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“Essentials and inessentials”

Show mercy and compassion. —Zechariah 7:9

Read Zechariah 7

Some representatives of the people went to the priests and proph-ets at the temple gate to inquire about fasting. The temple was almost complete, and they were wondering why it was still necessary for them to fast. Zechariah was told by the Lord (Israel’s covenant God) to answer them. As God’s representative, he taught the people, and us as well, that while fasting has its place, it is of secondary importance. The people thought that by fasting, they were serving the Lord. But they forgot the main point. Be-fore the exile, the prophets had told them to do justly and to love and help the widows and strangers in their midst. It seemed that their old national sins were raising their ugly heads again.

The disobedience of their forefathers had brought the wrath of God upon them and ultimately led to their exile. During all that time, the land of Israel had remained largely uninhabited. Zechariah warned the Jews to give their hearts to God. Their fathers’ hearts had been as hard as an adamant, which is the hardest of all stones. If anyone desires to experience the favour of the Lord, they must strive to obey Him and keep His commandments with all their heart. Otherwise inessentials become essentials. Do we not often do this ourselves? We are willing to sacrifice much for “our religion,” but not all. We often argue about non essentials to bypass the essentials. Pray that you may serve the Lord with an upright heart and love your neighbour in your service to Him.

The Lord desires our hearts. What does this mean?

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