REALITY OVER RITUAL
Dear God, often I come to you and your Word with my own preconceptions. Spirit of God, speak clearly your truth to my heart.
Read Zechariah 7
7 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of Jehovah came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chislev. 2 [a]Now they of Beth-el had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech, and their men, to entreat the favor of Jehovah, 3 and to speak unto the priests of the house of Jehovah of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years? 4 Then came the word of Jehovah of hosts unto me, saying, 5 Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month, even these seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? 6 And when ye eat, and when ye drink, [b]do not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? 7 Should ye not hear the words which Jehovah cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?
8 And the word of Jehovah came unto Zechariah, saying, 9 Thus hath Jehovah of hosts spoken, saying, Execute true judgment, and show kindness and compassion every man to his brother; 10 and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the sojourner, nor the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart. 11 But they refused to hearken, and [c]pulled away the shoulder, and [d]stopped their ears, that they might not hear. 12 Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which Jehovah of hosts had sent by his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore there came great wrath from Jehovah of hosts. 13 And it is come to pass that, as he cried, and they would not hear, so they shall cry, and I will not hear, said Jehovah of hosts; 14 but I will scatter them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they have not known. Thus the land was desolate after them, so that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the [e]pleasant land desolate.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectThink through the Christian traditions that you have in your daily, weekly, and even annual schedule. Are any of them in danger of being merely empty rituals, rather than spiritually real for you?
A couple of years had passed since the night visions (see 1:7,8). Now, a group of Jews travel 12 miles from Bethel to ask a question. They had been fasting in mourning for the old Temple in specific months of the year for decades. Was it now time to stop?
The question was turned back on them by Zechariah. Had they been mourning, or even feasting (per the Jewish calendar), for God, or for themselves (vs 5,6)? Were their rituals a reflection of spiritual reality? God’s call to them was clear. ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another’ (v 9). He wanted the evil oppression of the vulnerable to stop (v 10). In fact, back before the exile, the prophets had warned them, but they had not softened their hearts to God’s message. That was why the nation had needed to go into exile in the first place. It is clear that God is not satisfied by rituals that are not backed up with a heartfelt spiritual reality that shows itself in the life of the community.
What practical demonstration of an inner spiritual reality could you show to others in these days? Spiritual rituals can be satisfying, but they need to flow into real action too.
Sovereign Lord, enable me to be a doer of Your Word, and not just a hearer.
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