Before going on in this POST, I thought it important to give you first, definitions of the word “Sclerosis” –then, explain how it fits in with our spirituality in life and in the Church as a whole.
“SCLEROSIS” or “hardening”: (See Footnotes [i] and [ii])
#1. Medical Definition – A pathological hardening of tissue, especially from overgrowth of fibrous tissue or increase in interstitial tissue.
In the GREEK, “hardening or “to harden” –
#2. porosis denotes “a hardening,” a covering with a poros, a kind of stone, indicating “a process” and is used metaphorically of dulled spiritual perception.
With the above definitions in mind, lets take a deep look into God’s Word and investigate a principle set forth for us all to ponder in our Christian service.
CAUGHT UP IN “RITUALISM”? (Zechariah 7:1-7 AMP Bible)–
 AND IN the fourth year of the reign of King darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, Chislev.
 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and regem-melech and their men to pray and entreat the favor of the Lord.  And to speak to the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and to the prophets, saying, [Now that I am returned from exile] should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself as I have done these so many years [in Babylon]?
 Then came the word of the Lord of hosts to me [Zechariah], saying,
 Speak to all the people of the land and to the priests, saying, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months, even those seventy years you were in exile, was it for Me that you fasted, for Me?  And when you ate and when you drank, did you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?
 Should you not hear the words the Lord cried by the former prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity with her cities round about her, and the South (the Negev) and the lowlands were inhabited?
According to the Scofield Bible, “Religious Externalism”: “The whole matter, like much in modern pseudo-Christianity, was extra-Biblical, formal and futile.” RITUALISM appeals to the FLESH and helps people feel “religious.”
In my opinion, I don’t think Christianity needs any help in being “religious” in today’s society and I find it a sign of spiritual decline.
Zechariah 7:1-3 – “What about FASTING?”
The question seems to imply a readiness to discontinue the practice, the ritual of THE FAST. That question may have been going through their heads at the time, but was not asked…”Would discontinuing the FAST be evidence of a false sense of security or would it add to the displeasure of the LORD? All good questions.
In their present SPIRITUALITY, the people were still in distress, under the Lord’s displeasure. From the human viewpoint, there might be something said in favor of discontinuing the fasts–and in case you’re wondering by now, is this blog-Post about “FASTING”? Yes and no. I’ll get to that as we move along
The LORD has changed His method of dealing with His people; returning to them in the way of MERCY! So, would it not be proper to change their method of performing their duties? [NOT just "fasting" as required by the clergy].
It seems as if the MAIN CONCERN of the delegation was the FAST held on the fifth month; the remembrance of the burning of the first TEMPLE. At this point in time, the NEW TEMPLE was almost completely restored [See picture below of model].
So why FAST?
Having kept the ritual of fasting for 70+ years in exile, the delegation members felt it wouldn’t be a good idea to discontinue something they had grown accustomed to without approval from the PRIESTS and the PROPHETS.
Some Questions Arise…
Should a good and productive method of RELIGIOUS SERVICES, which we find beneficial to ourselves and others, be simply abandoned or altered because of the changes taking place in society and the world?
What then, should OUR PURPOSE be in coming to church on Sunday, or during the week in “service”?
In this portion of Scripture, Zechariah 7, the delegation’s PURPOSE for coming was to PRAY and SEEK God’s will in the matter of the continuance of the FASTS.
Our PURPOSE for coming to the House of the Lord…
It should be to pray and seek the LORD’s will for our lives; to WORSHIP HIM. It’s NOT for entertainment.
When we present our requests, our petitions to the LORD, we should be in a READINESS TO RECEIVE instructions from Him. If we refuse to listen, we can’t expect the LORD to accept our prayers.
The QUESTION we should bring before our LORD and Savior is not, what will You do for me, but what can I do for You, even though You don’t need my help.
In God’s answer to the LORD of hosts asked question, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months, even those seventy years…was it for Me that you fasted, for Me?” – (verse 5).
“CONSIDER YOUR WAYS”
Consider what you’re doing and why; WORSHIP WITH PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING, PRAYING IN PUBLIC, TITHING IN CHURCH, SERVING IN MINISTRY, etc., etc.
The question posed in VERSE 5, not only does it involve the delegation, but to ALL the priests and the people of the land. And in case you are wondering…we too are included in the answer…”was it for Me…, for Me?”.
The LORD of hosts asked this question because the delegation’s question seemed to be more concerned about the ceremony, the ritual, than about the SUBSTANCE or the spirit of it. They seemed to be BOASTING of their fasting, believing they should have been returned to the LORD’s MERCY sooner than it did.
A similar question was asked by the people in the prophet Isaiah’s day:
“Why have we fasted, they say, and You do not see it? Why have we afflicted ourselves, and You take no knowledge [of it]? Behold [O Israel], on the day of your fast [when you should be grieving for your sins], you find profit in your business, and [instead of stopping all work, as the law implies you and your workmen should do] you extort from your hired servants a full amount of labor” (Isaiah 58:3 ).
What the priests and people were doing wasn’t bad, not done in the right way. The LORD wasn’t charging them with OMISSION or NEGLECT of their duty. He was charging them of WRONG INTENT!
He was saying, those who come with a good intent, to SEEK GOD’s MERCY, must be willing to admit their FAULTS, a hard thing to do. We can sometimes be so zealous in our approach, in performance of our worship on Sundays, we set aside our need to faithfully examine our attitude or motives for even being there. Don’t wait for the Worship & Praise team to motivate you on Sundays!
We should ask ourselves in service and duty, “WHY AM I DOING WHAT I’M DOING?”
The LORD appeals to the conscience…
If the people had not been sincere in the performance of duty and their worship, they needed to understand, we need to understand, there is One who is far greater than their consciences.
In their FASTING and WORSHIP, a form of godliness, they lacked life, soul, and power. The stress of their doing was laid upon the REPETITION of the rituals, instead of upon the worship of the LORD. Even those who were seeking to please their heavenly Father, to obtain His favor, who are sincere in their intentions, were wanting. This is why, in the sight of the LORD, their FASTS were a mockery. They were using FASTS as a covering; a covering for their SIN, as Jezebel’s fast, or as the Pharisees’ fasts, resting in outward expressions of humiliation [false humility], while in the process, their hearts were unhumbled.
Nothing New in Zechariah 7:7:
The people and priests are told what the LORD of hosts has said, and it’s nothing new. The question seems to imply they have forgotten. The GOOD THING the Captives should have done…was left undone!
On their FAST DAYS, the captives went and separated themselves from daily activities; being a sign of their sorrow for the judgment they were under. This wasn’t enough. What they should have done was to search the Scriptures and they would have seen what was the reason for God’s controversy with their fathers, taking a warning by their miseries, not going down the same pathway.
The AFFLICTION that rested on their shoulders was to WAKE THEM UP! Bring them to REPENTANCE!
The disobedience of others and the consequences should be a WARNING to us! God’s judgements upon Israel of old for their sins were written for a CAUTION to Christians today:
“Now these things befell them by the way of a figure [as an example and warning to us]; they were written to admonish and fit us for right action by good instruction, we in whose days the ages have reached their climax (their consummation and concluding period)” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
So Church, Why do we do what we do on Sundays?
In my reading for this study, I ran across a story that directed my thoughts to the above question.
A story is told about a wife who was cooking a roast. She cuts the end off of the roast, puts it on a pan, then into the oven. The husband asks, “Why did you cut the end off?”
She replies “Because my mom always did.”
The next day the wife asks her mom “Why did you cut the end off of the roast before putting it in the oven?” Mom replies “Because my mom always did.”
So both of them went to Grandma and asked the same question. “Grandma, why do you cut the end of the roast off before cooking it?”
Grandma replies “So it would fit in the pan!”
Mark Batterson says “All of us develop hypotheses about everything all the time. Then we look for evidence to support our hypotheses and ignore evidence to the contrary.” GUILTY!
Questions to ask ourselves before, during and after the Sunday Service–it’s more than about “fasting”:
Why do we take COMMUNION–How many of us are partaking in the way God desires us to participate in the Lord’s supper? What is it that you WORSHIP? What is it that you get excited about? Why do we TITHE, why do we FELLOWSHIP (meet and greet time) right after worship and praise? Why our we FASTING? Does GOD want me to, or is it just at the pastor’s request? Why do we do what we do?
And the answer to the many questions…”Was it for Me?”
“WAS IT FOR ME that you fasted, for Me? (Zechariah 7:5 b.)
“WAS IT FOR ME” that you are taking the Lord’s Supper?
“WAS IT FOR ME” that you are singing and worshiping?
“WAS IT FOR ME” you put in your tithe and offering?
Or is the condition of our SPIRITUALITY in a state of “Sclerosis”? You’ll have to answer that question.
Photo Credits: 2nd Temple – Wikipedia Israel Museum; “Sorry I’m Fasting” T-Shirt–PhotoBucket
[i] – Merriam Webster Dictionary
[ii] – Expository Dictionary of Bible Words–page 466 NT Words.