16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
In this passage we read about how we should fast. To fast, or abstain from eating as a religious practice, was common throughout Jewish life. This practice was annually observed on the “Day of Atonement,” and we even see Jesus fasting during his earthly life. The purpose is not to merely deprive oneself, but it is an intentional sacrifice of earthly needs to focus on our heavenly Father.
When we read in the Old Testament (Leviticus 16:29-34; 23:26-32) about the Day of Atonement, we learn on this day the Jewish people did not work and did not eat. They humbled themselves, mourned over their sins and wore sackcloth and ash on their faces. The priests made sacrifices so the people could be cleansed of their sins.
This day symbolizes Jesus. Because Jesus came to earth and lived a sinless life, He became our perfect and final sacrifice by giving his life on the Cross. A priest is no longer required to make a sacrifice on our behalf! Forgiveness is ours to accept through Jesus Christ.
The passage in Leviticus goes on to give us direct instruction on how to fast. This practice is to be shared between us and God. Verse 16 says clearly, those who distort their appearance and make their actions a show to others will receive their reward: adulation from others. A fleeting and hollow prize! But when we humble ourselves and share our practice solely with God, the reward is a deeper relationship with our Creator. Verse 17 says, “anoint your head and wash your face,” which seems like an odd command. But what it actually depicts is ridding ourselves of the ashes and sackcloth, mourning sin no longer, living in joy that forgiveness offers!
What is something you can sacrifice today in order to spend that time focusing on Jesus? (Ex. TV, Social Media, a meal, a workout, etc.)