The Mae West Confession

Zechariah 7:5  “Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me?’”

Observation: This was a question from God posed through Zechariah to the nation ofIsrael.  The people wondered if they still needed to continue their fasts in the fifth and seventh months as they had done during the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. The fifth-month fast commemorated the burning of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar; the seventh-month fast recalled the assassination of a former Jewish governor ofJudah. Both were man-made fasts not established by God. So the Lord responded by asking, “Was it actually for Me?”  Weren’t you just a tad self-righteous in creating those fasts in the first place? Don’t you realize, dear ones, that if you had lived in obedience to Me the events giving rise to these fasts would never have occurred?

Application: Ouch! God does have a good memory, doesn’t He? He recalls perfectly what He originally required of me. He remains just as He was when orders were first issued, as though it occurred just a moment ago. Too often, though, I move in an opposite direction, sometimes running at a heart-pounding pace, other times just drifting slowly, echoing Mae West’s theologically accurate self-assessment: “I used to be snow white, but I drifted.” Like Ms. West, I have my own moments of honest reflection when I admit I’m not where He wants us to be, so I devise all sorts of sacraments to appease Him. I become too much like natives who administer a severe self-flogging or like the lost seeker who decides that a long hike on his knees through broken glass is just what God desires of him.

Am I so different from these ritual keepers? But seventy years later, when I remind God of all I devised to honor Him, I find He is still where I last left Him, where we last said no. From His perspective, it is now the moment for my response to the instruction He gave seemingly ages ago. He is still expectant, still hopeful, and utterly unbending. I will not hear His appreciative cooing for my seventy years of self-devised sacrifices. Rather, He will simply remind me what He has always required, and He will enable me to evaluate in a clear-eyed way the wasteland of my past self-efforts. But would I really want God to be other than He is? Would I want a God who could welcome me into His presence with the song on my lips, “I Did It My Way”?

Prayer:  Father God, it is painful to think about the wasted years and the pointless efforts of my life. But thankfully, amazingly, You are still there, ready to welcome Your repentant child, ready to receive me on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ. I am so grateful for Your faithfulness in the face of my self-conceived efforts to merit Your favor. Forgive me, Lord.

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