“Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me? Zechariah 7:5
In Zechariah 7 the people of Bethel sent a delegation to the house of God to inquire about whether they should observe a seventy-year religious commemoration of a special day by fasting that year. God’s answer through prophet Zechariah was that whether the people ate or fasted they did not do it for God so their fasting was worthless. Imagine 70 years of piety wasted! God emphasised that obedience was more important than religion.
This message is as profound for individuals as it is for our country, Nigeria. We are a country of churches at every corner and 24/7 prayer meetings but our obedience is low hence there is extreme poverty and social injustice in the face of unbelievable potential. We refuse to sow adequately into education, infrastructure, agriculture, health, and other important sectors as a collective, yet we fast and pray for a bountiful harvest in these areas. Many people want to do nothing but get so much. God is a miracle worker, not a magician. In Zechariah 7:9&10, there is a list of things to obey that will make our fasting effective.
Be fair: God wants us to judge fairly. Right or wrong should never depend on personalities. You must decide on issues the same way no matter who is involved. Justice helps build trust.
Show compassion: I often say there are many good heads in the world but the world needs more good hearts. Be kind. Show mercy. Forgive. Help. Support.
Protect the vulnerable: The best societies in the world are those where the weakest people are protected. The scripture particularly mentioned widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor as groups we must protect.
Think no evil, do no evil: Evil thoughts breed evil deeds. Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about the best things because we are products of our thoughts. The evil we see on the streets is a function of the evil machinations of people’s hearts. Keep your heart pure so your ways will be pure.
We are in that part of the year when many churches hold the mid-year fasting and prayer meetings to usher in the year’s second half. This is a good thing. Interestingly, Bible commentaries confirmed that the fifth month in the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar, called the month of Ab, quoted in Zechariah 7:5, is late July and early August in the Gregorian calendar. God is always accurate. Continue to pray and fast but add obedience if you want results.
Further Bible Reading: Zechariah 7
Prayer: Lord Jesus, make my obedience complete
Song: Trust and obey written by John J. Sammis and composed by Daniel Towner in 1887 as rendered by Don Moen
Motunrayo is the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer at Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.
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