The Duty, Object, and Method of Keeping a Public Fast
Joel 1:13-14
Gird yourselves, and lament, you priests: howl, you ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth…

Unusual duties require unusual preparation.

I. THE DUTY OF KEEPING A PUBLIC FAST. It is enjoined on due occasions by God Himself. In Joel's time what was the occasion? It was a famine. How strikingly it is described. The Word of God repeatedly declares that such a calamity is sent on nations as a punishment for national sins. When God sends a famine in punishment for our sins He Himself calls for humiliation and fasting. This duty has been recognised from time to time. As in the days of Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, Jehoshaphat, Ezra, etc. There is nothing in the New Testament to set the duty aside. We have no instance of a Christian nation fasting, but we have no instance of a nation having become Christian.

II. THE OBJECT OF A FAST DAY. Not to provide opportunity for seeking our own pleasure. Not substituting food equally or more pleasant, even by way of change. Some call it fasting to deny themselves food in one form, to take it in another, with equal or greater zest. Fasting is not an end in itself, but a means conducive to an end. The object is, humiliation for sin in order to pardon and justification. Therefore ministers must aim to arouse the national conscience. There must be humiliation in order to reflection; the deepest contrition of heart for sin, in order to turning wholly to God, with faith in the revelation of Himself in the Gospel and in all His grace, mercy, long-suffering, loving-kindness, and readiness to forgive and save, through Jesus Christ. And we must determine on reformation. A fast is worthless without that desirable end.

III. THE METHOD OF KEEPING A PUBLIC FAST. No formal rules can be laid down. The rights of conscience and private judgment must be respected.

1. Sanctify the day. Set it apart from all common uses. And seek grace to sanctify it aright.

2. Attend in a right spirit on public worship, joining in public humiliation and united confession.

3. There should be special and appropriate prayer, both at home, and at church.

4. Make special gifts to the poor.

5. Specially honour Christ as Mediator. He can feel for the hungry, the famishing, the dying. He can pity poor perishing sinners. Let Him come between, and intercede with His own effectual intercession, and the famine shall cease.

(John Hambleton, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.

WEB: Put on sackcloth and mourn, you priests! Wail, you ministers of the altar. Come, lie all night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God, for the meal offering and the drink offering are withheld from your God's house.

Public Fasting
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