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From Fasting to Feasting

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a diagnosis often given to those who experience a wide range of reactions after going through a tragedy, disaster, or terrifying event. Those who suffer from PTSD can spend years dealing with the consequences of a traumatic event and must often seek counseling.

No doubt, those who returned to Jerusalem from exile had trouble adjusting to their new circumstances. For seventy years they had grieved over the destruction of the temple. The first years for those who had come back continued to be difficult. However, things were about to change. In Zechariah 8:18–23 we finally come to the specific answer to the question that had been asked by the delegation from Bethel (see July 11). They had wanted to know if they should continue fasting. Today’s passage reveals the answer: yes. But instead of being an act of mourning, their fast would be transformed into a celebration (v. 19).

Isaiah 58:5 describes the tone of most fasting in biblical times. Fasting was often an expression of repentance. Those who practiced fasting sometimes wore sackcloth and ashes, typically associated with mourning. Zechariah predicted that fasts previously associated with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple would become “joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah.” The Lord promised that Jerusalem’s renewed growth was not over. Jerusalem would become a magnet for all those who sought the Lord (vv. 22–23). These promises will find their ultimate fulfillment when Jesus reigns as King in Jerusalem. But we don’t need to wait until that time to celebrate. Every time we observe the Lord’s Supper, we anticipate the coming of the kingdom.

Apply the Word

Romans 12:15 urges: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We should not be ashamed to do either. Both actions are an appropriate part of worship depending upon the circumstance. Do you have a reason to rejoice today? Give thanks to the Lord and celebrate. Are you grieving? Pour your heart out to the Lord.

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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