A Call for Justice and Mercy
7 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the LORD, saying to the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”
Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me: “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? Were not these the words that the LORD proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’”
And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”
Zechariah 7 Commentary
by Hank Workman
But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. 12 They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.Zechariah 7:11-12
At issue was the condition of the hearts of the people. They may have outwardly looked the part of being followers of God but digging beneath the surface, they were far from it. And, in actuality, they were simply going through the motions with their actions in some way like fasting but were neglecting true justice, mercy, compassion toward the poor and hatred toward one another.
The fascinating thing to consider here is the progression God Himself speaks of how the people turned their hearts like flint.
Flint – a hard rock that was used in ancient times to strike a spark for a fire.
God said the people refused to heed or listen to Him. They shrugged their shoulders through self-justifying their behavior. Their ears stopped hearing His voice. The end result was their hearts were hard as a rock.
The turning of one’s heart toward hardness does not happen overnight. It is a gradual progression to the current place of such hard-heartedness. In time they reject the ways and voice of God. And in time, there’s no way one can hear clearly from Him.
As flint was used to strike a fire in ancient days, consider as well – God’s words through this analogy. If their hearts were hardened, when something would strike them – a fire would begin. And this fire of the troubled times to come would most certainly mirror this.
There is no doubt, God will use whatever He must to reach His children and lead them back. Sometimes the fires must burn through our own hardness of heart before we are willing to reclaim all that was lost. His mercy and grace never ceases. But sometimes our hearts must be exposed for the hardness of which they’ve become before we can receive the goodness He longs to lavish upon us.
Zechariah 7 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
What kind of motives do we have for the rituals and traditions we hold onto?
by asking the priests who were at the house of the LORD of Hosts as well as the prophets, “Should we mourn and fast in the fifth month as we have done these many years?”Zechariah 7:3 HCSB
Over the years, the Jewish people had established additional feasts on particular dates which were symbolic of remembering their past suffering.
04/17 – Mourning The Capture of Jerusalem (Jer 52:6-30)Enduring Word Commentary
05/09 – Burning of Jerusalem and the Destruction of Solomon’s Temple (2 Ki 25:2-10)
07/03 – Assassination of Gedaliah and the Massacre of 80 Men (Jer 4:1-10)
10/10 – Beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s Siege Against Jerusalem (2 Ki 25:1)
The question at hand is basic. Should Israel continue these traditions now that they are back in their own land? The answer from the Lord is just as simple.
When you eat and drink, don’t you eat and drink simply for yourselves?Zechariah 7:6 HCSB
There is a line we need to draw between the tradition and the intended result of the tradition. The people were happy to spend their fast days in mourning but they were continuing to neglect God’s calling to move forward. If the establishment of rituals and traditions is not producing the fruit that God desires, they simply become another checkbox on our list. God’s answer revealed their true motives.
“The rhetorical question was designed to confront the people and priests with the selfish motives of their self-righteous fasting. Biblical fasting is meant to be time taken from the normal routines of preparing and eating food to express humility and dependence on God during a time of prayer.”Nelson’s Commentary
So, what did God want from the people?
“The LORD of Hosts says this: Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another.Zechariah 7:9 HCSB
There is a time for reflecting on the past and that time can be fruitful as long as it produces obedience. If we continue to live in our past and never allow it to move us to growth, we are only deceiving ourselves. In that case, our focus on the past only becomes a crutch to lean on in order to avoid the ongoing process of submission and growth. God was clear about his desire. He wanted heart change and that desire is the same today.