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FRAMEWORKS: Zechariah

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FRAMEWORKS: Zechariah 7: Questions & Challenge over the past and into the present

 

[Preliminary Comment: The point of this present chapter is to challenge the returned exiles about the state of their hearts. The question arose when some in the land had been fasting ever since the destruction of the temple and now wondered if, because the temple rebuilding was nearing completion, it was necessary to do this any longer [v.1-3]. The Lord takes this opportunity to challenge their motivation for doing it [v.4-6]. He goes on to point out that His earlier prophets had challenged the people back then [v.7], and so Zechariah now reminds them of the sort of things said to them before, behaviour that constituted righteousness [v.8-10] but, He goes on to remind them, the people back then had failed to obey Him [v.11-13] and this is why they ended up in exile [v.14]. The implication is an underlying question to the returned exiles in the present – have you learnt, have you changed, have you stopped being self-centred and disobedient and instead become godly and obedient?]

 

 

v.1-3 A question has arisen over fasting and mourning for the destroyed temple

   

v.1  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.

v.2  The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat the Lord

v.3  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?'

 

[Notes: According to 2 Kings 25:8 the fifth month had been when the temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar's men. Now that the temple is approaching completion, these men who had been faithfully praying and fasting in this month each year, wondered if it was still necessary, and so sent to Jerusalem to enquire about it.]

 

v.4-7 The Lord questions whether it had been self-centred

  

v.4  Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me:

v.5  ‘Ask [i] all the people of the land and [ii] 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?

v.6  And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?

 

[Notes: Motivation is always crucial before the Lord so He questions whether their activities over these years had been self-pity or genuine anguish for the honour of the Lord.]

 

v.7-10 The earlier prophets [v.7] had declared true righteousness to be followed

v.7  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?”'

v.8  And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah:

v.9  ‘This is what the Lord Almighty said: “[i] Administer true justice; [ii] show mercy and compassion to one another.

v.10 [iii] Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. [iv] Do not plot evil against each other.”

 

v.11-13 Although it had been quite clear they had not obeyed

 

v.11  ‘But [i] they refused to pay attention; [ii] stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.

v.12  [iii] They made their hearts as hard as flint and [iv] 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.

v.13  ‘“[v] When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,” says the Lord Almighty.

 

v.14 This was why the Lord scattered them and left the land desolate

  

v.14  “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.”'

    

[Notes: Having just challenged their motivation, the Lord reminds them what had happened in the past: His prophets [Jeremiah & Ezekiel at least] had clearly challenged the previous generation about their godless and unrighteous behaviour and made it quite clear what righteous behaviour involved. The fact was they had disregarded those prophets and the ongoing words they kept bringing and it was because of this determined disobedience that they eventually were sent into exile. This is why the Lord now questions them about their present motivation. Have they learned, have they changed? [implied]. The chapter should be read as one piece.]

    

    

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