When we offer up our requests to God,
it must be with readiness to receive instructions from Him.
God is not made men’s debtor by fasts which are not observed with self-examination and a purpose to put away their sins.
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 Regem-melech, 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?
8 ¶ And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
12 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 came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.
13 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:
14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.
Zechariah 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Zechariah 7:1-14 – The Penalty of Injustice and Cruelty
During their captivity the Jews observed four feasts. That of the 10th month recalled the first enclosure of Jerusalem by the enemies’ lines; of the 4th the capture of the city; of the 5th the destruction by fire of the Temple; of the 7th the murder of Gedaliah. The national life was depressed by this constant memory of disaster. It seemed incongruous to act thus, when the Holy City was rising from the dust. Surely the lamentations which were befitting in Babylon, were out of place now. A deputation was therefore sent to inquire the views of the leaders. Zechariah gave four separate answers to the request. In Zechariah 7:4-7 he suggests that as these fasts had been set up by themselves, they were at liberty to discontinue them, and the main question was whether they were pondering the teachings and warnings of the older prophets. In Zechariah 7:8-14 he implored them not to yield to the obtuseness and disobedience of their fathers, in order that no second catastrophe should cast them back to the disasters they had suffered. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Zechariah 7:5—When ye fasted and mourned… did ye at all fast unto Me, even to Me?
The men at Bethel asked this question of the priests; it was answered by the prophet. The fast of the fifth month was in memory of the fall of Jerusalem; that of the seventh commemorated the murder of Gedaliah, when the last blow was struck at Jewish independence. The question was: Should the restored Jews continue these fasts now that the events they recalled were forgotten in the abounding joy of the new state? It was a question of rite and ceremony and outward observance; and the prophet answers in effect: “Ye take much trouble and thought about the observance of a man-constituted religious rite; would that you were equally solicitous to practice those virtues, and denounce the vices, which were the theme of so many expostulations and warnings of the older prophets.”
God invariably demands a religion which does not consist in outward rites and ceremonies, but is inward and spiritual; and demands true judgment, the showing of mercy and compassion, the forsaking of oppression and evil imaginings. This is unpalatable enough to the natural man, who pulls away his shoulder.
On the general question, one would advise that there is no need to observe the sad anniversaries of our sins and their accompanying punishment, if once we are assured of God’s free forgiveness. When He forgives and restores, the need for dwelling on the bitter past is over; and we should put off our sackcloth and array ourselves with festal garments. This is a most salutary and necessary lesson. Too many of us are always dwelling beside the graves of the dead past. Each month has an anniversary of something we have lost. “Not looking behind” should be the motto of our Christian life. —Our Daily Homily