Zechariah 7:1 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;
2 When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,
3 And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?
4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
5 Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
6 And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
7 Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?
This chapter begins the second section of this book. It corresponds with Ezra 5-6 and Haggai. It is during the time of the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The month Chisleu is comparable to our November/December. We are told here that this is now the fourth year of the reign of king Darius. This is approximately 2 years after God first told Zechariah to begin writing this book. As mentioned the rebuilding of the temple is underway. However, there were Jews who were not happy with the way they perceived the LORD’s actions toward them while in captivity.
It is interesting how those who were being punished by the LORD thought they could demand He respond to them on their terms.
We see here that this is very similar to the way most people respond to correction. When God is correcting us, it is always justified. The 70 years of exile were necessary. God had been very patient with the nation of Judah. However, they had taken advantage of His patience. He had warned them many times of the consequences of rebelling against Him. He had acted with complete justice. Yet, while in captivity, many of the Jews had not humbled themselves and turned back to God. They had added some rituals to their religion that had no legitimacy with the LORD.
In verse 2 we read that the Jews back in Babylon/Persia had sent a delegation to the house of God. Sheerer and Regemmelech and others were sent to pray at the house of God. The temple was not complete yet, but they were going there to inquire of the LORD.
Verse 3 tells us that they also spoke with the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts. Again, God reminded Zechariah that He is the LORD of hosts. All people are accountable to Him. No one is exempt from His watchfulness and all will answer to Him.
This delegation also spoke with the prophets. They had a concern. They wanted to know if they should continue to hold their solemn assemblies in the fifth month as they had done over the past 70 years. The Jews had been very careful to keep this remembrance and as we read, it was a solemn time. They came together to weep. Verse 5 also points out this was a very solemn time that they had.
In verse 4 the LORD answered Zechariah on this matter. It is important to consult with the LORD over any questions we have. It is also important to listen to His answer. Many people go to their imaginary god with their prayers, but they also expect him to answer according to their will. When you have an imaginary god you can get the answers you want. After all, you made up your god. When you turn to the true God, you need humility and listen to what He has declared.
There were a few good men taken captive. Daniel and his three friends were good men. They honoured God in their lives prior to and while in captivity. They were tested, but they came through those tests stronger. Other Jews could see that serving God, even in captivity was the right thing to do. However, we do not read of a national repentance among the Jews. We do not read of any other Jews that came to realize they had sinned and God was justified in punishing them.
In Daniel 9, we read that Daniel understood the righteousness of God and His justification for judging the nation of Judah. Daniel asked for God’s forgiveness. We do not see a rallying cry of forgiveness from other Jews that were in captivity.
In our text these Jews had a concern and they wanted to know if they should continue with their rituals. We see in the last part of verse 3 that the Jews had kept this ritual for many years. The problem was that this solemn assembly was not according to the LORD’s instructions. It was something they had invented on their own and they assumed, in fact they expected God to recognize and appreciate their efforts. They chose to set a fast to remember their defeat at the hands of the Babylonians and other recent calamities they had experienced.
As noted, the LORD responded to their question. In verse 5 Zechariah needed to give His answer to the people. The priests and the common people needed to hear God’s answer.
The LORD knew that the people had kept these fasts for the past 70 years. The question He had for them was: did you fast unto the LORD? When God chastens, the wise person turns back to the LORD. The wise person does not set up a new fast and expect the LORD to bless that.
We can go all the way back to Cain and see that self-made religion does not please God. Cain was not being chastened. He wanted to bring an offering to the Lord. He wanted to bring an offering of his own making to the Lord and he expected the Lord to be satisfied with his offering. He found out that God does not have to receive a man-made offering. God is holy and He declares what is a valid offering and what is not. Cain did not like God’s response and murdered his brother.
These Jews could have looked back at God’s response to Cain’s attempts at humanistic religion and they could have looked back at the paganism that had permeated their religion in the years prior to their exile. They could have known that they needed to get back to what God had declared unto them.
In verse 6 Zechariah was told to remind the people that their fasts were for themselves. They were seeking to remember their fall, rather than get back to remembering the greatness of God.
They wanted to feel good about what they were doing. They were not interested in pleasing God. They assumed that if they felt good about themselves, then obviously God would be pleased with them. They assumed that as long as they were “sincere” in what they were doing, God should be pleased with them.
This is still the way rebellious people think today. They set up a ritual, or they have a form of godliness and they expect that the LORD will be pleased with them because they are “sincere” and they are praying or thinking of a god. They do not bother to know the true God. They invent their own god and then they wonder why things do not go according to their imagination.
In verse 7 Zechariah asked the important question. Would it not be wise to listen to what the LORD had to say. Notice that the LORD’s message was not foreign to these people. God had sent prophets in the past who had clearly declared the Word of the LORD to the people. These prophets had prophesied while Jerusalem was prospering. The problem was that the people had taken God for granted when things were going well. They did not want to acknowledge that it was the LORD that was blessing them. They may have given lip service to the LORD, but their hearts were not with Him.
God had blessed the nation with cities and with land outside of the cities. All of that was a blessing from the LORD.
A few years back, during the days when Barak Obama was the official president of the U.S., he gave a speech where he stated that it was not the hard work and ingenuity of the people that had brought them success. He was right in that part, but he was wrong in his conclusion. He wanted the people to think that it was big government that had given them their prosperity. He wanted them to be so grateful for the government’s generosity and be willing to give to the government so the government could blow their hard earned money on foolishness. He wanted the people to think they needed big government to succeed. Big government is the problem, not the solution.
Every individual should understand that it is God who prospers them. God gives man the ability to think and to work. Some people are sharper than others. Some can figure things out and they can make things work, while others look at the same thing and cannot figure out what to do with it. Some people have a sharp pencil and they can make ten dollars out of one dollar quite easily. The next person works just as hard, but does not seem to do as well.
Sometimes those who do well assume it is because they are just a little smarter than the next person. Sometimes that is true, but even so, God gives the person the ability to accomplish things. Even the lost are dependent upon God for their abilities. They do not recognize that, but it is true.
The nation of Israel had an advantage over the other nations in that God chose them to be His people. He blessed them in an extraordinary way so that they would show the world that it was wise to turn to the true God. Israel had taken God for granted and had put Him on the sidelines. They wanted to put Him on the shelf for a rainy day. Under good times they forgot about Him.
When God chastened them, they looked to the success of the pagan nations around them and adopted their false religions, rather than turn back to the God Who chose them.
This was still their problem even after being sent into exile. They had developed these rituals and they wondered why God had not blessed them for that. He showed them that He was still the LORD. They needed to follow His way, not invent their own and expect Him to bless that.
Zechariah was chosen by God to remind the nation of Israel that is was necessary for them to turn back to Him. The 70 years of exile were important. God did not fail or make a mistake in sending them into exile. They were failing to learn the important lessons that would benefit them and their children.
Today as well, it is necessary for us to look soberly and seriously into God’s Word. For those who are saved, have we added our own fasts to our religion? Have we ignored God’s Word and made our fasts of greater or even equal importance to God’s Word? Are we expecting God to bless our inventions rather than turning back to Him and following His way? His way will always work. His way is always right. His way is the way of blessing.