September at the Water Gate: High Holidays questions (2)

A metallic chain with an explosed link.
A metallic chain with an explosed link.

We continue with the high holidays questions in September and October. Today this watchman was led to read Nehemiah chapter 9 in the Bible. What happened after the Israelites gathered as one in the square before the Water Gate and listened to the reading of the words of God? Today’s reading tells us a bit more of the historical event then and how the practice has continued among some Jews and their descendants even till today. Again, the question is what does it really mean today and what has it achieved in an ancient people? Where are those descendants who have left their parents’ devout practice? Have they found another revealed holy way from the Almighty God?

The Day of Atonement is around the corner. This watchman had fasted on that day in previous years (some of which were recorded in previous posts in this blog). What does it mean to a Gentile Christian to observe the day of fasting, praying and reading of the Bible? Let us read the Bible verses and pray that each of us will hear the Lord’s message to us.

Note: The ancestors saw the miraculous signs of God and experienced His spiritual reality in their lives. They also acknowledged that God is a spiritual God. God is Spirit, just as Jesus has proclaimed. What does today’s generation know of this spiritual God? “ We are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing…” The ancestors also knew God wanted a serious commitment to Him as a people. Not just one individual. God does not changed. Jesus speaks of the required utmost commitment of His disciples.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Bible verses (quoted in parts with added boldness) in NIV

On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors.

They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua… They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. And the Levites…said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.[a]

Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous. You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea.[b] 10 You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh,..

13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good…

16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them…

19 Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

22 “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers

26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they turned their backs on your law. They killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies...27From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.

28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight…

29 “You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

32 Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us…33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly...36 “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces…

38 In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”[d]

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Why do we fast? Why do we fast on a specific day or specific days? Christians too want to know. This watchman has asked and found some answers. These are based on my own personal experience and the revelation received over a period of time. The best guide is still from the words of God. Read the verses on what God says about fasting and pray that each receives the message and spiritual value fro our daily living therein.

Watchman’s testimony: In addition to freeing ourselves from the ‘bondage’ of our carnal selves (obsession with food and drink and other ‘pleasure’ in this world), fasting has broken spiritual bondage and set spiritual captives free. The self-discipline of fasting is essential for a watchman and intercessor.

Some of the relevant verses (in NIV):

Isaiah 58 [Full Chapter]

[ True Fasting ] “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. …
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Jesus fasted:Matthew 4:2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 6:16-18 New International Version (NIV) (Jesus teaches on Fasting) 16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.