Should We Weep and Fast Now?
Focus Text: Zechariah 7.1-3
“Now in the fourth year of King Darius it came to pass that the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, on the fourth day of the ninth month, Chislev, when the people sent Sherezer, with Regem-Melech and his men, to the house of God, to pray before the LORD, and to ask the priests who were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and the prophets, saying, ‘Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?’” (Zechariah 7.1-3).
It had been two years since the foundation of the temple had been laid (Haggai 2.10,18) and it would be another two years before it was finished (Ezra 6.25). There were certainly reason to weep and fast; Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi had highlighted many of these to their contemporaries. Yet, it is clear from the focus text that to some the practice of weeping and fasting was but a formalistic rite which did not necessarily have any connection with the hearts of the people. Had that not been the case, why would they have found it necessary to ask if they ought to weep and fast in the fifth month as they had done for many years? God never indicated that fasting was to be avoided but neither did He ever appoint a specific day for fasting and tears apart from the “mood” that the day or season demanded. Rather, weeping and fasting was to be a true outgrowth of the emotions of the heart; they were not emotions which could be switched on or off depending on the season!
In effect, Sherezer and Regem-Melechthe were asking if God wanted them to show great remorse, to weep, and to fast at a specific future date just as they had done in the past. The very question smacks of a great misunderstanding of that which pleased God. God never awarded performers; rather He rewarded people whose hearts were made subservient to God’s will. Remorse and morning are emotional responses to the convicting power of God’s word in our lives; they are not turned on and off like a water faucet; they are not the acts of performers!
The generation to whom Zechariah ministered was not the only one to make such fatal errors regarding fasting. Note the following from the time of Jesus: “The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, ‘Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’” (Mark 2.18-20). Jesus clearly implied that fasting was a natural occurrence that stemmed from personal sorrow and certainly was not appropriate in time of great joy and celebration; these are seasons of joy and not judgment!
As in other generations and times, Zechariah had to deal with formalistic and cold “obedience.” His contemporaries were of the same mindset as those of Isaiah’s day (see Isaiah 1) in that they failed to see that worship was more than merely meeting an obligation and checking off an item on a checklist; worship was and is a great privilege that emanates from the heart!
1. Why were some asking if the fifth month was the month to fast? Had they been accustomed to fasting at that time?
2. Was there adequate reason to fast? What lamentable circumstances existed around Jerusalem?
3. Why did some want to know why Jesus’ disciples did not fast?
4. When does God want our hearts? Does He ever give them back?
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