The people of Bethel in Israel sent emissaries to ask a question of the Lord through His prophet Zechariah. They didn’t seek the Lord in prayer like we do today. They went through an intermediary. Could they have prayed and heard from God themselves? Probably. But the tradition was to seek the prophet to seek God’s answers.
I think God’s answer surprised them. He asked a question. In essence, He asked, “All this time you’ve been doing this, was it really for Me? Are you doing these things to please yourselves?”
See, just like us, they began a good thing, mourning the destruction of the Temple, but over time it simply became a holiday rather than a remembrance. Over the 70 years of doing this, their hearts had moved away from the original purpose and the meaning was lost. We have a current example of this in America’s Memorial Day and Labor Day. Rather than being remembrances of sacrifice, they are days filled with swimming, barbecues, and raucous fun.
God called them out on letting traditions take over what should have been soul-searching moments. This mourning over the Temple was a time to remember that the nation had sinned and the consequence was God’s judgment to destroy what they worshipped over Him. It should have been a time of warning to not return to the ways of those who brought on that judgment.
Instead, it became just a “thing that we do.”
Let us take heed today. Let us be careful in every circumstance to be fully there, fully engaged. Let us take a long, evaluating look at all our traditions — especially church/religion traditions and ask that same question: Should we continue?