I would certainly hope that 25 April is not just a fast for “regular” UCG members. Not that it has to become an official fast day, but I don’t see where it has to be limited to any particular group.
“Prayer and fasting.” How often have you heard that phrase? Or, perhaps somewhat less well known is, “Fasting and Bible study.” What does it all mean, anyhow? Is there a purpose to fasting, or is it an end in itself?
Consider that the Pharisees may have fasted twice a week. However, Jesus condemned their self-righteous attitude. Most of us I’m sure have heard Isaiah 58 preached to us at least once a year. So, you can fast wrongly.
However, just adding prayer and Bible study into the mix isn’t correct either. Don’t get me wrong. I think these tools go very well together. However, when Nineveh fasted, where was their prayer recorded? Did they even have the Hebrew Scriptures to read? Since Jesus used Nineveh as an example at least once in His ministry, perhaps we should read what they did!
5So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
6For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
8But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
9Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
No call to prayer. No call to Bible study. Not even a call to sacrifice! No, what did they do? They “turned from their evil way”. That’s just another way of saying they repented!
Something else that is significant here is that everyone repented, from the king on down to the lowest slave. Even the animals fasted!
You know, when Israel sinned, they were often given wicked rulers as a punishment. Likewise, the entire country was punished when they had wicked rulers. They often go hand-in-hand.
Can a ruler with God’s Spirit go astray? Can someone in charge, even a Godly person, be tempted of Satan? Well, the example of King David shows it is so; not just once, either.
You probably remember the rest of the story. David realized his sin, Israel broke out in a plague, David cried out to God, he went up on mountain where Ornan the Jebusite lived and offered a sacrifice.
If you will notice, David actually repented twice in this story. The first was a private repentance and the second was a very public repentance accompanied by a sacrifice.
You know, David was a real man. It is hard for me to conceive how anyone can read the Biblical accounts of David and think he’s just a legend. He was a man after God’s own heart, and he wasn’t afraid to let his heart be shown most of the time. We are told, for example, that when his son via Bathsheba became ill, he literally lie down upon the ground. He was not afraid to call out to God – both privately and publicly.
Today, though, I suppose that if he were with us, then he wouldn’t have cried out to God. When the plague was sweeping through Israel, I suppose that he would have consulted his legal counsel so a nice spin could be put upon the situation to not cause any more “trouble”.
Thankfully, David was not too proud to repent before God. Thankfully, the King of Nineveh followed the lead of his citizens (notice they were already fasting and in sackcloth when the word came to him?) and fasted. These leaders of entire countries were not afraid to humble themselves before God and repent. After all, the lives of their citizens were in their hands.
I think a UCG-wide fast is a good idea. Hopefully, people will not forget to also repent for whatever they may have done to add to the hurt. Some have admitted to retracting comments in open forums that added fuel to the fire. Others were retracted because of downright un-Christ-like comments directed at them. On the whole, most comments have attempted to be very civil under stressful conditions. However, we each are supposed to examine ourselves, are we not, to see where we fall short? I don’t think the fast has to be confined just to “regular” members, though.
I was speaking to one UCG member about the 25 April fast, and that person told me, “Maybe they [the COE] should be fasting for us.”
Who knows? There’s still time for that.
Enough time before the GCE for fasting and repentance.