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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Lissa says:

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

  4. Kailee Tidball says:

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

  5. Shawn Parks says:

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

  6. 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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  8. 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:

      Amen!

    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.