In my reading of Zechariah this week I am continually drawn to chapter seven. Chapter seven shows the exiles searching for ways to start over in their old land. They have certainly heard prophecies of restoration and promises of God’s coming rule, but it doesn’t seem to have arrived yet.
Some leaders from Bethel go down to Jerusalem to seek the Lord and ask if they should still mourn on the day of the temple’s destruction. The Lord’s response may have been shocking. Look at this:
7:5 When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and seventh months through all these seventy years, did you truly fastfor me, indeed?
7:6 And now when you eat and drink, are you not doing so for yourselves?
7:7 Should you not have obeyed the words that the Lord cried out through the former prophets when Jerusalem was peacefully inhabited and her surrounding cities, the Negev, and the Shephelah were also populated? (NET Bible)
The Lord is clearly frustrated and once again reminds his people that religious observances do not supersede obedience. This was one thing he hoped they would learn in exile, but they simply found new ways to avoid the commands of God.
Of course reading this passage through today’s lens I cannot help but think of Christmas. Are we really going through all of this for Jesus? Ouch. It always comes back to hearing and obeying God. Simple to do. Easy to forget.