The Value of Corporate Fasting
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Devotional for Day 10
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.
Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” — Joel 2:12-17 (ESV)
The book of Joel is centered on repentance. After a time of idolatry (among other sins) God sent a famine to the people of Israel. This famine was followed by the sending of the prophet Joel, who was used as an instrument to bring the Israelites to a recognition of their sins, and to turn back to their God in faith. This call continues to all people. We are to walk daily in repentance and faith.
It was God’s desire for the people of Israel to take their sin seriously. God desired heartfelt repentance. He wanted not merely the ritual of tearing garments, which was a sign of mourning, but a changed heart. God desires the same for us. Let us not let fasting and other spiritual disciplines be empty ritual, but always approach them with a contrite heart.
This call to repentance in Joel is not only an individual action, but God tells Israel to come together as a nation. They had a specific time set aside to fast together, and to mourn their sins. This included all people in the nation—even infants! Those who were entering into a time of celebration like a new husband and wife were even to engage in this fast.
Sins are not only individual. We, as people, live in and through relationships with others. We live as part of our families, communities, and our nation. Sin is so pervasive in this world that it affects each of those realms of life. We acknowledge this as we come together with us to a time of fasting and repentance.
As we fast at this time for our own nation, we do so trusting that Christ died for this nation. We pray that God would make the gospel manifest here, that faith may arise in the hearts of all people in this country.
God, our Creator and Redeemer, we confess that we do not take our sin as seriously as we should. We recognize that sometimes, You need to wake us up from our spiritual slumber as You did through the prophet Joel. We pray that this awakening would occur, not only in our own lives, but for all who belong to this nation. We ask this in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all people. Amen.
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union at Cornell