We’ve talked about how truth is important, especially to God. And yesterday we also talked about the fact that Christ Himself is our defender and avenger when we stand for truth and it costs us. If we are to be served up like prey in order to stand for the truth, so be it. But is there a reward? Sure, there is Christ, but is there more? Now, I understand it may seem a wee bit ungrateful to ask, “Is there more?” But the reason I ask this question is a simple one: there is more. Christ did for us what we could not do and that’s atone for our sins. One would think that the gift He offers would be enough in God’s book. But that’s not the way our God works. Our God always goes above and beyond. Or at least, He does for those who follow His ways. Following His ways is always the important starting point:
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me,” says the LORD Almighty, “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD. – Zechariah 8:14-17, NIV
God punishes and He punishes justly. The punishments that Zechariah were speaking about were brought because the Israelites had done evil in God’s sight. After the split of Israel into two kingdoms, the northern nation (which retained the name Israel) had done evil in God’s sight and had thus been conquered by the Assyrians. Then the southern kingdom (Judah) did evil in God’s sight and were conquered by the Babylonians. God’s people as a whole had not respected His commands. And though He had warned them, they heeded Him not. God promised a new time of prosperity, but with the condition that His commands were followed. Notice what He asked for: truth, true judgments, and an attitude against swearing falsely (AKA lying). In other words, truth, truth, and more truth! What did God offer as a promised reward?
Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. 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.”
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.”
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’ “
– Zechariah 8:18-23, NIV
Verses 20-23 have taken place. The Gospel message was originally presented to the Jewish people and it has spread from them through the efforts of believers like the Apostles Peter and Paul. We, as Christians, are representative of those ten men from all languages and nations. We are the Gentiles who have found the way to the Father through that Gospel message. But what about verses 18 and 19? Why are they described as fasts?
The reason there were fasts on the months mentioned were because they were times of mourning. They were to remember previous historical events that were of great sorrow to Judah and specifically to Jerusalem as they centered around the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem (10th month), capture of the city (4th month), the destruction of the temple (5th month), and the slaying of the Judean governor, Gedaliah, during the Babylonian captivity (7th month). Zechariah, as the Lord’s prophet, proclaims that these times will no longer be times of sorrow but will be times of joy and celebration. But Jews today still participate in these fasts, and in fact, some of the fasts have other sorrowful historical events attributed to the reason for their remembrance, as well. They are not yet times of celebration and joy.
But there is the promise that they will be. For the Christian, we see that promise is through Christ. We know that this world is painful. That there is suffering and evil. And despite the very best efforts of some of our greatest men and women, the world doesn’t seem to be getting to be a nicer, friendlier place. Quite the opposite, actually. It doesn’t get fixed through us. It only gets fixed through God. Revelation promises a new earth and specifically a new Jerusalem. And an end to sorrow. And an end to pain. And an end to evil. But that reward comes only to those who seek after the truth and as Zechariah said, “love truth and peace.” So the question to us as believers is, “Do we love the truth?” Or maybe a better question should be, “Would God say we love the truth?”