on, we find that Ezra proclaims a fast for the purposes of humbling and
petitioning God for a safe journey.
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river
of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him
a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.
So a fast is definitely a way to humble ones' self.
that God rescues or delivers the 'afflicted' and the 'needy,' which
comforts us in our own affliction.
And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; It
shall exult in His salvation. All my bones will say, "LORD, who is like
You, who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, and
the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?" (Psalm 35:9,10 NASB)
The humble have seen the salvation of God and
are glad, and God hears the needy. But I am afflicted and in pain; may
Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high. I will praise the
name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving. And it
will please the LORD better than an ox or a young bull with horns and
hoofs. The humble have seen it and are glad; you who seek God, let
your heart revive. For the LORD hears the needy and does not
despise His who are prisoners. (Psalm 69:29-33 NASB)
The next reference tells us that affliction helps us to learn to keep
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now
I keep Your word. You are good and do good; teach me Your
statutes. The arrogant have forged a lie against me; with all my
heart I will observe Your precepts. Their heart is covered with
fat, but I delight in Your law. It is good for me that I was
afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth
is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. Your
hands made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn
Your commandments. May those who fear You see me and be glad,
because I wait for Your word. I know, O LORD, that Your judgments
are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. O
may Your lovingkindness comfort me, according to Your word to Your
servant. May Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your
law is my delight. (Psalm 119:67-77 NASB)
Another psalm gives us a sweet picture of humility in the form of a
O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes
haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too
difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like
a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child
within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and
forever. (Psalm 131 NASB)
His Word is also equated to His statutes, commands, law, judgments,
and compassion. When we afflict ourselves by fasting on the day that He
told us to, we are following His Word, and in a sense are fasting from
the things we would otherwise do.
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth
who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility.
Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the LORD'S anger.
Zephaniah makes a connection for us in chapter 2 verse 3 between
being humble, carrying out His ordinances, righteousness, and perhaps
being hidden in the day of the Lord's anger. The 'day of the Lord's
anger' is frequently connected with the Day of Atonement. So humility is
again intimately associated with following God's commands, and this
reference describes a future benefit also.
Jeremiah has an excellent discussion of some of the finer points of
humility as opposed to mistreating people, especially in chapter 22
around the middle verses.
"He pled the cause of the afflicted and
needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" declares
Here God tells Jehoiakim, one of the more wicked kings of Judah, that
building cedar-lined rooms in fine houses is not what makes a righteous
king, but rather seeing to the needs of the 'afflicted and needy' like
his father did (Josiah, one of the best kings). It is even said here
that pleading the cause of the afflicted and needy is what it means to
Isaiah 58 speaks of the type of fast that God wants, which is to fast
from wickedness. In this sense we fast all the time, all year-round. The
whole chapter is a good section to read and contemplate, but verses five
and six highlight the differences between 'looking' like you are fasting
(verse 5) and actually fasting (or humbling) in a manner that pleases
God (verse six).
5 "Is it a fast like this which I choose, a
day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed
and for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a
fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD? 6 Is this not the fast
which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of
the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?"
(Isaiah 58:5,6 NASB)
Our Messiah Yahshua is described in many places with humble
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is
coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and
mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah
And Isaiah also has something to say about humility in verse 2 of
"For My hand made all these things, thus all
these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I
will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles
at My word."
Humility and a contrite spirit seem to be related to 'trembling at
God's Word.' So we can probably safely conclude from this that the
fasting we do on Yom Kippur is worthless without a humble and contrite
spirit, one which does the things God commands.
Isaiah chapter 66
seems to be the source material for Jesus when He is giving us His
'Sermon on the Mount' in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. There are many
similarities. As a matter of fact, much of the Bible message repeats
itself over and over again, to the point that Jesus does not really
preach a great deal of 'new' information so much as He emphasizes the
information already given by God in what was written before.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they
shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit
the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the
merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for
they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been
persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you,
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same
way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:3-12
These character traits are not separate traits of different people,
nor are they individually exhibited one at a time. These are different
aspects of the same person - the one who trembles at God's Word, who
humbles himself before His God and Father and Messiah by doing what is
requested or commanded.
So it appears that fasting is the way to
humble oneself on Yom Kippur, both through doing what God says in the
first place and through the concept of being hungry. We learn from the
discipline of hungering that we need more than food for our stomachs. We
also need food for our spirit, which is the doing of God's Word or
practicing what we preach. Going without food and 'looking' like we are
fasting but treating others in a wicked fashion at other times
invalidates the effect of the fast and we might as well 'pig out' (pun
intended) if we are not going to 'fast' all year long by doing
Affliction minus misery. However, 'afflicting
our souls' does not necessarily mean we are to be miserable. Jesus tells
us in Matthew chapter six that we should definitely not go around
looking like we are 'afflicted.'
"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy
face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that
they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to
you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be
noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who
sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:16-18 NASB)
This also combines with the idea of a holy convocation or assembly to
suggest maybe that singing and dancing would not be an activity that was
out of the question, even if it was a little more subdued and reflective
than the usual 'get down, let's party' type of celebration.
Affliction for the incapable. But what about people who cannot go
without eating, such as nursing mothers or small children or those with
medical conditions? In my opinion it is safe to say, after meditating on
the references given so far, that there are probably a number of other
ways for a person who is incapable of fasting to 'humble' themselves.
For instance, food could be basic 'meat and potatoes' style, without the
frills of, say, cake and ice cream. Perhaps quantities could also be
limited if not eliminated. Other activities could help with humbling the
soul, such as avoiding entertainment and reading the Word all day (a
good idea anytime for anyone). Fasting is as much a function of attitude
as it is of hunger, although the physical effects of hunger work
extremely well to drive home God's point. Man indeed does not live by