Though we may not think about it very much in our day-to-day lives, we are currently a nation at war.
Pastor Ricky revisited Leviticus 16, where a group of Old Testament freedom fighters are in a battle for spiritual freedom, now wandering in the desert. Because God wants to have a relationship with His children, He sets up ways for them to connect with Him. As part of these laws, on one day of the year (the Day of Atonement) Aaron the high priest must enter the holy of holies to prwesent a sacrifice and ask God to forgive the sins of the people.
Beginning in Leviticus 16:3, we find Gods instructions for how Aaron is to prepare for entering the holy of holies in the tabernacle. In the system that God created, there must be death in order to have life: a goat must be sacrificed as an offering for peoples sin.
He is to cast lots for the two goatsone lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat. (v. 8-10)
Next, we looked at a passage from the book of Luke, where Jesus is choosing the twelve men who will be his disciples. He calls Levi (Matthew), who is a tax-gatherer, much like a government-backed criminal of his day. After Levi leaves his tax booth to follow Jesus, he honors Jesus by holding a large banquet at his home, at which many tax collectors and other known sinners are present. The religious teachers and Pharisees do not like this demonstration and are upset with Jesus for associating with sinners.
They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." Luke 5:33
The religious leaders of Jesus day believed that the more work they did, the more guaranteed their salvation would be. Originally, the act of fasting and praying was set aside for the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus. But by Jesus time, fasting and praying had become a way to show how religious and righteous one was. The Pharisees and teachers of the law thought that by fasting and praying, they could bring more of Gods favor to themselves and they wanted everyone to know this was so. Thus, fasting became a ritualistic demonstration for the benefit of men.
Jesus reply to the Pharisees is even more upsetting to them, as He not only comments on fasting and prayer, but also acknowledges himself as the Messiah.
Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast." (v. 34-35)
Jesus brings us back to the true purpose of fasting and proclaims that while He is on earth, there should be celebration. He also alludes to His own coming death and resurrection, where He will do the work of salvation Himself. This work of His perfect sacrifice cannot and does not need to be improved by our own prayer and fasting.
Hebrews 10:10-12 tells us, For Gods will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time.