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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 7

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-14

Chapter 7

Now some men came to Zechariah with a question. While they were in Babylon they had been observing a couple of days of fasting. The day... they commemorated the day that the temple was destroyed by the Babylonian army. So they came to Zechariah with a question.

It came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came to Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu; When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD, 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? ( Zechariah 7:1-3 )

So during the seventy years of captivity, there in the fifth month there was this appointed fast commemorating the destruction of the temple.

Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying ( Zechariah 7:4 ),

So Zechariah went to the Lord with it, and God answered Zechariah.

Speak unto all the people of the land, and unto the priests, saying, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even for those seventy years, did you really fast unto me, even to me? And when you did eat, and when you did drink, did you not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? 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 the men inhabited the south and the plain? ( Zechariah 7:4-7 )

In other words, the Lord is saying, "Look, I never ordered these fasts to begin with." They were weeping and fasting over the judgment that God had brought upon their fathers because their fathers had disobeyed the word of the Lord. But they had set them up as religious holidays, and they began to develop the ceremonies, and the religious rituals surrounding these holidays. Holidays that God had never ordained; holidays that God had never established. God did not recognize them.

Now to the present day there are among the Orthodoxy of the Jews the celebration still of these two days in the fifth month and the seventh month. But God still doesn't look upon them. God said, "Look, wouldn't it have been better to have just listened to what the prophets of God had said to your fathers rather than fasting and then going ahead and eating? It had been better that you just listened to what God had said."

Now in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, before this took place, Isaiah spoke to the people concerning their fasting, beginning with verse Zechariah 7:3 . Oh, might as well begin with verse Zechariah 7:1 . "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet." He's ordering Isaiah to do this. "And show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, they delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and they forsook not the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God. 'Why have you fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen us? Oh God we've fasted and You haven't paid any attention to us. We've afflicted our souls and You didn't take knowledge of it.'" You know the fasting and the... oh, there's a word, I can't think of it, the afflicting, starts with a "c," but it'll come to me. "But God You haven't really taken knowledge of it." "Behold," and God answered them. "Why didn't You, Lord, pay attention to us? We were fasting and afflicting ourselves, why didn't You pay attention?"

The Lord said unto them, "Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and you exact of all your laborers." You make everybody else work. "Behold you're fasting for strife and debate, and to smite with a fist of wickedness. You shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high." You're not really fasting as unto the Lord, you're taking pleasure in these fast days; it's not a true affliction. "Is it such a fast that I have chosen? Did I choose this kind of a fast?" The Lord said, "A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush and spread sackcloth and ashes under him?" These were the way they were afflicting their souls, you know, lying on burlap or camel skin, which is very rough and coarse, and putting ashes on themselves. God said, "Did I ask you to do this? Do you call this a fast that is an acceptable day to the Lord? Is this not the fast that I have chosen? Isn't this the way I would rather have you fast, to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. That's," God said, "the kind of fast I want you to do. Just set at liberty those that are bound, your slaves and all, turn them free. Isn't the fast that I have chosen to deal your bread to the hungry and that you bring the poor that are cast out into thy house? If you want to really fast to the Lord, prepare a great meal, and call the poor in and feed the poor." God says, "I'd like that kind of a fast, I'll accept that kind of a fast. When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from thine own flesh. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily, and thy righteousness shall go before thee; and the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer. Thou shalt cry, and He shall say, 'Here I am.' And if thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, and the putting forth of the finger, and the speaking of vanity" ( Isaiah 58:1-9 ).

So people can get into religious rituals, fastings even, that God didn't order.

Now they said, "Shall we continue?" God said, "I didn't ask you to do it in the first place. You know, they weren't true fasts unto Me. It would be better if you would take a day where you'd just really sit down and hearken unto what happened, and realize that what happened happened because of their disobedience. Here you're grieving over the loss of the temple; you should be grieving over the unrepentant heart of your fathers that caused the loss of the temple. You should be grieving over the fact that they wouldn't listen to God. So you've set up your own holidays, but I didn't order these holidays."

Wait a minute! Lord shall we still observe December twenty-fifth? You say, "All right, stay off of that. You're stepping on my toes." When did God ever order man to observe the birthday of Jesus Christ? Shall we still observe the tenth month, and the fourth month Lord, or the twelfth month, and the fourth month? You see, these are holidays that men have established. We have our Lent season. God never ordered a Lent season. God never ordered an Ash Wednesday, a Good Friday, or a meatless Friday. These are the impositions of man. You might think about that. Because when God was questioned concerning these holidays that they had set up, God did not really recognize them, He said, "I didn't ask you to do that. Better that you just really hear the words which the Lord has cried by the prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, and the cities around about her were inhabited."

And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and show mercy, compassions to every man his brother ( Zechariah 7:8-9 ):

That's what God really desires. You say, "I want to fast," but God says, "Hey, I would rather you just be fair, you be honest, you be merciful and you be compassionate to each other."

Don't oppress the widow, nor the fatherless, nor the stranger, or the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his neighbor in his heart ( Zechariah 7:10 ).

These are the things that God will take notice of. These are the things that God will delight in. These are the things that God is asking you to do--not to fast, but to do these things.

But [the Lord said,] they refused to hearken, they pulled away the shoulder, they stopped their ears, that they should not hear ( Zechariah 7:11 ).

These were the things that the prophets were telling their fathers, and they wouldn't listen to them.

Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore there came great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts ( Zechariah 7:12-13 ).

Isn't that an awesome thing? God said, "Look, I cried unto you and you wouldn't listen. I was asking you to be fair, to be honest, to be compassionate, to be merciful, to take care of the widow, and the stranger and the poor, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry. I cried unto you, but you wouldn't answer Me. Therefore, when you cried unto Me, I didn't answer you."

"To obey is better than to sacrifice." It is important that we be obedient to the Word of the Lord. That we, each one, tonight make the application to ourselves. That we give ear, give heed to the Word of God, so that when we are in need, and we are in trouble, when we cry unto God, that He will listen to us.

So they were scattered with a whirlwind among the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid [that is, the Babylonian army, laid] the pleasant land desolate ( Zechariah 7:14 ). "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Zechariah 7". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/zechariah-7.html. 2014.
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