How meaningful is our yearly fasting before God and does it make us ready for supper? As the world of Christianity prepare for one of the most important ceremonies in its yearly calendar, taking the ‘Lord Supper’, many are undoubtedly engaging in or planning a series of fasting meetings, as it were, ‘to make ourselves ready’ or ‘worthy’ to take the supper. This because many interprets Paul’s message to the Corinthians, (1 Cor. 11), who were taking the Lords supper in an ‘unworthy’ manner, to mean spiritual inadequacy, corruption and ungodliness. The unworthy manner Paul clearly addresses was a lack of respect, visible by their haste to eat, not waiting for others, gluttonous behaviour, not eating at home but looking for a belly full, even getting drunk on the wine’, and as such not recognising the solemnity of the ceremony and the important symbolism it represents.
Firstly, if it was about holiness, then no man is holy to take the supper. Secondly, no man knows the time or hour of the Lords return, He may come as a thief in the night, if we are not already prepared, and we will not have any notice to prepare. Visionary interpreters and preachers have warned that this type of yearly exercise of rigorous fasting before supper, is not in line with Scripture, because if we are not already ready and prepared to take the supper, then we are not ready for the Lords imminent but sudden return. So the supper is not about being ‘unworthy’ in the sense of being sinful to take it, but ‘unworthy’ in the sense of not recognising the significance of what the symbols ‘unleavened bread and wine’ of the Lord’s supper represents, Christ death, His blood shed for humanity’s sins, being our Passover Lamb.
Israel’s by God’s Design
Israel in mourning the destruction of the Temple, went on a series of fasting, but was it fasting for God’s benefits or theirs?
‘Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?’ (Zech. 7:5 NIV)
In the fourth year of King Darius’ rule, a delegation is sent to the Prophet Zechariah in Jerusalem) by the Jews who remained in Babylonia. They enquired Zechariah whether they should continue fasting and mourning the destruction of the first Temple since the Jewish people had returned to the Land of Israel and had begun rebuilding the Holy Temple. Is it appropriate to continue to fast and mourn over the destruction of the Temple, as they have been doing annually for decades? The prophet’s response is clear. In God’s eyes, fasting and other external signs of mourning have no value if not complemented with sincere repentance and principled behaviour (V. 9-10). This answer was directed to the inhabitants of the Land of Israel, as well. The Jews in this period made the physical return to the Land of Israel, but their actions needed to match the spirituality and morality required of the inhabitants of the Promised Land. Israel made sacrifices to return to the land but it was their actions that carry the most spiritual significance for the world.
I will submit that if the world, both Jew and gentile truly desire to know the will of God in doubtful matters, we must not only consult his word and gifted interpreters, but seek his direction by fervent prayer and fasting. As those who would know God’s mind should consult with God’s ministers and, in doubtful cases, such as ‘Lord Supper and fasting’ should seek advice of those whose spiritual giftedness make it their business to search for the truth in the Scriptures. The Jews seemed to question whether they ought to continue their fasts, seeing that the city and temple were likely to be finished soon. The first answer to their inquiry is a sharp reproof of hypocrisy. These fasts were not acceptable to God, unless observed in a better manner, and to better purposes. There fasts was the form of duty, but no life, or soul, or power in their prayers. Holy callisthenics are to be done to God, looking to His word as a rule thumb, and His glory as our goal, seeking to please God and obtain His favour.
However, self-gratification was at the centre of all Israel’s actions, and so it seems for us in modern Christendom. For God it was not enough to sacrifice or weep on fasting days. Rather they should have searched the Scriptures and enquire of the prophets message, that they might have seen what was the ground of God’s controversy with their fathers. Whether Jew or gentile are in prosperity or adversity, we must be called upon to leave our sins, and to do our duty of representing God in all season, living holy lives. The season of Lord Supper should not find us napping, that we have to arrange special fasting to get us ready for the day. If you find yourselves in this situation I suggest you take a serious look on what Paul meant by ‘unworthy’ in his advice to the Corinthians.