January 31, 2003
During the exile, the Jews had established four commemorative fasts for the people to observe before their God. These were:
It should be noted that these four religious fasts were seemingly not commanded by God, but were established by men for the purpose of helping the people to remember a traumatic time in their history. Now that the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem was almost complete, and people had been restored to their homeland, the question arose among some of the people as to whether the time had come to annul these fasts.
A delegation was sent to the priests and prophets of God to determine if indeed these fasts should continue (Zechariah 7:1-3). The answer of the Lord God is interesting. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace'" (Zechariah 8:19).
An individual on an Internet Bible discussion group, with regard to this incident in biblical history, made the following observation:
After all, some might reason, were these four fasts not "innovations" .... "unauthorized additions" of mere men? Would not God condemn such as "false worship," and demand that these fasts be abolished altogether as "sinful" and unwanted and unwarranted? Such is far too frequently the reasoning today of the ultra-conservative patternists among us.
Is it not interesting, however, that God did not condemn these fasts?! Rather, He indicated that in the future they would be transformed into occasions for joy and gladness. The obvious implication is that He approved of their continuance, or, at the very least, He did not disallow their continuance. His only point was that they would no longer be times of sadness, but of great joy.
Do we not have a glimpse here into the mind of our God with regard to such so-called "unauthorized innovations" of men? It seems to me that God was basically suggesting that the fasts themselves were largely a matter of total indifference to Him, although He anticipated they would come to have a new emphasis in light of His restoration of His people to their homeland. What God saw as being of much greater significance was the people's love of truth and peace!!
I like the way Bro. Homer Hailey stated it in his commentary on the Minor Prophets: "This answer indicates that the fasts had been neither pleasing nor displeasing to the Lord; they had been a matter of indifference." Hailey then goes on to point out that it was the love of truth and peace which truly mattered to the Lord.
What do you think, brethren? Is there a principle here applicable to the people of God today? It seems to me the answer is a resounding YES.
More about this in upcoming issues of Reflections.
From a Reader in Maryland:
Just a comment to follow the reader who termed the apostle John a "change agent." I believe Christ Himself to be the biggest agent for change that ever struck the earth. He changed the way from law into grace. Wow, that is a heavy thought ... going from punishment to forgiveness.
Anyhow, I also wanted to echo your thoughts about the church being there for those who are saved. I have felt for years that the church ought to be in the business of keeping the saved ... saved. It is a sad commentary when one can gain more kindness, understanding, and yes (can you imagine) fellowship at a bar than they can when they attend church. I have appreciated a great many pulpit ministers. But the thing I have appreciated most is the fact that two of them (from the Christian Church ... those "nasty people" who think pianos are OK) have included me as family. Their example of love in everyday living has spoken volumes to my life. I personally believe the biggest thing ministers could do for the church is to teach others how to minister to each other.
I really do enjoy your Reflections and know it takes great courage to withstand the barrage of uncomplimentary things that must be said of you. If it isn't insulting to you, I would be happy to add you to our evening prayers. God bless.
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