Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

“Is It For God?”

Categories: Congregational Bible Reading

BIBLE READING: Zechariah 7-8

“Now the people of Bethel had sent… men to entreat the favor of the LORD, saying… “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”” (Zechariah 7.3)

Israel was trying to get it right this time. They knew Babylonian captivity was a result of their unfaithfulness. They had suffered in destruction and exile. They knew changes need to be made. They knew God would be pleased with nothing less than their devoted obedience.

In their effort to return to God, they reinstated many practices that had been neglected. But, even with previously established patterns, they did not want to presume upon God’s wishes for them. In Zechariah 7, they specifically asked Zechariah if this fast was what the LORD wanted from them (7.3). Ultimately, God tells them yes (8.18-19); but not before he asks them a soul-searching question: were you doing it for me? (7.5)

They had performed this fast for years, even during captivity… but was it really for God? The implication is clear: Their obedience was important; but it could not simply be about going through the motions. The fast should have developed an attitude of mercy and kindness, leading them to serve others in need (Zechariah 7.9-10). Ultimately, God wanted his people to understand the purpose of the fast was not to appease him but to change their hearts desire (7.10b).

God was not trying to pour salt in the wound of their failures; he was trying to position them to do these things properly. Obedience must always be done mindful of the One who had given it to them. The feasts and fasts by themselves were of no value but were always intended to affect the heart of the worshipper.

We can easily do all the right things in our worship but miss the point. Worship is about God. This isn’t to say God is somehow incomplete if we fail to make it about him. He doesn’t need the processes or the sacraments. They are important insofar as they lead to humble obedience as we focus our attention on God. It’s all about him.

If worship does not honor God, it is not worship. If worship is not an obedient response to God, it is not worship. Like these people, we must connect how worship should produce an attitude of righteousness and kindness and mercy towards our fellow man. As we bend our will to honor God, worship changes us because we then see ourselves and the world more clearly.

There is a strong warning for us as a group: We must not only consider how God wants us to worship, but we must constantly be evaluating whether what we offer is honoring God. If we put too much confidence in our righteous actions, we may become like the Pharisees and think more of ourselves then we should. If we become flippant in our worship, we disrespect his worthiness. In every act of worship, we must ask ourselves, “is it for God?”