This is what the LORD Almighty said: “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.”
Zechariah 7:9-10 (NIV)
Read: Zechariah 7:1-14
Consider: The people of Judah and Jerusalem had been taken into exile in Babylon and during their seventy years there they had celebrated a fast each year commemorating the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. Zechariah’s prophecy is spread out over a number of years and between chapters 1 and 7, two years had passed. The temple was now being rebuilt and the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls had started. As a result, a delegation was sent from the town of Bethel (House of God) asking the priests and prophets if they should continue to celebrate this fast, as they had done for so long. Their reasoning for asking the question was probably that their circumstances had changed so radically, did they still need to hold a fast that remembered the destruction of what was now being rebuilt.
Having asked the question you might assume that God would answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. God doesn’t answer their question directly, but instead asks them two questions. In Zechariah 7:4-6 we read: 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? God knew that while the people mourned the loss of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, they did not relate this to the fact that it was their own sin that had led to God’s punishment. In other words their fasting (and feasting) was a result of them feeling sorry for themselves and was not the product of true repentance.
God is interested in their motives, as it revealed the state of their hearts. God goes on in Zechariah 7:9-10 to tell the people what he does desire of them: This is what the LORD Almighty said: “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.” This refers back to what God consistently said through the prophets on a number of occasions throughout the Old Testament. While referring to many passages in the OT, it can be summed up in the words of Micah 6:8 where we read: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
What God wants to see is the evidence of true repentance being worked out in a righteous life, that evidences the change that has happened in their hearts.
The same is true of us today. As Christians we can have celebrations and commemorations that cause us to remember good times and bad times in our history. Does God object to these? No! However, what God wants us to do is to focus on him at these times and what he has done for us. He wants these events to cause us to reflect on our spiritual condition and to bring us in repentance back to him.
Pray: Father, we thank you for the opportunity we have to celebrate and commemorate great events in our history. May these cause us to think about your providence and gracious dealings with our ancestors, but may they also make us think about our own spiritual condition and need for your continued forgiveness in our lives. May there be evidence in our lives of the change that has happened in our hearts. Amen