Was it For Me?
After coming off of the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it might be a good time to talk about fasting. Fasting is a good thing and something we should consider and not only after we have over eaten during holiday celebrations.
The people of Israel had dedicated times of fasting. These times of fasting were meant to remind them of their need for God. Zechariah, an Old Testament prophet, was used by God to ask a profound question to the Israelite people: “Was it for Me that you fasted?”
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 mourned 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 for yourselves and drink for yourselves? Zachariah 7:4-6
The people of Israel were in exile, yet they were following the customs of the law. They were upholding the religious fasts. Yet while they were going through the motions and outwardly complying, their hearts were not right. We have an amazing ability to turn good things into self-centered activities. Fasting is a good thing, when done for the Lord. However, fasting can also be done in pride. And at times we are are not even aware that we are just going through the motions.
This is why we need God’s Word to minister to our lives. At times we need to be called out. At times, God will send someone to point out that our actions have become self-centered. Turning God’s commands into self-centered activities was taking place back in the Old Testament. It took place with the Pharisees at the time of Jesus, and this same heart issue is taking place in the church today. We often start out well, following God and keeping the commands He sets before us. However, as time passes we begin to shift the focus from doing these things to honor the Lord and start doing them for ourselves. We can start fasting thinking we can somehow earn extra favor with God or to make ourselves feel superior to others.
God is faithful to confront us in our sin. He uses His Word and other believers. When we are confronted we have two options. We can repent and follow God’s commands with the right heart: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’”(Zechariah 7:9-10). Or we can refuse the warning and instruction and continue in our ways much like many of the people of Israel did: “But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets” (Zechariah 7:11-12).
As we reflect on our lives, may we be open to the correction of God’s Word. May we honestly evaluate our actions to see if we are actually doing them for the Lord, or for ourselves.