Fasting and Feasting

Open Your Bible

Zechariah 7:1-14, Zechariah 8:1-23, Jeremiah 31:33, Micah 6:7-8

This passage in Zechariah is beautiful. The people of Israel, just like all of us, keep missing the heart of the matter. For example, when I apologize to my husband for, say, driving the wheels of our bus into the tiny wall that separates the road from a 400-foot cliff drop in Glacier National Park, I’m tempted to just make a legalistic show of it. Once I’ve said the words, “I’m sorry,” I expect him to snap out of it, get back on the bus, and forgive me for my adventurous driving maneuvers. (The road was very narrow, you see.) We teach children this same formula of repentance:

“Say you’re sorry.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Okay, I forgive you.”

(Transaction complete.)

But just going through the motions of repentance does not true repentance make. In today’s passage, the residents of Bethel come to Jerusalem to ask about an upcoming fast. They’re prepared to go through the tired motions of keeping it, but they don’t mean it. Have you ever fasted “unto the Lord” but really just with an eye on your swimsuit-season prospects? Have you ever, like me, apologized with the goal of just getting on with it, instead of engaging in true sorrow and repentance over hurting someone?

We’ve all been on the receiving end of bad repentance and know what a mockery it is. Yet are we foolish enough to think that, somehow, by going through the motions, we can appease a holy and almighty God. God sees right through all of this, of course (Zechariah 7:5). He’s obviously not fooled by the sorry recitations of His people. But here’s the unexpected gorgeousness of His goodness: He doesn’t want to keep us fasting and dredging and reciting forever—these are just training tools. He wants to bring us into feasting and celebration. He wants us to reap goodness and abundance (8:12).

This is precisely why He calls His people to repent. Genuine repentance is never mere lip service. It is a transformation. It is a turning of heart, soul, mind, and strength from the folly and filth of sin to the hope and goodness of God. When the Lord of Armies declares His zeal and His jealousy for Jerusalem, it is a zeal and jealousy not only for His glory, but also for our good! The justice and mercy of God are not a contradiction, but a harmonious accord. Because of His faithful love, He would have us also “show faithful love and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9). He comes to transform us, that we may be like Him, that we also may “love truth and peace” (8:19).

He is calling us away from fighting over the cereal on the floor under the kids’ table to join Him for the real meat and drink at the feast. He transforms us from petty and insincere beggars to dear children who dance and play in the congregation of His people (Zechariah 8:3–5). The fasting of genuine repentance, in God’s economy, always produces the joyful feast of salvation.

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28 thoughts on "Fasting and Feasting"

  1. Rachel Deese says:

    In chapter 8 verses 9-13 are sandwiched with the Lord saying, “Let your hands be strong”. I’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to me more of what this means. What do strong hands symbolize? Why is this so important? God, in his kindness, is answering these questions.
    Please comment on what God reveals to about “let your hands be strong”. I know we can learn from one another

  2. Rachel AnneDwyer says:

    Gods word doesn’t change… what he says to one generation he says to the next- render true judgements, show kindness and mercy to one another… in this changing and anxiety ridden society I live in I can bank on the words and statutes of my God… he is a good good father ♥️

  3. Kari Villarreal says:

    I have been fighting for cereal crumbs from underneath the kids’ table and this reading and devotional today helped confirm what the Lord has been speaking to my heart. Going through any religious motions for the sake of checking the box leads our hearts far from His. Lord, help me to walk in true repentance that leads to life abundant and to the feast You have prepared for me. Nothing this world offers me compares.

  4. Angie says:

    Thank you ladies for sharing your beautiful hearts and your worship! As I read my heart says, amen, praise God, and joy rises abundant.

    Together we
    act justly,
    love mercy,
    and walk humbly with our God.

  5. Natasha R says:

    God doesn’t ask for repentance because he wants to punish me. Rather, he wants me to completely and truly lay down my sin so I can freely and lightly walk down the path of salvation. ❤️

  6. Natasha R says:

    God doesn’t ask for repentance because

  7. Churchmouse says:

    Are there any kinder words spoken by the Lord of Armies than “But Now”? 70 years of exile. A mere remnant returning. Walls in rubble. Temple destroyed. Hope gone. BUT NOW God says He will no longer treat His people as they deserved. BUT NOW God resolves to treat them as His beloved and chosen nation. He will save them. He will bring them back. He will provide peace and prosperity. He no longer desires a physical fast. He desires a fasting of their hearts. He desires a heart change that takes on an attitude of “faithful love and compassion” to all.

    Let us no longer fast food. Let us fast our hearts. And let us do so with a smile on our face and a spring in our step. After all, we serve a BUT NOW God Who is forgiving and merciful and oh so good!

  8. SC says:

    When I saw the transformation of Israelites going from a curse to blessing (v13 to v23), I thought of my family member who has been the heartache of my family for the past 10+ years. It’s been hard, and still is, not to be discouraged and sorrowful when the impact of this person’s actions cast a “burden” and heavy heart to the family.
    Practicing faithful love and genuine compassion, so beautifully put, is incredibly trying and takes a very deliberate moment-by-moment resolution to do so. But I look back and see how God has used this person as a blessing for our family to come closer to one another, and even more importantly, to God himself. I continue to pray that one day, my family member too, will look up to heaven and acknowledge that He is God and experience the empowering, restoring grace of the Father for himself and when he does so, He will add everything unto him. So until His day of exaltation in my family, we press on to show His unwavering, relentless jealousy over our hearts.

  9. Bree Beal says:

    Something had to give. It had been years and I was still entangled in the same sin. Over and over again, round and round it never seemed to end. I fasted and prayed and fasted some more but the truth was my heart really wasn’t in it. I wasn’t devoted to change and I was making excuses. I was expecting “the other person” to change instead. I had to get real about repentance. But it had to start and end with me alone and this is where I could feel God’s holy Grace poured out on me. I wasn’t powerless in my wretched state. God was with me and He promised to never leave me nor forsake me on my repentance journey (Joshua 1:5). Eventually I overcame this particular sin and have completely repented of it. God and His faithful love refused to leave me in that wretched place. He wanted me to be set free to enjoy the abundant feast He’s prepared for me since the beginning of time. Praise the Lord!

    Father God, Your Grace is amazing! Your power is beyond compare. There is no one like You. Thank You for Your strength and power in my life. Apart from You I can do nothing. You are worthy of all my praise. Salvation and honor all belong to You. In Jesus Name! Amen.

  10. Maura says:

    I love this definition of true repentance that was given today. “It is a transformation. It is a turning of heart, soul, mind, and strength from the folly and filth of sin to the hope and goodness of God.” The Lord has really been working on my heart and I have been recognizing the pride in this old mind. Sometimes the heaviness of this life brings me to the depths, but our God is good and even in the trenches He is joy and His light brings the mercy, the grace and the peace that transcends understanding. I am so grateful for this, because otherwise I would be stuck in confusion and pain, anger and darkness. He has broken these chains and freed me. Praise God. Thank you Jesus for the depth of your love. Help me/us to dwell in your light. Transform us that we might speak light/life into the dark and draw others to repentance and grace for your glory and their good. May your glory be our goal. In your name Jesus I pray.

    1. McKinley Thompson says:


  11. Pam Karlberg says:

    I continue to be struck with the phrase “The Lord Of Armies” in the readings of Zechariah. It always makes me sit up and take notice. It is Him, the great I AM, who speaks. The King Of Kings and Lord Of Lords. In His sovereignty and might , He is gracious to care about our hearts and their transformation. May I humbly respond as He speaks and loves. I

  12. Mari V says:

    I work at school. Dealing with children all day long. And I can see on my end when true repentance is not given. “I’m sorry.“ Sometimes just doesn’t cut it. So I encourage the child to say: I’m sorry for (say the offense ) this way they acknowledge what they’re saying sorry for and the other child can feel that there is true repentance. Trust me I’ve had to do this myself. Yep, us adults need to come to true repentance ourselves! OUCH!

  13. Ashley P. says:

    “The LORD of Armies says this: “Though it may seem impossible to the remnant of the people in those days, should it also seem impossible to me?”—this is the declaration of the LORD of Armies.” Zechariah 8:6.
    This is one of the many verses that stuck out to me today, another reminder that though things may seem impossible to us, our God is the God of the ‘impossible’! Praise him!

  14. Madeline Ansley says:

    Thankful for this reading and all of you that have been sharing this morning! Have a blessed day

  15. Melissa Graves says:

    The reading in Micah reminds me that God isn’t fooled, let alone impressed, by any outward show of piety or even worship on my part. It’s a heart thing from beginning to end. Only He sees who and what we are in our hearts and it is precisely there where we are judged. Lord, please purify my heart and my motives…make me…make us… women after YOUR heart today, in Jesus’ name.

  16. Sabrina Michelle says:

    Oh how easy it is for us to show love and compassion to those who love us. The real task is to show love and compassion to the ones that don’t love us. I pray that God help me with my heart condition in this area.

  17. Lissa says:

    Thank you, A. Mills. You spoke to my heart.

  18. Kailee Tidball says:

    Oh, such wonderful goodness this morning. I underlined half my reading, ha! So very thankful for His unending loving kindness.

  19. Shawn Parks says:

    “Show faithful love and genuine compassion.” That love is transforming! That love comes from God! That is something worth celebrating!

  20. Cassie K says:

    I loved reading 8:23 in the Message translation:

    “At that time, ten men speaking a variety of languages will grab the sleeve of one Jew, hold tight, and say, ‘Let us go with you. We’ve heard that God is with you.’”

    May others say the same for us!
    May they see something different and hold the tightly to us!
    This world certainly has its hard times. But we can lead others to the truth!

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  22. A Mills says:

    The verse that is piercing my heart today is Zechariah 7:6, “ And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?” Yikes! In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul tells us, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” A few years ago, the Lord dealt with me about my weight. I surrendered to Him and He helped me lose 70 pounds. Praise Him! Since then I’ve gained about 10-15 pounds. I know that it is because of me giving into cravings since I’ve lost that weight. When Israel gave into cravings in the wilderness, it did not go well with them. When David gave into his craving for another man’s wife or validation (by having his troops counted), it did not go well with him or his country. I work in a school, if I continue to give into my cravings, it will not go well with me or my students. Lord, please help me to learn to crave You alone! Help me to find freedom in what you give me to eat and drink, but not to seek it out or desire it above You. May even something as mundane as my eating and drinking bring You much honor and glory! Amen!

    1. Lauren Elaine says:

      I’m in a similar boat. I’m a teacher too and I’ve always struggled with my weight. It’s something that I’m always going back to God about. Congrats on losing the weight. And even if you have gained back a little bit, that’s ok. Life is does not look like and up and to the right graph. It looks like a winding river.

    2. Cheryl Burba says:

      You’ve really driven the point home, be it

    3. Destiny Woods says:


    4. Erica Redmond says:

      Amen! And amen!! I too feel this! We crave and look for something to fill it!! Let us fill our hearts with Christ alone! Lord teach us how! And how to walk in humble victory with YOU!

    5. Tonia Horner says:

      Amen!! So true and my prayer as well.