“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, was it really for me that you were fasting? (Zechariah 7:5 NLT)
At times our prayers and religious observances can be an offense to God. We can say and do all the right things in the performance of our faith, but in our hearts, we are seeking to please ourselves and not God.
A delegation of Jewish people was sent to the Temple to seek the Lord’s favor. They asked if they should continue a long-established fast. God answered them in a very Jewish fashion. He responded to a question with a question. “Was it really for me that you were fasting? We often ask God one question, and he answers another. That is because God knows what we need, not what we think we need. God gets to the point in v.8. “Judge fairly and honestly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and poor people. Do not make evil plans to harm each other.” All these directives are about others and not ourselves. God is not just concerned about what happens in our worship service on Sunday, but how it changes us to prefer others the rest of the week. Legalism always leads us to appear one way in church, but act another way out in the world.
The Prophet Micah has told us what God requires of us. It is not about sacrifice, but doing justly and loving mercy (Micah 6:8). The focus here is not about how we sacrifice, but why. Is it for ourselves or God? The former only produces a self-centered religion.
Image used with permission by Microsoft.
Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places” YWAM Publishing