By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Zechariah 1-7
Key Scripture Verses: Zechariah 7:4-6 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?”
Zechariah wrote these words to the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon (around 520-518 B.C.) These first seven chapters reflect several visions Zechariah had and they reflect hope for the faithful remnant whom he was encouraging to finish the temple. And although he provides them hope, he reminds them that they must obey God and continue to follow him faithfully to receive their blessings and warns them not to become complacent in their worship. In chapter 6 he tells them that they must be obedient and consistent in their worship and their labor in building the temple and then they “will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the Lord your God.” (Zechariah 6:15-16).
Our key verses are about this complacency in worship. The commentary in my Bible suggests that the people had been going through the motions, but had lost their passion for worship and relationship with God. It says that even though they were technically faithful in fulfilling their fasting and repentence, they did not come to God consistently with an attitude of sincerity. It had become a habit and a ritual without a worshipful attitude. When they broke the fast, they ate and drank and enjoyed each other without celebrating for the right reasons—they left God out of the celebration at times.
Are we sometimes guilty of the same thing, celebrating our religious holidays and forgetting why we are celebrating? I think we do this more than we might like to admit. Next week is Thanksgiving and for many it is just a day to eat a big meal and spend time with family. It’s about the turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. I hope most will remember to say a prayer of thanks and will reflect on the blessings God has provided.
Christmas is the same—in fact, Christmas trees and lights are already up in places, and, of course, the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. It’s about the gifts and the stuff, the glitter and tinsel, and the partying—lots of partying for the whole month of December for some who only celebrate because it’s ritual, an excuse to do all of the above. People who never go to church or worship will celebrate Christmas with gusto, but they’re not really celebrating Christ’s birth, are they?
What would it be for us to hear Jesus ask these questions: When you worshiped, did you really worship me? When you feasted, did you celebrate with me? Did you really give thanks to me, or just for the opportunity to have a party?
Faithful Christians, I know that I am “preaching to the choir” to those of you reading this blog. But, if you’re like me, a little reminder to reflect on my worship and my giving thanks with the right attitude is welcome.
Many blessings to you all for the upcoming holidays. Many thanks for following the blog, for reading these words, and sharing them with others.