Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. Beginning in the 4th century, the early church began a seven-week preparation for Easter called Lent. This was a season of repentance and fasting from ordinary activity and perishable food, so that Christians could feast on the true and eternal Living Bread. New believers experienced extensive preparation for Easter baptism during this time, including public penance (baptism was taken very seriously).
Lent is based on the period of forty days spent by Jesus in the wilderness before the beginning of His public ministry. Just as Jesus fasted for forty days to prepare Himself for temptation, rejection and our redemption, so He teaches us to hunger not after food that perishes, but for the only lasting nourishment of God’s every Word. By this Bread, Moses was fed for forty days when he received God’s Covenant on Mount Sinai. Forgetting earthly food, he feasted in the presence of God on His Words.
Our gracious Father continues to give us this same Bread if we hunger for it enough to fast from the cotton candy of life, which often holds our attention and affection. As we enter Lent in 2018, may we consider the sustenance of our diets and lives and see if we are not willing to sacrifice some of our cotton candy attempts to satisfy or repress the deep hunger pains of our hearts, in favor of feasting on the life-giving nourishment of the Word of God, which brings us health of mind, body and soul, leads us to justice seeking action, and endures to eternal life.
Let’s not be satisfied with our I-Pads, smart phones, Netflix, Facebook, and sports or any other perishable food. Nor let us bring greater reproach by setting the table and getting out the china as if we desire steak from heaven when we are really quite satisfied with our cotton candy diets (See Isaiah 58 printed below). No! Let us not be so easily contented. Let us not be so easily satisfied. I’ve realized just how weak my desires are by giving up sugar for 2018. My wife and I, and now children by their own choosing, are refraining from processed sugar, corn syrups, etc., except for holidays and immediate family birthdays. We still get fruit, agave, and honey. Yet my mind and body tell me I require sugar. More sugar. I don’t. And I am reminding myself every day that I don’t live merely by bread or sugar or any food for that matter. We eat to live. We live for God by hearing His Word and His Word leads us to seek justice.
May we be a people who are truly humble and contrite of spirit and who tremble at the Word of God (Isaiah 66:2). May the Lord hear our requests and not only give us hunger pains for His Word, but satisfy these hunger pains with Manna from Heaven over the next 40 days, leading us to increasingly justice seeking action!
1 “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.
2 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.
3 ‘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.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 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?
6 “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?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.