When God Is Not Our Focus.
“Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn,d was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?” – Zechariah 7:5-6 NLT
The visions continue. Each one seemingly more strange than the one that came before it. God is continuing to reveal to Zechariah things that will be taking place in the future. He is providing His prophet with a glimpse of things to come in order to help Zechariah and the people deal with life in the present. They can trust God for the future and, therefore, live with peace and confidence in the here and now. They have no reason to fear or doubt the outcome of their efforts, because God is behind it all.
But the people have a question for God. They want to know if they should continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple as they had for the 70 years they were in captivity. After all, the Temple is now being rebuilt, so should they keep on commemorating its destruction now that it is being restored? It seems that the people had held a fast and a time of mourning each summer during those 70 years of captivity and want to know if they can stop. But God sees behind their request and reveals something about their hearts that they probably had no idea was there. God tells them that there was one important thing left out of all their mourning and fasting during those years in exile: HIM. They weren’t fasting or mourning because they were separated from Him or because they had offended a holy God. They were fasting and mourning because of their situation. There was no repentance based on their sins and the fact that God had only given what they deserved. He had warned them that if they continued to rebel against Him and reject His will, He would punish them severely. And He did.
Their fasts were fruitless because God was not their focus. They were simply going through religious rituals that were devoid of an emphasis on God, His holiness, and their own sinfulness. And now that they were back in the land, God tells them that their holy festivals and feasts were more about them than Him. “And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?” (Zechariah 7:6 NLT). It’s amazing how easily we can turn worship into something God never intended it to be. We can make it all about us when it was supposed to be all about Him. We can come together for worship and focus all our attention on what WE get out of it, instead of the one to whom we have come to worship. Their problem was that they were still not listening to God. Their hearts were still far from Him. They were still disobeying His commands, treatingDo not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other. each other unfairly and living unjustly among one another. “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other” (Zechariah 7:9-10 NLT). All their religious fasts, feasts, and festivals meant nothing if they were still disobeying God and refusing to live their lives according to His revealed will. They were still doing the very things that God their ancestors sent into exile in the first place. God was not the center of their worship, thoughts, and actions. God wanted them to worship Him by obeying Him. Anything else is not worship at all. To worship Him is to give Him the honor and worth He deserves. It is to recognize who He is and live out lives in such a way that it reflects our knowledge of and respect for Him. What God wanted from His people was for them to have truly repentant hearts and a desire to return to Him in obedience and reverent worship. He wanted them to make Him the focus of their efforts and actions. He desires the same from us today.
Father, it is so easy to lose our focus and begin to zero in all our activities and think that as long as we are doing “religious-type” of activities, we must be doing the right thing. But we can do all of those things without thinking about You in the least. You look at our hearts and You know when they are not focused on You. Give us insight to see when we have lost sight of you. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men