Zechariah 7:1-14   (CLICK HERE FOR BIBLE VERSES)

Hi GAMErs!

Today’s passage is Zechariah 7:1-14.  As usual, I encourage you to read the passage yourself first and see what you can glean with the Holy Spirit’s help, then read the GAME sharing below.  Let’s go!

Zechariah 7:1-7 (NIV)
 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev.
 The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the LORD
 by asking the priests of the house of the LORD Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”
 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me:
 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?
 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?
 Are these not the words the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?'”

On verses 1-7:  Almost 2 years after Zechariah saw those 8 visions described in Zechariah 1-6, the Lord speaks to Zechariah again.  This time God speaks in response to a question that the people of Bethel were asking.  The people of Bethel asked the priests and prophets whether they should continue to mourn and fast as they usually do every year (v4).  God responds by questioning the people’s real motivations for their past fasting and feasting — “Was it really for me that you fasted?  And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?” (v5-6)   This is not to say that fasting is not important to God, but that if you fast or do anything “religious” with the wrong attitude, it becomes meaningless and vain.

What can we learn from this?

1. When you’re wondering whether or not to do something, ask God.  The reason you may not be hearing God is because you’re not asking God for His guidance. (James 1:5)

2. God cares not just about whether you participate in things like fasting or feasting, but even more God cares about why you do those things.  Is it for God or is it for yourself?  Are you doing it in a God-centered way or a self-centered way?  As a follower of Jesus, aim to do everything with a heart to glorify God.  As Paul would later write, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  When you consciously do anything with the aim of glorifying God, that is worship.

Zechariah 7:9-11 (NIV) 
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 
10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’ 
11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. 

On verses 7-14:  Instead of self-centered fasting and feasting, God wants His people to serve the needs of those around them, to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.  Do not plot evil against each other.” (v9-10)

This message was not a new message.  In fact, as verse 7 states, God had used other prophets to speak the same message to previous generations of Jews who lived during a much more comfortable and prosperous time.  For example, the prophet Isaiah wrote down a similar message in Isaiah 58:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:5-8)

However, those previous generations did not listen to God’s prophets — “they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets” (v11-12a).  As a result, the Lord was angry with these previous generations (v12b) and scattered them among the nations, sending both them and their future generations into exile.

What can we learn from this?   Having a heart for God means having a heart for people.  You can’t love God and not love the people around you.  How we treat and serve others, especially those less fortunate than we are, matters greatly to God, even more so than fasting.

Father, thank You for reminding me today that You do not look only at appearances.  You look at the heart.  Whenever I do anything “spiritual”, whether it’s fasting, or serving others, or listening to Your Word, may I always do so with a pure and humble heart, keeping You at the centre, doing it for Your glory.  Because You have a heart for people, may I have a heart for people too.   May future generations after me be blessed and not cursed by the way I responded to Your Word.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

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