I have been reading through the Minor Prophets this month, which admittedly can be tough reading. I was really taken by this passage in Zechariah 7. It should serve as a reminder: don’t get lost in the minors. For some context, the people of Israel had been taken into captivity in Babylon, but some have now been allowed to return. They have begun rebuilding the Temple and trying to start their nation anew. During their time in captivity the had adopted the practice of having a time of fasting for the loss they had suffered. In this story we see people asking if this practice of “weeping and abstaining” should continue.
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?”4 Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: 5 “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? 7 Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’”8 And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. Zechariah 7:2-11
This practice of mourning and fasting, it turns out, was not a biblical one. In fact, it sounds like it really had stopped be a worshipful practice at all. People were apparently doing it more to show off to one another than to actual connect to God (v. 5). Look at God’s response to the whole debate: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart” Zechariah 7:9-10. God is saying: don’t get lost in the minors! Stop fighting over things that aren’t even in Scripture and get back to doing the things that are actually in my Word!
How often are we as Christians like the Israelites here? I’ve seen it time and time again in churches. We fight over worship styles, clothing styles, carpet, screens, politicians, masks, and on and on. Can these things be important? Sure. But we can’t lose sight of the things that are truly important. We can’t forget to live justly, show kindness, be merciful, love the widows and fatherless, the outsiders, and the poor. Don’t get lost in the minors, but remember to focus on what God desires from each of us.