DEUTERONOMY 8: RAMADAN, FASTING, AND HOLY MOMENTS
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF FASTING?
During Ramadan 2018 Jill and I and eight others from THE JOURNEY participated with Memorial Drive Church of Christ, Muslims4Mercy, and Islamic Relief in an Iftar dinner as part of a Tulsa effort called "Welcome Neighbors."
We sat at tables with people from different faiths, with differing political and lifestyle views, and we had civil, merciful, loving conversation. There was a buzz in the area of excitement and conversation as 200 people crossed religious, cultural, ethnic, lifestyle barriers erected by both our religions and our culture. We respectfully asked questions of each others religion and views. We chatted about silly and funny things, where we're from, our quirks, food. And the food for the Iftar dinner was delicious, a buffet of a variety of meats and vegetables and desserts.
The dinner started around 8:30 because Muslims were fasting for Ramadan. We learned from our Muslim friends how fasting and staying up late or rising early to pray wears on your body and mind for the month, but that the fellowship of these dinners, prayer and fasting leads to deeper spiritual insights and awareness of God's greatness.
THANK YOU TO ALIYE SHIMI OF MUSLIMS4MERCY AND DOUG TOWNSDIN OF MEMORIAL DRIVE CHURCH OF CHRIST
Thank you to Aliye Shimi of Muslims4Mercy and Doug Townsdin of Memorial Drive Church of Christ for their tireless efforts to bring people together in Tulsa for deeper dialogue, wider fellowship, and more loving relationships with our neighbors. What happened at those tables between the most diverse gathered group of people I'd seen in Tulsa--many religions, cultures, lifestyles--was a holy moment of mercy for one another that we need more of in this world.
As my uncle Rudy Taylor posted on Facebook, "Salaam, Shalom and Peace" . . . out! I added the "out" part.
IS FASTING REQUIRED FOR RAMADAN?
People think Muslims require fasting, but nothing is required like that. So Christians make excuses that we should not require fasting because we do not want to be legalistic. But who says we can't fast together and still not require it? We can't force people not to eat! But I think we would do well to fast together to live the spirit of texts of scripture like Deuteronomy 8. One of the things I expressed at the table is that Christians have lost or never really had very well a sense of group fasting.
WAS JESUS QUOTING DEUTERONOMY WHEN TEMPTED BY SATAN IN THE WILDERNESS?
We should not miss the similarities between the wilderness wandering of Israel forty years and the forty days of wilderness temptation of Jesus. The comparison and the story is intentionally connected by New Testament writers Luke and Matthew, the first quote is an obvious quote from Deuteronomy 8, quoted here in context and bolded where Jesus is quoted:
Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
This is a powerful portion of the speech of Moses to the next generation of Israel entering the land, because something very important is connected here that we "fat and happy" Americans would do well to heed! When you get into the land and live in your fine new homes and eat your fill, "Do not say to yourself, 'My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, so that He may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors . . ." (Deut 8:17-18).
Moses goes on to say if Israel forgets God, they will perish like the other nations that have not remembered God. Thud. Yes, the chapter ends like that too, so I try not to clean those things up or make them nice! Forgetting God is not nice.
Have we gotten into our homes, eaten our food, worn our clothes, gone to our work and thought all those "ours" are literal, that we have by our power gained all those things? Would fasting be a good remedy for remembering God?
One of the big connections made by Jews and Muslims that Christians often do not make is that fasting is a form of recalling what God has done for us, to remember that it is not our wealth we put in our wallets, food we put in our bellies, or clothes we put on our backs. God is all in all, God is everything, and every breath we take in comes from God. Fasting reminds us of this. Some Christians go with donuts for Lent or coffee and we really swoon at each other for such dedication! What if you took a step today and planned a one day fast? What if you took another step and organized a fast with family and your church and experience the power of remember God's rescue and provision as Israel did in Deuteronomy 8?
PRAYER FOR FASTING
LORD, teach us through the example of Jews who fast and Muslims who fast to remember as Deuteronomy 8 calls Israel to remember. Give us grace to not be the over-fed and under-happy as so many of us are, but show us even more deeply that this leads to spiritual ruin and destruction when we eat mindlessly. Teach us lessons from the focus, awareness, and mindfulness of practitioners of Buddhism how to not simply take in food without thinking about where it came from and who had to work for us to get this food, and that just because we have money to pay for it doesn't mean we own it, deserve it, or can be snotty about it. Teach us to look back upstream at the injustices perpetrated on immigrants who are doing the work slaves used to do and are intimidated by our government and unfair laws so they will just shut up and work and provide our chicken nuggets and strawberries for our smoothies. Teach us to look downstream at all our trash, waste, and consumption. Help us to fast from more than just food but also from our constant consuming, and start paying more attention to You, O Lord our God.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.