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[Sorry about the ‘Draft 2’ post you got earlier, and the unfinished post a few days ago. I seem to have forgotten how to use the WordPress app on my phone!]

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This chapter began with the people of Bethel sending a delegation to Jerusalem to ask if they still needed to fast and mourn on the 5th month. Apparently this fast commemorated Nebuchadnezzar burning down the temple (2 Kings 25:22-25) seventy years earlier. Since it is clear from the next chapter that the temple hadn’t yet been rebuilt, the people of Bethel ought to have been able to work out the answer to their own question, really!

God’s answer to them was effectively ‘No, you don’t need to bother about that fast, just act justly, be merciful, take care of the poor and needy, and generally live righteous lives.’

Talk about a plan backfiring! The people didn’t like that idea, so hardened their hearts, hence God’s response here.

God is not a cosmic vending machine, sitting quietly in a corner while we’re off enjoying ourselves, ready to dispense blessings when we’re feeling a bit tired or hungry. But also this verse clearly doesn’t mean he is never going to listen when his people cry out to him again – particularly since in the next chapters he starts talking about the restoration of Jerusalem and a time when the city will flourish.

Is the answer partly to be found in Jeremiah 29:13? There God says:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with ask your heart.

God doesn’t want half-hearted followers, but people who seek him with everything in them.

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