8. True Religion
Outward religion without inward reality is a false religion.
“1 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. 2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the Lord, 3 saying to the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” 4 Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: 5 “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? 7 Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’” 8 And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. 13 “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts, 14 “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.” – Zechariah 7:1-14
I. A Question About True Religion vv 1-3
II. A Response About the Heart of True Religion vv 4-7
Quick Thought: Going bBeyond a Victim Mentality
In today’s text, we see how the Jews were not fasting from a heart of repentance, but a kind of victim mentality, and the result was that it did not bring freedom or any spiritual benefit to them as a people. Indeed we, the church, are guilty of this root issue today.
In his book, “New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfilment in a World Turned UpsideDown,” Daniel Yankelovich describes a new ethic: “the duty to self ethic.” The new duty to self ethic replaces the old ethic of self-denial, the duty to others, and deferred gratification. Now self-fulfillment is the priority. We live in a consumer culture and a therapy culture that exalts this priority of the self. The result is that being self-centered is a virtue. The only true sin is a sin against the self. Moreover, the elevation of human rights above human responsibilities has led to a world in which the self is always the victim.
Each individual thinks they have rights to things that other people should supply. So any failings in my life are the failings of other people. I always see myself as the victim. People in this culture have no sense of guilt. Instead, they feel shame. However, this is not the shame of traditional cultures, which is concerned with the wrong done to other people. This is the shame of my inability to be the person I want to be or accept the person I am. As a result, any talk of guilt is seen as an attack on me. It threatens my project to be myself or find myself. As a result, even when you highlight my guilt, I am still the victim.
The problem is that only true repentance leads to forgiveness and freedom, and repentance only comes when people take responsibility for their sins.