Sick of Religion? Week 4: Devotional Day 1
DAY 1 – Monday
Mark 2:18; Joel 2:12; Acts 3:1-3
Use a Study Bible to discover what was the practice of fasting in Jewish culture at the time of Jesus.
If you’ve ever experienced great loss, you’ll know how odd and perfunctory eating seems to be in the midst of that. Eating, however necessary and routine, feels completely out of place while mourning, especially because eating is in and of itself a pleasure. When your soul is rent by grief, eating just doesn’t seem appropriate.
If you understand this, then you understand the basic motivation of fasting in the Old Testament. Take a look at most of the passages in the Old Testament regarding fasting, and you’ll see that more often than not fasting is accompanied by sorrow and weeping, as in the passage in Joel from today’s reading. The only time fasting is religiously required of the Israelite people is on the Day of Atonement, and even then, it is an appropriate response to the level of contrition meant for that day.
With all that in mind, fasting wasn’t necessarily a religious ritual, it was just a natural response to grief. In a greater sense then, you could consider fasting to be a way of acknowledging the greater needs of your soul over your body. You can see this sense of fasting in today’s passage from Acts, where the early church prays and fasts, presumably because what was more important than food then was knowing God’s will. They yearned for it, more than they yearned for their next meal.
Before we continue to explore the rest of the passage this week, it’s worth considering this basic principle of fasting: we are spiritual creatures in need of spiritual food. Whether our fasting is driven by grief, or by a desire for the something only God can give (see John 6:35), it seems to me that Scripture is teaching us that the motivation for fasting should come from the soul and not a sense of religious obligation.
And yet, sometimes we lead our soul by the posture of our body. Sometimes we practice what is true and right before our emotions and mind line up with it. With that in mind, consider skipping a meal today, or later this week, and spending the time you would have eaten to dwell on what spiritual food you may be hungry for in Jesus. Perhaps in your physical hunger you will sense what your soul craves.