Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying, Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
This chapter reminds me of an experience that I had in the late 1980s. While attending college, I was working for an exterminating company based in Columbus, Ohio. One day I was sent to the small town of Sunbury which is northeast of the city. Before that stop, I had a stop on the east side of Hoover Reservoir. Leaving that stop I began to travel north and knew that if I kept the Reservoir on my left, I would go through the town of Galena and then enter Sunbury north of the lake. My map lay beside me on the seat as I started out on my trip focusing on keeping the lake to my left as it ran north and south. I went through Galena and knew I was getting close as I was now on Sunbury Road and the lake was still on my left. About 15 minutes after that a sign informed me that I was entering the city of Westerville which is south of the reservoir. Thinking that I was doing the right thing, I traveled in a large circle and was back where I had first started. I should have used the map!
This is the same predicament that the Jews rebuilding after the Babylonian Captivity are facing. Thinking they have been doing the right thing for over seventy years, Zechariah informs them that they were not in the will of God. What a let down.
They had chosen to send a group to the prophet to inquire of the Lord about two fasts that they had been keeping since the deportation began seventy years prior. One was in the 5th month and it was a time of fasting, weeping, mourning, and remembering of the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and the loss of Jerusalem. The other fast in the seventh month was similar. It remembered the murder of the mayor of Jerusalem, Gedaliah. All that time they had been observing these fasts and probably were proud of their service rendered to God. Now that the temple was rebuilt and the city restored, they were wondering if it was God's will to continue the fast. God informs them that it was never His will!
God does not see as we can see. He can see the intentions and motives of the heart. As a matter of fact, the worst thing that you can say about your service to God is, "Well He knows my heart!" Yes! He does. He can see through all religiosity and pretense. Nothing is hidden from the eyes of who who tries, ponders, and tests the hearts of men. In essence, God was saying that He wanted more than a shallow religious display from them--He wanted a genuine relationship. No amount of religion can take the place of knowing God personally!
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." Proverbs 28:26
The problem with our heart is that it can make us think all is right when everything is wrong. This was the problem with the Jews. He shows them that they are already heading down the path of heartless service and devotion that their parents were eventually deported for. Like the Church of Ephesus that Jesus upbraids for a lack of love even while they continue in service, Zechariah reveals that their worship was unacceptable. It was a religious observance devoid of true love for God and others. Remember, Christians are to operate according to the law of love. We are to serve God from a heart of love as well as love our neighbors as our self. We need to hear Zechariah's word as well as Christ's warning to keep our love alive and fervent. This is even a greater need seeing that Jesus Christ is Soon2Come!
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.