Every time I see someone on an awards show give God a shout out and a big thank you, I am flooded with odd thoughts.
Is God down with the rap group Wu Tang Clan? Is Method Man one of his favorite artists? Is ODB up in heaven right now throwing dice? What if God doesn’t want anything to do with that fake flattery rappers give him at award shows? What if it makes him cringe and reach for his bag o’ lightning bolts? And more than that, what if I’m paying the same sort of lip service with my own life? Are we Christians putting on ceremony and fluff that God doesn’t really want from us?
This question jumped out at me while reading Zechariah a few days ago. In chapter 7, the people are thinking about fasting for the Lord. You know, doing something pretty nice for God, giving him a shout out and really getting religious. But as they got ready to fast, here is what God says in verse 5:
“When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?”
Big fan of that. Big fan of God basically saying, “Oh boy, here we go with the incense and the fasting. The hand bells were a nice touch. Look, quit kidding yourself, that was all about you.”
That alone is kind of an interesting story. The people saying “we are going to hook you up God with something super spiritual” and God responding, “Nah, I’m good.”
But here is where it gets interesting. Instead of a fast, God suggests a feast. Instead of hunger and penance, God suggests a party. Ridiculous, but here’s what He says in 8:19:
“The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah.”
I am going to resist making a prodigal son reference but there’s something in those two words, “fast” and “feast” that I’ve never noticed before. Although they are polar opposite experiences, there’s only a one letter difference. Without “e” you starve yourself. With “e” you have a party and dance the night away.
The cool thing is that for me, it’s easy to imagine that the “e” stands for “Emmanuel.” (I realize it can also start with i.) That’s a Hebrew word which means “God is with us.” So when Emmanuel is with us, we feast, when he’s not, we fast. When e is present we party, when e is absent we pity.
You might have noticed that before, but I am kind of slow and didn’t. And now that I do, it makes me wonder, is my life lived with an e or without an e?
Am I doing fake holy things for God’s sake?
Am I grasping that I serve a God that suggests a party?
Am I pursuing feast or fast?