Scriptures

Zechariah 7

Introduction

‘In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat the LORD by asking the priests of the house of the LORD Almighty and the prophets, ‘Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?’ Zechariah 7:1-3

Justice And Mercy, Not Fasting

Around two years after Zechariah received the last of his visions, the word of the Lord came to him on the fourth day or ninth month of Kislev, which is around November or December time.

It’s interesting to note that the two men Sharezer and Regem-Melek have now got Babylonian names. The name Sharezer, means ‘protect the king’, and the name Regem-Melech means ‘king’s friend’.

Jews usually had Jewish names and so, this tells us how much influence the Babylonians had on God’s people during the captivity.

Here we see the arrival to Jerusalem a group who represented the exiles asking whether they should fast in the fifth month. They obviously continued to fast whilst in captivity but since the temple was in the process of being rebuilt, they ask if they should just stop fasting.

They mourned when Jerusalem was captured, Jeremiah 52:6-30, they fasted at the burning of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon’s temple, 2 Kings 25:2-10. They fasted at the assassination of Gedaliah and the massacre of eighty men, Jeremiah 4:1-10, and they fasted at the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s siege against Jerusalem, 2 Kings 25:1.

We know that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. However, it appears that the Jews, whilst in captivity begun fasting in the fifth month, just before Jerusalem and the temple were totally destroyed, 2 Kings 25:8-9.

‘Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: ‘Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? Are these not the words the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’ Zechariah 7:4-7

Zechariah was asked by God to ask those who asked the question about fasting, why did they fast in the first place?

The reason they actually fasted in the first place was because of the murder of Gedaliah who was appointed governor over Palestine by Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 25:25 / Jeremiah 41:1-10.

The fasting which took place on the fifth and seventh months were fasts that were instituted by the people, not God. The Law of Moses only commanded one fast day, on the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:29-34.

In other words, they weren’t fasting because of a lack of faithfulness to God, their fasting had nothing to do with repentance. They ignored God’s words to repent, which He spoke through the earlier prophets, 1 Samuel 1:1 / 1 Kings 14:2 / 1
Kings 14:4 / 1 Kings 16:7, they fasted over things that they had lost.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary says the following.

‘Nothing is so hard, so unmalleable, so inflexible, as the heart of a presumptuous sinner and those whose hearts are hard may thank themselves, they are of their own hardening, and it is just with God to give them over to a reprobate sense, to the hardness and impenitence of their own hearts.’

The point is simply this, they should have started fasting while Jerusalem was still standing in order to turn to God.

‘And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: ‘This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ ‘But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one travelled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’ Zechariah 7:8-14

Zechariah now reminds those who had enquired about fasting about their spiritual condition and the attitude of those who lived before the captivity. God doesn’t want them to be disobedient as their fathers were.

Zechariah rebukes the God’s people and their fathers, for being disobedient To God and he now describes the kind of obedience God wanted, beginning with decent and loving treatment of their neighbours.

Before the Jews went into exile, God had demanded that they practice justice, mercy and compassion, Isaiah 1:16-17 / Amos 5:14 / Amos 5:24 / Hosea 6:6. Here, God reminds them of the wicked social oppression of widows, orphans and the poor, Micah 3:1-3 / Micah 6:8.

They were more concerned about themselves, they didn’t care about anyone else as long as they lived in luxury, they didn’t care what any of God’s prophets were saying, they ignored all the rebukes. Zechariah knew that the Spirit of God genuinely inspired his words and the words of other prophets.

They totally ‘turned their backs’ on God’s prophets, despite them preaching the truth, Acts 7:51. Since they refused to listen to God, God would refuse to listen to them and answer their prayers.

Their hearts were hard as flint and as a result of this God unleashed His judgments upon them as a whirlwind. He scattered them among the nations in order that they be disciplined. With the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, He made the land of Palestine desolate of Israelites.

Go To Zechariah 8

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Matthew 6:33

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