Day 4

Fasting and Feasting

from the Zechariah and Malachi reading plan


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

BY Rebecca Faires

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.

Post Comments (28)

28 thoughts on "Fasting and Feasting"

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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:

      Amen

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. Madeline Ansley says:

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

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