Read Zechariah 7:1-14
Zechariah 7 introduces for us the subject of fasting. The people of Bethel wanted to know if they should fast as they had done for years. Now that things were going better in Israel, did they really need to continue?
There is, somewhere in the heart of many people, a deep-seated thought that God is for everything that smacks of personal sacrifice and self abasement. Spiritual disciplines such as fasting and prayer, for example, are practices that most of us would concede that we do not do enough. Let’s observe some cautions, especially about fasting, worth noting.
Fast for the right reasons. Verse 5 poses the question, “…was it really for me that you fasted?” We can engage in spiritual disciplines just because we feel better about ourselves. Jesus warns in Matthew 6 about fasting in order to attract attention from others. We might do hoping that we will be seen as godly (Matt. 6:16-18). Fasting, however, serves as a means of seeking God, knowing Him and His will better.
God is the God of the feast and the fast. Verse 6 points to other times when they had feasted . . . but for the wrong reasons. Just as fasting has a place in the life of a God-follower, so too, feasting is very important. The Old Testament points to seven feasts that God’s people were to celebrate. These feasts were designed to be joyful commemorations of God’s work. God is not only pleased when we abstain for the right reasons, but also when we celebrate for the right reasons!
Fasting is no substitute for obedience. While these men from Bethel were concerned about this spiritual discipline, God seemed more concerned about their commitment to justice and compassion. Verses 8-10 seem to echo those priorities stated by Isaiah: “Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke” (Isa. 58:6)? Seek to honor and obey God in every facet of your life.
Fasting can be a very positive experience through which your relationship with God is enriched.