe of him; acknowledging his manifold, great, and tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually to soften and abase our hearts before him; humbly confessing of sins of all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God’s righteous judgments, as being far less than our sins do deserve; yet humbly and earnestly imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church and nation, for our king, and all in authority, and for all others for whom we are bound to pray, (according as the present exigent requires,) with more special importunity and enlargement than at other times; applying by faith the promises and goodness of God for pardon, help, and deliverance from the evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for ever unto the Lord.”

In all these, the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and their people may be much affected, and even melted thereby, especially with sorrow for their sins; that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul.

Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such tests for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance: insisting most on those particulars which each minister’s observation and experience tells him are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that congregation to which he preaches.

Before the close of the public duties, the minister is, in his own and the people’s name, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord’s, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss among them, and more particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of; and to draw near unto God, and to walk more closely and faithfully with him in new obedience, than ever before.

He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the public duties of it, but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in reinforcing upon themselves and their families in private all those godly affections and resolutions which they professed in public, as that they may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find that God hath smelt a sweet savor in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.

Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by authority, we judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other public duties of worship.

(spelling modernized by TurretinFan – original by the Westminster Assembly)
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Note what set forth in the second paragraph as to how a fast is to be observed. No eating, except for medical necessity. No “bodily delights.” No jewels, no fancy clothes. No working, and no thoughts about work. The whole day is to be consumed with worship and especially prayer. Yet this is not something to be done according to a calendar, but when a special cause arises that provokes the people of God to publicly entreat his mercy and grace.

-Turretinfan


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