Black people’s belief system is steeped in tradition, much of it going back to when they were slaves on the Master’s plantation. If you ask a millennia child why their parents eat certain foods for Christmas and New Year’s, they would tell you, “Because my mama always cooks pig feet for New Years; her grandma and great –grandma did the same thing. Christmas or New Year’s isn’t the same without those traditional foods.
I don’t think my mother even knows why she continues to follow these traditions. But I am slowly carving out some new ones on my own. I refused to be bound by superstitions passed down from my ancestors.
The Jews Religion is another group of people steeped in tradition. There are still Jews who follow the ancient paths of their forefathers. They hold their festivals and traditions close to their hearts. They pass these laws and rituals down from one generation to another. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament is filled with Scriptures admonishing and reminding Israel to teach the law to their offspring, to remind the next generation about how the Lord God delivered their people out of the hand of the Egyptians.
The religious leaders and tribal leaders were to honor the covenant of the Lord God and pass down all that was contained in the law. However there were certain things that the Lord commanded them to do and other outward signs and rituals that were manmade which, God had not commanded them to do. Consequently, the people neglected to do the weightier things, which mattered to God, in lieu of adhering to an outward show of consecration and holiness.
In the Book of Zechariah chapter 7 in the fourth year of King Darius’s reign which was around 518 B.C. for the previous 70 years, the people had been holding a fast in August to remember the destruction of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem was being rebuilt, Zechariah 7 describes the malady.
The question involved the keeping of certain Jewish fasts. In 7:3, they mention the fast of the fifth month. In 7:5 Zechariah also mentions the fast of the seventh month. In 8:19, there is mention of two additional fasts, one in the fourth month and another in the tenth month.
All were related to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. In the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem; in the fourth month, he penetrated the city; in the fifth month, the temple was burned; and, in the seventh month, Gedaliah, the Jewish governor, was assassinated and the remnant fled (see 2 Kings 25). For the past 68 years, the Jews had observed these dates as fasts. But now, with the temple going up and Jerusalem being rebuilt, this delegation wondered whether they should continue to observe these fasts.
Many people get spiritual sclerosis—hardening of the spiritual arteries—because they trash the warnings of God’s Word. I have both bad news and good news. The bad news is that like arteriosclerosis, spiritual sclerosis creeps up on you gradually as a result of certain bad spiritual habits that are as easy to fall into as eating too much fatty food. The good news is that, contrary to arteriosclerosis, you don’t have to give up everything you enjoy and begin doing all sorts of things you hate to avoid spiritual sclerosis.
In his answer Zechariah addresses both this delegation and the whole nation (7:5). He points out that the Lord had scattered their ancestors to Babylon because of their spiritual sclerosis—the hardening of their spiritual hearts (7:12). He also indicates that the disease may be hereditary. The remnant that had returned from the captivity was showing some initial symptoms that they needed to confront to avoid the disease themselves. In chapter 7, the prophet shows them that…Outward religion without inward reality ie, a changed heart, results in spiritual sclerosis.
The Israelites had lost their sincere desire for a loving relationship with God. Zechariah told them that they had been fasting without a proper attitude of repentance or worship. They fasted and mourned during their exile with no thought of God or their sins that had caused it in the first place. He explained to the people that their ancestors brought God’s great wrath on themselves by hardening their hearts.
They turned stubbornly away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so that could not hear the law or the messages that the Lord Almighty had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord Almighty was so angry with them. Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to me, says the Lord Almighty. And he scattered them as with a whirlwind among the distant nations, where they lived as strangers. Their land became so desolate that no one ever traveled through it. The land that has been so pleasant became a desert.
When you go to church, pray, or have fellowship with other believers, are you doing these things from habit or for what you can get out of them? God says that an attitude of worship without a sincere desire to know and love him will lead to ruin.
Sometimes at the turn of a new year, you hear of masses of people, churches, communities, and individuals committing to or going on various types of fast.
Many times, I suspect, people do not even know why they are doing so. A lot of people see fasting as a ritual, a tradition, handed down from their denomination, a practice from their ancestors, or a ministry that is trying to impress others and God with their strict dietary form of sacrifice. So they get on social media to inform the public about their particular fast or talk about their week, month etc of consecration that they are leading their congregation into at the beginning of the year.
Now, before you delete me from your FB page, I'm not talking about nobody, I'm just talking about what I am talking about. I want my congregation to know why WE are going on THE FAST!
When you fast, it is supposed to be between you and the Lord
The Prophet Zechariah reminds the people what the Lord’s requirement is concerning any fast that they endeavor to do. Listen to what he says:
8 "Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: 9 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.
Saints, any sin we commit seems more natural the second time we do it. The fact is we become hardened oblivious to it and each repetition is easier. Ignoring or refusing God’s warning hardens you each time you do wrong.
To avoid this spiritual sclerosis hardening of the spiritual arteries, we need to know three things:
1. Outward religion is a danger for all of God’s people.
The Jewish remnant had been meticulous in keeping these fasts, but their hearts were not in it. It had become an outward ritual, but the inward reality of walking with God was fading. The God who examines the hearts says, “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). Through Zechariah He says, “Check your spiritual health. Make sure that you’re not drifting from inward reality to outward religion.” Our text reveals three warning signs that tell us we’re drifting into outward religion:
A. Manmade: We focus on rules and rituals not ordained by God.
It’s ironic, but true to human nature, that these people were concerned about something that God had not commanded, but at the same time they were neglecting what God had commanded. God had not told Israel to keep these fasts, but He had told them to obey His Word. The only fast that God had ordained was the annual Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27).
There wasn’t anything wrong with fasting on these other days to confess their sins and pray for the restoration of the nation. But God had not commanded these days as fasts. He had commanded them to “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [their] God” (Micah 6:8; Zech. 7:9-10). But they were dodging God’s clear commands, while keeping their manmade fasts.
We’re prone to do the same thing. Many Christians get hung up about keeping rules and rituals that the Bible does not command, while they neglect dealing with their hearts before God. They judge other Christians by outward appearance, but they tolerate serious sins, such as pride, gossip, and greed in their own hearts. They have their lists of behaviors that make you either a “spiritual” Christian or a “worldly” Christian, and they make sure that they keep everything on their good list and avoid everything on their bad list. The problem is, their lists aren’t in the Bible!
Well, that's all I have space for today, we will take up part 2 tomorrow,
It's cold outside. Stay in and:
"DON'T FORGET TO SAY YOURPRAYERS."