Zechariah 7:1-14 (NRSV)Fasting versus justice and mercy
In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men, to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to ask the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, "Should I mourn and practice abstinence in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?" Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: Say to all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink only for yourselves? Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, along with the towns around it, and when the Negeb and the Shephelah were inhabited?
The word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. But they refused to listen, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears in order not to hear. They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. Just as, when I called, they would not hear, so, when they called, I would not hear, says the Lord of hosts, and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and a pleasant land was made desolate.
Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
This was wonderful advice thousands of years ago and it is wonderful advice today!
As Christians we need to be careful that we do not get so caught up in man made rituals that we forget what is truly important to God.
It is easy to fast, it is harder to pray. It is easy to appear holy, it is harder to BE holy. It is easy to complain about others, it is harder to forgive and uplift them.
God is not only concerned about what we do on the outside while people are looking, but also about what we do on the inside, or in the dark,when we think no one is looking.
Our call is so simple that its difficult. God calls us to love God and neighbor as ourselves. Today's advice as read above is just a simple expression of that love.
Let's ask God to help us to love today.
Holy One, you are love. Please help me to love others. You have been so generous to me. Please help me to be generous to others. I am so grateful for your Love that gave Jesus to live, die, and rise again to forgive my sin and gift me with eternal life. Please help me to faithfully share your love with others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.