The time when Prophet Haroon instituted the first fast in Israel
by Mert Hershberger
In the Tawrat, the book of Numbers chapter 10, the first fast in Israel’s history is recorded.
The context of this event was the dedication of the Israelite priests to minister before the LORD. The priests were God’s appointed servants who would give offerings to the Lord God and draw near to the Almighty on behalf of the entire nation of Israel. The book of Exodus had ended with a record of the construction of the tent of meeting, where the people of Israel were to worship Yahweh. It was not an easy approach to Him.
First, Israel had been led out into the wilderness following a series of 10 plagues that God had sent to judge the stubbornness of Pharaoh specifically and Egypt in general. By the end of it, the LORD had made it clear how serious he was about the proper response to His commands: those families that did not apply the blood of a lamb to the doorposts and lintels of their homes would lose their firstborn. That night there was wailing in Egypt, from the poorest slave to the house of Pharaoh, many lost their children.
Then, Yahweh had led the people to Mount Sinai in the desert where He met them. There was thundering and noise on the mountain. It was a terrifying sight. People realized that they did not deserve to approach the LORD and that they couldn’t approach Him any old way that they wanted. They pleaded with Moses to speak to God for them. The Lord agreed that this was best, so Moses became the Hebrew mediator for the Hebrew people. He delivered the Law that God gave to Israel.
In the midst of the giving of the Law, Israel rebelled against the Lord and built a calf-idol and called it the Lord. They threw a party. They were having fun until the wrath of the Lord came upon them as the Lord sent Moses their mediator down the mountain to call for their purification. The Levites, the tribe Moses was from, was zealous and killed 3,000 of their brothers at that time.
God demanded holiness, because He is the Lord our God and He is holy!
When the LORD set aside Aaron, Moses’ brother, and his sons as priests, it was evident that if they were to please the Lord in their worship and mediation on behalf of the nation, then they would have to be holy. After the first several chapters of the book of Leviticus (Tawrat) enumerate the offerings the priests were to make on behalf of the people, chapters 8-9 are filled with a description of the ordination of the priests and the initiation of the Israelite worship of the Lord God. But suddenly, in Leviticus 10, after a crescendo of life in the nation, we read these words: “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” These men had not been holy before the Lord, and so they were consumed with fire.
Reading the context of what happened in that chapter, it seems that Nadab and Abihu may have been drunk when they entered the Lord’s presence and so they offered strange fire. Therefore, God established a new statute in Israel: those who were to stand before the Lord in worship must not drink strong drink. This is sort of a partial fast. This is one argument some Christians use for abstaining from alcohol. We are called to worship the Lord at all times, therefore, we must abstain from, or fast from, alcohol during our lives. There also are other reasons some choose to abstain from alcohol, but this matter of having good deciding capabilities and not having dimmed judgment is central.
The LORD in His Holiness demanded that Aaron and his sons that were consecrating the temple not defile their bodies or become disheveled. They were told to proceed with the worship and consecration of the sanctuary and Israel, which included sin offerings of which they were supposed to eat the choice portions.
However, Aaron and his sons declined to eat their allotted portion, even though they had to stay in the tent all the days that they were consecrating the tent of meeting. They burnt up the sin offering. When Moses looked for it, initially, he was upset and became angry with his brother, but then when his brother explained that it didn’t seem right to eat this food shortly after losing his sons. It seemed sacrilegious, if you will, to feast on the failures of his family, and so they fasted over the failures of their family and the nation. And Moses the mediator was satisfied.
This is the question: Will we feast or fast when failure looms? The world will say, “Let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die.” Have fun while you can. The Lord’s chosen instead set aside their own pleasure when the Lord is displeased that we may humbly seek the Father’s favor once more. When you fast or when you feast, why do you do it? Are you seeking to impress others? Moses was initially unhappy about the fast. He initially insisted they should have feasted on the sacrifices. However, further reflection drew out better motives, they were seeking to impress the Lord. Do you eat or not eat simply to impress others with your sanctity or do you seek to seek God with all your actions? Do you mourn over your sins and the sins of your family? Or do you merely meet to taste the flesh of beasts at your feasts? Is your fasting a show or are you truly humbled as Aaron was?
In Israel, this became memorialized at the feast which opened the fall calendar of Israel: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a day when Jews and Hebraic people around the world fast for 25 hours and seek the Lord. This day is accompanied with the Days of Awe, a period of time when Jews do a moral inventory and examine themselves. Yes, we all fall short of the glory of God. Yes, we all sin. But we would be wise to confess our real, actual, and awful sins before the God of glory that He might forgive us. After all the Lord said to Moses what He still speaks to all people,
“Among those who approach me
I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.”
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