After seventy years in exile in Babylon, this week finds some of the elders of Judah and Benjamin returning to Jerusalem to begin the process of rebuilding. Of course, it doesn’t go smoothly, but, for once, the problem is not primarily the result of God’s people Cyrus sends the people to rebuild the temple, but those currently living in Jerusalem aren’t happy with the changes in the status quo. It seems that, at least for now, the Jews have learned their lesson, and are looking to place God first in their lives.
In particular, I see this in Zechariah’s prophecy: (Zechariah 8:19-20)
The word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be season of joy and gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah: therefore love truth and peace.”
I haven’t spent a lot of time with the discipline of fasting, other than doing a fast-a-thon in high school.. I do know that I don’t tend to be thinking about things like “joy” or “gladness” when I’m hungry. But that’s exactly what Zechariah is telling Judah will be the case. What that tells me is that, in God’s kingdom, times of dedication to God will be of such joy that the discomfort of the hunger will be overwhelmed to the point of insignificance.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I certainly wish I had that sort of relationship with God. Unfortunately, as far as I can see, that prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. It certainly wasn’t by the time of Jesus. Otherwise, Jesus would not have had to say (Matthew 6:16)
And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
Has anyone else ever experienced that sort of all-consuming joy in the midst of what would normally be considered and unpleasant activity, as a part of a spiritual discipline? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.