Friday, July 30, 2021

For Me?


“Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?  When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? – Zechariah 7:5-6

Sometimes we treat our relationship with God like a little child with a board of gold stars.  I’ll do this, and I’ll get a star.  I’ll do that, and I’ll get a star.  The star is what I want, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

The Israelites had returned to their land after 70 years of captivity in Babylon.  They were taken captive because they would not worship God but chose to continue to worship idols.  And even after they were taken into captivity, the majority did not worship God.  Yet in that period of time they set aside time in the fifth month and seventh month to cry out and fast to God.  Why? Because this might bring them out of captivity. 

When they returned to their land, they came to Zechariah, the prophet, and asked if they should still perform these acts of so-called repentance.  God’s words back to them reveals that He knows our hearts – not just our actions.

God asked them “did you really fast for me – for Me?”.  That second ‘for Me’ emphasizes that they did not do it for Him.  Perhaps it was out of tradition.  They did it because their parents had done it and their grandparents had done it.  Perhaps they did it for other reasons.  I’ve heard several people talk about how much weight they lost when they were fasting.  Fasting with that in mind is not for God.  Neither is fasting because your whole church is doing it.  There’s nothing wrong with fasting together, but God says that it should be private. It’s to be seen only by God (Matthew 6:16-18).

What God wanted was not their acts of repentance, but their heart.  A heart that loves God is obedient to God.  In 1 Samuel 15:22 God says that “to obey is better than sacrifice”.  But that’s not the only time this is spoken in the Bible.  Proverbs 21:3 says, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.  Psalms 51:16 says, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.”  But what does it say about obedience?  John 14:15 makes it as clear as glass saying, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Friends, God doesn’t want our suffering.  He wants our love and respect.  He doesn’t desire us to look to Him as our slave master, but as our Father.  It’s not about earning a gold star, it’s about showing God our love for Him.

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