In 518 BC after reconstruction of the Temple was started but before its completion the people of Bethel sent representatives to Zechariah in Jerusalem to ask whether they should continue to perform ritual fasts commemorating the destruction of the Temple since the Temple was now being rebuilt.
Fasting was a religious ritual concerned with demonstrating repentance and attempting to change God’s disposition toward the penitent ones.
God responded to the inquiry through the prophet Zechariah. Although the original question addressed a matter of religious practice, God responded by asking a deeper question, a matter of the heart: By fasting do you not seek God’s favor, but when you stop fasting and celebrate, do you abandon that concern for God’s favor?
In other words, if the people had learned the lesson that the destruction of the Temple was intended to teach and had truly repented and turned from their sins, then they could stop fasting. But if all their fasting didn’t change them, then it was simply a waste of time.
True repentance is not so much about being sorry but being obedient to God. It’s not about changing your ways; it’s changing your direction. It’s not a change of mind but a change of heart that results in a life that has been changed and transformed.
A change of heart has always been the test of true repentance and always will be.
Has God changed you to the extent that it has changed your behavior Do you now act differently than you did before? Do you act differently towards others than you did before?
If there’s no change in behavior, then there’s no change of heart! If there’s no change of heart, then there’s no repentance!
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17, ESV)