Satan is being put away, so why fast on Atonement?
The first festival, the Passover, showing the crucifixion of Christ, in other words, that was His death for us. He took on Himself our sins, and one of the things that we should see today, especially if you read back in Leviticus 16 — and I’m not going to read that today. There are so many other things I want to read and so often we do go into Leviticus 23 and Leviticus 16 — about the scapegoat in Leviticus 16. Now that is a wrong translation, it shouldn’t be scapegoat. It’s Azazel or Az-ah-zel; I don’t know how you pronounce Hebrew words. That is the Hebrew word and it really means, “The devil.” And it was the putting away of the devil. The one thing that that makes plain is this, that the lamb was recognized which represented Christ, in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, shows that Christ did not take the devil’s sin. He only took human sin. But the real villain, the real one who is guilty of your sins and mine is Satan the devil. And too often we lose sight of that fact.
~ Herbert W Armstrong, “The Meaning of Atonement“
There are a few main themes that run through the Day of Atonement: Satan being bound, fasting and humility, and the atonement of mankind with God. Yet, how well are those things tied together in your mind?
How many Atonement sermons have you heard about the meaning of the two goats? One is “for the Lord” (Lev 16:8) and is killed, which is an obvious symbol for Jesus Christ dying for our sins. He provided the atonement between our sinful selves and God the Father. There is a second goat, however, upon whom the sins of rebellion and causing rebellion are laid, and that goat is “sent away” (the real meaning of azazel, as far as scholars can determine). It is to be separated (another definition of azazel) from the people.
The holy days are separated into the spring days and the fall days, but there is a very real parallel between them. The Days of Unleavened Bread are about separating ourselves from sin, and the Day of Atonement is about separating the author of sin from all of humanity.
OK, but that does not answer the question. Why do we fast on Atonement?
There is a hint in HWA’s quoted excerpt above, but first consider some other matters.
How often do we hear that fasting is tied to humility? Perhaps we have heard that often, and perhaps we have heard the biblical examples of such. Yet, how is our fasting tied to Atonement?
Perhaps you have heard that fasting draws us closer to God, and that as well would be true. Putting away pride and humbling ourselves before God certainly does draw us closer to God, and fasting is a very physical symbol of doing that as well as recognizing our total dependence upon God. Still, how is our fasting tied to the specific Day of Atonement?
Yes, the atonement Christ paid was for our sins. That was symbolized in the spring, though. Yes, Satan is the author of sin, and he is symbolically put away on Atonement. So, how is it we need to fast when it is the author of sin who is put away?
Perhaps you have heard that Satan’s original sin was pride, or more specifically arrogance (cf. Eze 28:17; Isa 14:12-15). That too would be true, so why does Satan’s pride have anything to do with our fasting?
HWA hinted at it when he said Satan is punished for his own sins. He was the original sinner, not Adam and Eve. Satan fell, not Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were mere mortals, so from where could they fall?
What if there never were any Satan? The blog Sabbath Thoughts brings out this quite nicely in “The Devil Didn’t Make You Do It“. It nicely parallels the thoughts I am having this morning while waiting for time to get ready to go to services today.
Given free moral agency, some would choose to sin, regardless of whether or not Satan was around! We have to face that fact, own up to that fact and deal with that fact. Jeremy wrote:
(Sidenote: Who convinced Lucifer to become Satan? No one. No one convinced God’s anointed covering cherub to become the most wicked being in the universe. He did that all on his own. He was led away by his own desires—and now he actively works to lead us away with our own desires as well.)
That’s not a minor point!
It used to be commonly stressed that God created human beings as mortals in order that He would not have to deal long-term with millions of Lucifers. Why give eternal life to those who would not and at some point would not be able to appreciate it? Imagine the misery and woe we now see in this world multiplied many times over!
We fast because we are just as capable of pride and arrogance as Satan! Why do we fast on Atonement? Because we want to separate ourselves not only from Satan but from everything he represents: sin, arrogance and pride!
However, I look at the COG landscape, and I see many false teachers with just those same satanic qualities! Worse, I see those who willingly follow them.
The world promotes self. The world values self-esteem. The world follows the arrogant, the Donald Trumps, the Barak Obamas and the Fidel Castros. They follow leaders who take on titles and doctorates and other words that impress others. They want someone powerful in charge because they feel that some of that power will rub off on them, when in reality it becomes a type of enslavement.
And, they follow the false prophets and slanderers and liars who claim to be part of the Church of God.
So, when I say we want to separate from pride and arrogance, I’m quite afraid that not everyone who claims to be of us is really one of us.