6 November 2007Zechariah 7:1-14
"Just as, when I called they would not hear, so, when they called, I would not hear, says the Lord of hosts." (v.13)
Zechariah is describing a situation where the nation has been
through perhaps the most difficult time in its history. They were
conquered by a foreign invader and most of their healthy and fit
men, women and children were taken captive by the invaders. They
were transported into enemy territory and made to serve their
Only many years later, and under a different regime, were their descendents allowed to return if they wished, though not all did so. Those who did return faced a massive task of rebuilding.
Zechariah depicts some of those who returned asking whether they should resume their old religious practices of mourning and fasting. Their intention was to show their sorrow for their sins. God's reply is to the effect that in the past their religious practices were part of the problem.
In the 'former days' (ie. the time before they were conquered) God had sent prophets to teach them that sorrow for sin is shown by putting things right, rather than by ritual. They had refused to hear that message, so, when they pleaded with God to avert the catastrophe of conquest and exile, God refused to hear them.
This seems to us to be very harsh. Are there really times when God refuses to hear our prayers? We would like to think not. Certainly, any suggestion that God plays tit for tat with us would be unworthy. But this passage may introduce us to the uncomfortable idea that the way we behave can deafen us to God's answer.
Is the old proverb, 'There are none so deaf as those who will not hear' true of our relationship with God?
Can we behave in ways which make it impossible for us to hear God's answer to our prayers? If so, what might some of them be?
Does God cause some of the bad things which happen to us, or does God just allow them to happen? Or is this distinction meaningless?