Zechariah 8:19, “This is what the LORD ALMIGHTY says: ‘The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.’” (NIV)
It is remarkable how God can take brokenness and transform it into beauty. He can take rubble and turn into radiance. He can make hollowness become holiness. He can alter days of sadness so that they become days of happiness. All of this the Lord has done, and will continue to do. It is His nature – to mend that which mankind has fractured. God’s ability to bring about a spiritual metamorphosis in humanity is well documented biblically, but Zechariah 8:19 is a prime example of this reality.
Zechariah 7 begins with a seemingly innocuous request. The exiles who had returned to Jerusalem wanted to know if they should continue to observe a custom that they had begun during the seventy year banishment. The Hebrew exiles fasted during a specific month, doing so with a focus on how this situation came to pass, and with a hope that it would end soon enough. But now that the people were resettled in their home territory should they continue the pattern of fasting as they did during exile? Thus, they brought the matter before God, asking for divine counsel.
Maybe the desire to continue this fast would be a stark reminder of how critical, or how fragile, maintaining faith in God can be in practical everyday living. And thus the fast would be a mechanism to not revert back to a life of idolatry. Regardless, God’s response to the situation was quite stunning to many at the time I’m sure. The Lord essentially repurposed the time of fasting, and made it, instead, a time of celebration. In other words, stop dwelling on this mistakes of the past. Appreciate the blessing of today. Don’t dwell in a historical moment, or time, that brings about deep regret. If the people did, they would surely miss out on the Lord’s love and benevolence that was available in the present.
Circumstances can often seem bleak for God’s followers. In the process, we can lose the prospect of light, being surrounded the utter darkness. But this passage, like so many others, affirms that the Lord’s reign still gives us reason to rejoice. The struggles we endure – the pain we encounter – it is all momentary. What is eternal is the surety of God’s power and the goodness of His rule. So let our voice praise even as our heart aches.
Kevin Orr (9/12/2018)