For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 6:16-18; Fasting (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Generally speaking, fasting was never intended to be used as a badge of honor or as a mark of super-spirituality. It is almost always associated with sorrow for sin and an expression of humility before God alone. In spite of this, Pharisees in Jesus’ time had turned fasting into something of a performance art—expecting figurative applause and literal admiration for their ostentatious displays of humility.

Old Testament Law only called for fasting once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) when the high priest would make a holy sacrifice for the sins of the nation. In spite of that, religious leaders by Jesus’ time had added 108 required fasting days to the year!

Pharisees and other religious leaders insisted that the devout fast four times a year to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. They also insisted on ritual fasting twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday. To make sure everyone knew they were among the religious elite, those who fasted on these days made a point of exaggerating the outward signs of a fast: A disheveled, haggard look; some kind of mark on their faces—likely smeared ashes that added to a gaunt impression; and ashes poured over their head and clothing. As one Bible historian reports, “This was a pretentious way of letting others see and appreciate their extensive efforts to increase their godliness.”

Jesus roundly condemned this kind of spiritual-act-as-preening-exercise. Instead, he advised that fasting should be a humble, intimate moment between God and the individual person—not a public display of self-admiration.

 

Works Cited:

[RBD 373-374, ASB, 1568]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 6:16-18; Fasting (Factual Info)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus’ instruction about fasting assumes that it is a normal part of a life devoted to God…but why fast? Why did (and do) people go without food and/or water as a religious observance?

Here are a few reasons from Scripture:

• Once a year, as a commemorative action on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This annual observance was a solemn moment when a high priest offered a symbolic sacrifice for the collective sins of the entire nation of Israel. (See Leviticus 16:29 and Jeremiah 36:6.)

• During calls for national repentance. (See Nehemiah 9:1.)

• In times of public or personal crisis. (See Judges 20:26 and 2 Samuel 12:15-18).

• Four times a year as a commemorative action to remind of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (See Zechariah 7:2-5, 8:19.)

• As an expression of mourning. (See Matthew 9:14-15)

• As a mysterious weapon in spiritual warfare. (See Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29.)

• As a means of humbling oneself before God. (See Isaiah 58:3-5.)

• As an expression of worship. (See Acts 13:2.)

• As a ritual of commissioning others into leadership within the church. (See Acts 13:2-3 and 14:23

 

Works Cited:

[RBD, 111, 373; MAC, 1384]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 6:5-15; Prayer (Word Study)

posted by Mike Nappa

Forgiveness is a crucial element of The Lord’s Prayer, and it always carries both vertical and horizontal applications. “Forgive us our debts” Jesus said in Matthew 6:12—a vertical, us-to-God appeal. Then he said, “…As we have also forgiven our debtors”—a horizontal, us-to-others commitment.

Jesus emphasized this dual application immediately after ending his prayer, saying, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). That seems to be a lot riding on an attitude of forgiveness! So what does it mean to forgive?

The Greek word translated “forgive” in Matthew 6:12 of our English Bibles is aphiēmi. Its literal meaning is, “to send away.” The image, then, is that of God picking up all the wrongs we’ve done and hurling them into nonexistence. This is something the Old Testament refers to as God sending our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (see Psalm 103:12). It’s as if, when we pray “Forgive us…,” we ask God to perform a miracle, flinging our sins like a cosmic baseball so far away that they cease to exist, therefore absolving us of the required punishment for those sins. And that’s what he does in response to our prayer.

What’s even more amazing about this miracle of forgiveness is its ability to transform everything and everyone it touches.

When God pours his forgiveness over the life of a man or woman, he not only answers the “Forgive us…” plea found in Matthew 6:12, he also empowers that man or woman to fulfill the second part of that verse, “…as we have also forgiven…” We are transformed by the experience of God’s selfless forgiveness, which in turn opens the door for us to be changed again through the act of forgiving others.

What this means for you and I is this: The shackles of our hurtful experiences aren’t ones we have to wear. We can “send away” that pain by seeking God’s forgiveness first—and then gratefully choosing to forgive others in turn.

 

Works Cited:

[VCE, 250]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 6:5-15; Prayer (Rhetorical Influences)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew 6:9-13 is one of the most famous biblical texts of all time. Known as “The Lord’s Prayer,” it records Jesus’ specific instructions for how to pray.

It’s important to notice that, immediately before giving this text, Christ warned his followers to avoid “babbling like pagans” when they prayed (see Matthew 6:7-8). Pagans at that time viewed prayer as something like a business contract that had the sole purpose of earning favor from whichever deity was its object. As a result, Greeks peppered their prayers with all types of honorifics and titles, hoping to flatter their way into heavenly favor. Other pagan prayers did the same, and also reminded the deity of all the ways the pray-er had kept his end of the blessing bargain by making sacrifices and/or defending the reputation of the so-called god.

Jesus dismissed this approach to prayer as worthless and insulting. Instead he offered a prayer structure based on an intimate, family relationship with our Heavenly Father. Many people today call this a “model prayer,” because it demonstrates key elements of prayer for us. In Jesus’ day, though, his disciples would have known it as an “Index Prayer.”

Index Prayers were common in ancient Judaism, something a rabbi would use to teach people to practice praying. These were what we might call “directed prayers,” delivered in outline form. For instance, a rabbi would “gather together a number of short sentences, each of which suggested an item for prayer.” The intent was that a person following an Index Prayer would start with one of those statements, then “enlarge upon it, drawing out some of its implications and applications.” They were not to simply memorize and recite each line, but to use each line as a catalyst for deeper, more personal times with God. That’s the kind of “Index Prayer” that Jesus gave in Matthew 6:9-13, and it has proved a timeless model for Christ followers ever since.

 

Works Cited:

[BBC, 62; APB, 92]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Posts

Matthew 6:16-18; Fasting (Cultural Commentary)
Generally speaking, fasting was never intended to be used as a badge of honor or as a mark of super-spirituality. It is almost always associated with sorrow for sin and an expression of humility before God alone. In spite of this, Pharisees in Jesus’ time had turned fasting into something of a per

posted 12:00:00pm Oct. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 6:16-18; Fasting (Factual Info)
Jesus’ instruction about fasting assumes that it is a normal part of a life devoted to God…but why fast? Why did (and do) people go without food and/or water as a religious observance? Here are a few reasons from Scripture: • Once a year, as a commemorative action on the Day of Atonement

posted 12:00:58pm Oct. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 6:5-15; Prayer (Word Study)
Forgiveness is a crucial element of The Lord’s Prayer, and it always carries both vertical and horizontal applications. “Forgive us our debts” Jesus said in Matthew 6:12—a vertical, us-to-God appeal. Then he said, “…As we have also forgiven our debtors”—a horizontal, us-to-others com

posted 12:00:57pm Oct. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 6:5-15; Prayer (Rhetorical Influences)
Matthew 6:9-13 is one of the most famous biblical texts of all time. Known as “The Lord’s Prayer,” it records Jesus’ specific instructions for how to pray. It’s important to notice that, immediately before giving this text, Christ warned his followers to avoid “babbling like pagans”

posted 12:00:56pm Oct. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 6:5-15; Prayer (Cultural Commentary)
If Jesus’ description of flamboyant, hypocritical praying sounds like grand theatre, that’s because it probably was. “And when you pray,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:5, “do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by m

posted 12:00:55pm Oct. 13, 2014 | read full post »


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