Zechariah 7:5:   “Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me?’”

Observation: This was a question from God posed through Zechariah to the nation of Israel.  The people wondered if they still needed to continue their fasts in the fifth and seventh months as they had done during the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. The fifth-month fast commemorated the burning of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar; the seventh-month fast recalled the assassination of a former Jewish governor of Judah. Both were man-made fasts not established by God. So the Lord responded by asking, “Was it actually for Me?”  Weren’t you just a tad self-righteous in creating those fasts in the first place? Don’t you realize, dear ones, that if you had lived in obedience to Me the events giving rise to these fasts would never have occurred?

Application: Ouch! God does have a good memory, doesn’t He? He recalls perfectly what He originally required of us. He remains just as He was when orders were first issued, as though it occurred just a moment ago. Too often, though, we move in an opposite direction, sometimes running at a heart-pounding pace, other times just drifting slowly, echoing Mae West’s theologically accurate self-assessment: “I used to be snow white, but I drifted.” Like Ms. West, we have our own moments of honest reflection when we admit we are not where He wants us to be, so we devise all sorts of sacraments to appease Him. We become too much like natives who administer a severe self-flogging or like the lost seeker who decides that a long hike on his knees through broken glass is just what God desires of him. Are we so different from these ritual keepers? But seventy years later, when we remind God of all we devised to honor Him, we find He is still where we last left Him, where we last said no. From His perspective, it is now the moment for our response to the instruction He gave us seemingly ages ago. He is still expectant, still hopeful, and utterly unbending. We will not hear His appreciative cooing for our seventy years of self-devised sacrifices. Rather, He will simply remind us what He has always required, and He will enable us to evaluate in a clear-eyed way the wasteland of our past self-efforts. But would we really want God to be other than He is? Would we want a God who could welcome us into His presence with the song on our lips, “I Did It My Way”?

Prayer:  Father God, it is painful to think about the wasted years and the pointless efforts of my life. But thankfully, amazingly, You are still there, ready to welcome Your repentant child, ready to receive me on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ. I am so grateful for Your faithfulness in the face of my self-conceived efforts to merit Your favor. Forgive me, Lord.