“Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: “Ask all of the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’””
The seventh chapter of the book of Zechariah asks us a key question regarding our motivation for the things which we do in worship. A delegation of prominent men from Bethel has come to Zechariah to inquire of the Lord regarding the fasting which they have been engaged in ever since the city of Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed. It seems as if their inquiry is motivated by the fact that the Temple is nearing completion and the nation seems to be recovering nicely from its long ordeal. When can they stop the fasting and mourning? The reasons for these observances have all but vanished. Perhaps life can now get back to normal. Isn’t this just like us. When we face a crisis we fall all over ourselves seeking the Lord’s blessing so that we can recover. When the crisis is passed us we forget all about Him. It is as if we think we no longer need Him.
That these motivations are behind the question from Bethel is made clear as the Lord confront them with His answer. That Bethel was asking the question that was on the hearts of many of God’s people is also made clear as the Lord directs His answer not only to the men from Bethel, but also to all of the people.
It is so much like us that we want the blessings which the Lord gives, but we do not want to truly know Him. “Was it really for me that you fasted?” Did they want to know Him, or did they merely want Him to prop up their lives? There is a fundamental issue here for us. Is the focus of our hearts upon ourselves, or Him? Too easily we absolve ourselves of this motivation by thinking that a self centred motivation is not central to us. The reality is much more complicated. How often do we find ourselves praying, reading God’s Word, Worshipping, or serving the Lord in some way that produces a benefit for ourselves? Each aspect of our service of the Lord brings a benefit to our lives. Without realizing it we find ourselves engaging in service or worship in order to secure the blessing. Test yourself with this, how often have you found yourself motivated to have your quiet time in the morning because the day just seems to go better when you begin with the Lord? Pretty soon you become concerned when there is insufficient time for a devotional time that it will result in a disaster of a day. You are looking more for the Lord’s blessing than for the knowledge of Him. God’s Word through Zechariah confronts this in us. It is a call to genuine repentance. What we need is to know Him! Nothing can be allowed to take the place of this relationship. “Was it for me that you fasted?” “Was it so that you might know me that you were engaged in this discipline?”
The Psalmist writes, and he is echoed in many other places in the Word of God, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10) Reverence for the Lord is the key. It is the start of all true wisdom. Nothing is more important than that we know the Lord as He has revealed Himself to us in His Word. Were we fasting, and grieving so that we might Know Him? The Word of God calls us into the adventure of really and truly knowing Him. Therefore we must seek Him with all of our hearts. The Lord Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount makes this abundantly clear.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven’. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Is it for Him that you are doing the things you are doing?