In reading through Zechariah 7 for my devotions (you’ll never hear me use the word “quiet time,” b/c that’s what my 3 year has to do when he doesn’t take a nap), I came across a challenging passage.
It sounds innocent enough.
2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the LORD, 3 saying to the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”
But there really is something missing. It is like someone saying, “Lord, should I try to be sad and go through the outward emotions of looking like I’m sad because of my sins and the sins of my nation? Because I really am just bummed about missing my favorite restaurant and hangout places back home. Should I keep going through the motions of repentance without real repentance?”
Because that’s what was happening. Keep in mind, many of the same things that caused Israel to ‘get the boot,’ continued to happen. That’s why these lofty promises of a restoration of the temple (the rebuilt Temple was NOT nearly as cool as before) and the kingship never go anywhere. We don’t hear much about this new potential king Zerubbabel until Jesus’ genealogy.
5 When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?
The Lord says that they were not fasting and weeping because of their sins. Some were probably bummed about the consequences of their sin: living in foreign land. Some of them had actually become quite comfortable there and enjoyed the foreign food and ladies.
It’s a good reminder to all of us that we can be sad over the consequences of our sin, without ever demonstrating true repentance: sadness over the fact that we’ve chosen death over life, empty wells (Jer 2:32) over the spring of living water (John 4:10-11). For instance we can be sad over the relational consequences of yelling at our kids, kicking our dogs, belittling our spouses, not loving neighbors: loneliness, lack of intimacy, divorce, people not being there when we need them. But being sad about the consequences is not the same as truly grieving the sin.
What’s the difference? God says, “was it for me that you fasted these 70 years?” In other words, their idolatry and injustice was an affront to God Himself in addition to an oppressing His people. As David reminds us in Psalm 51, any sin done against another person made in the image of God is first and foremost a sin against God. It was He whom they had sinned, and it was to Him whom they were to first repent. But they hadn’t as evidenced by continuing in the pattern of injustice (Zech 7:9-10).
In regards to parenting, some things hit me then and now: do I grieve my sins against my kids and wife as though I’ve sinned against God? And when my kids disrespect me, do I grieve the fact that they’ve disrespected me only? Or do I grieve, concern myself, pray for the fact that they’re really disrespecting God as a Father? If I can grieve the sin as against God first and foremost, I don’t have to take it as personally. Instead of responding quickly or harshly, I then have the opportunity to bring the gospel to bear on the heart. After all, our sins are an affront against a Holy, but also LOVING Heavenly Father. It is out of respect and love for Him that I hope my kids will respect me, and not the other way around. Particularly when I’m hard to respect.
Anyhow, just some thoughts I had while reading Zechariah.