ZECHARIAH CHAPTER 7.
A Double Admonition.
THE QUESTION PROPOSED. — V. 1. And It came to pass in the fourth year of King Darius, in the year 518 B. C., that the word of the Lord, by special inspiration, came unto Zecharlah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu, corresponding roughly to our December, v. 2. when they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regem-melech and their men to pray before the Lord, rather, Bethel, that is, the citizens of this city, sent Sherezer and Regem-melech, the first one evidently having been born in exile and bearing a Chaldean name, with their men, to entreat Jehovah, literally, “to conciliate by caresses,” v. 3. and to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts, who were on duty, although the Temple was not yet finished, and to the prophets, also servants of the true God in the more specific sense, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, observing a special fast in commemoration of the taking of the city of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, separating myself, abstaining from food, as I have done these so many years? for this fast had become a custom during the captivity, and now that the Jews were once more living in Palestine, was being observed throughout the country. For this reason the question was of practical importance for all the Jews, both at home and abroad. V. 4. Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying, v. 5. Speak unto all the people of the land and to the priests, His message concerning them all, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, the latter observation being in memory of the murder of Gedaliah, cp. Jer. 41, even those seventy years, during the entire captivity, did ye at all fast unto Me, even to Me? Had it really been done in His honor, for the purpose of serving Him, or was it a work performed in a sense of selfishness, to foster the spirit of resentment and revenge? V. 6. And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? Both their fasting and their feasting, so the Lord reminds them, was conducted without regard to Him, simply for the gratification of their own ideas. V. 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, the suburbs dependent upon the capital, when men inhabited the south, the semiarid section of Judah toward the south-east, and the plain, the lowlands toward the southwest? They should have been familiar with the messages of the prophets before the exile, which time and again emphasized the need of a true worship of the heart, of sincere repentance and faith. The fasting in itself is a matter of indifference to the Lord. The fasting which is well-pleasing to God does not primarily consist in abstaining from food, but in one’s observing the Word of the Lord and living in accordance with it at all times, as the prophets have ever preached.
AN APPEAL TO THE PAST. — V. 8. And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying, v. 9. Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, rather, “Thus spake Jehovah,” in addressing the children of Judah in former days, before the exile, saying, Execute true judgment, literally, “judge the judgment of truth,” and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother, so that kindness and pity should be practiced at all times, Is. 58, 6.7; Jer. 7, 28; v. 10. and oppress not the widow nor the fatherless, the orphans, the stranger nor the poor, these four classes ever being in the care of the Lord, Is. 1, 17; Jer. 5, 28; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart, this being a summary of a number of admonitions with which the earlier prophets had tried to influence the people for their own good. V. 11. But they refused to hearken, they were consistently rebellious, and pulled away the shoulder, like an ox who refuses to accept the yoke on his neck, and stopped their ears, cp. Is. 6, 10, that they should not hear. V. 12. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, like the hardest stone, impervious to every impression from without, lest they should hear the Law, the books of Moses, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in His Spirit, inspired by His Spirit, by the former prophets, who were the instruments of God in making known His will; therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts, as shown in the captivity of Judah. V. 18. Therefore it is come to pass, that as He cried, in the exhortations of His prophets, and they would not hear, so they cried, they called when in trouble, so Jehovah says, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts; v. 14. but I scattered them with a whirlwind, in a terrible storm of His wrath, among all the nations whom they knew not, strange to them in language, customs, and religion. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned, all of Judea practically being a wilderness; for they laid the pleasant land desolate, the children of Judah themselves being to blame for the desolation which came upon the land. When sinners receive the just punishment of their sins, they have but themselves to blame for their afflictions, though their pride would attempt to deny it.