Monday, October 10, 2016

The Day of Atonement - Why Fasting Helps Us Draw Closer to God

The Day of Atonement is one of God's annual holy days that God commands His people to keep. We observe this day as a day of rest, assembly, and fasting. We fast on this day, refraining from all food and drink from sunset to sunset.

Like all of God's holy days and feast days, Atonement teaches us lessons about God's plan for the salvation of the human race. Most of us are familiar with the account of the two goats in Leviticus 16:5-26.

Atonement teaches us how our guilt for sin is removed and how we are reconciled with God.

The goat that is slain and sacrificed represents Jesus Christ. He pays the penalty for our sins in our place so we can be forgiven and not have to die for our sins. He takes on Himself our share of the guilt for our sins.

The live goat that is released in the wilderness represents Satan. The share of guilt for our sins that belongs to him for tempting and deceiving mankind is placed on him and he bears his own guilt and his punishment for his share in our sins. Releasing the goat in the wilderness represents a great event that occurs after Christ's return - the binding and putting away of Satan so he can deceive the nations no more for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).

We in the Church of God understand the meaning of the holy days because we obey God by observing them. Because we believe and obey God, He opens our understanding. But the world is blinded because they do not believe and obey. Thus, some in the world think that both goats represent Christ.

We fast on this day to draw closer to God.

There is a connection between fasting and overcoming Satan and drawing closer to God to receive God's help. Before Jesus faced His trial of being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He fasted for forty days (Matthew 4:1-4). On another occasion, when His disciples were unable to cast out a demon, Jesus said that this kind of demon is not cast out except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:14-21). Besides showing that fasting is important for overcoming Satan, this shows a connection between fasting and prayer. To draw close to God, we need to pray during the time we are fasting.

By fasting and praying on the Day of Atonement, we draw closer to God. This fits with the purpose of the day, which is to represent our reconciliation with God.

The Day of Atonement is useful because we are commanded to fast on this day, and since we do fast, we are reminded once a year that we are capable of fasting. We can also be reminded of how fasting can help us draw close to God when done properly, with prayer and in a right attitude and spirit. And with these things in mind, we can voluntarily choose to fast from time to time during the year to draw close to God.

Fasting humbles us. It is a kind of voluntary trial. We suffer physically when we fast, and we are reminded of our limitations and our need for God. This is the exact opposite of Satan's attitude of vanity, pride, and conceit.

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11). See also Luke 18:9-14.

Speaking of Satan, the Bible say, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Again, speaking of Satan, the Bible says, "Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord God: "You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever" ' " (Ezekiel 28:12-19).

Noticed, Satan's heart was lifted up and he corrupted his wisdom for the sake of his splendor. In other words, his wisdom and his mind became twisted and perverted because he chose the way of pride and vanity, to exalt himself and lift up his heart. If God warned him of the consequences of vanity, and I am sure God did warn him before he sinned because the Bible is clear that it is God's way to warn, Satan probably did not believe God's warning and wanted to try the way of vanity and pride himself to see the result. It may have started out as an experiment on Lucifer's part, wanting to see what pride and vanity felt like, perhaps hoping, contrary to God's teachings, that he would be happier that way.

Whatever the reasons, Lucifer chose pride and vanity, and when he did that his mind became corrupted. Now he can never straighten out his own mind. How can he? He has become evil to the core, a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44). In order to straighten out his own mind, he would have to think clearly to see that he is wrong, but he cannot do that. He has made his choice long ago, and that choice set the course of his destiny. That is the sad result of sin. He has no one to blame but himself.

Likewise, pride and vanity can twist our thinking. But God knows that Satan is partially responsible for our sinful nature, and God has provided the atoning sacrifice of Christ so that we can be saved. We can be spiritually healed of our prideful, sinful nature, provided we are willing to choose God's way of belief in God's word, trust in God, obedience towards God, and humility - the same humility Jesus Christ exemplified. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).

What a contrast between Satan, who said, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God", and Christ, who came in the form of man and humbled himself and obeyed God to the point of death. In these two examples are illustrated the two ways of life Herbert W. Armstrong talked about.

By believing God's instructions to keep the holy days, by trusting God's word the Bible, by obeying God by fasting on Atonement, we are showing God that we are choosing the way of humility, trust, and obedience, the way that Jesus Christ followed, rather than Satan's way of disbelief towards God, distrust, pride, vanity, and disobedience.

And as we live our lives in that choice, as we believe and obey God, God forgives our sins through the power of Christ's sacrifice and heals our character through power of the Holy Spirit.

Our job is to live lives of overcoming, striving to believe, trust, and obey God in everything, and enduring unto the end. Then God will do His part to save us completely and bring us into His Kingdom to live with the Father and with Christ in happiness forever.

Here is a link to posts in this blog related to this subject:

"Atonement and the World", dated September 22, 2015, link:

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