The Question of Fasting
Verse 1 – Now in the fourth year of King Darius it came to pass that the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev,
Verse 2 – when the people sent Sherezer, with Regem-Melech and his men, to the house of God, to pray before the LORD,
Verse 3 – and to ask the priests who were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and the prophets, saying, “Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?”
The tenth day of the fifth month was kept as a fast, being the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem. The people went to the partially finished temple to ask the priests, Haggai, and Zechariah, if they should continue this fast.
Verse 4 – Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,
Verse 5 – “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me – for Me?
In other words: “Did you really fast by not only separating yourselves with food, but separate yourselves from sin also?’ No, you didn’t. That attitude we have when we worship, pray, or do something for someone else, counts for a lot. Do we do things for God or His people, wanting something in exchange or are we truly doing it to please God?
Verse 6 – ‘When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves?
Verse 7 – ‘Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?’ ”
Oh, they had listened to the prophets, but they hadn’t done what they said. Are you a hearer of the Word and not a doer?
Verse 8 – Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying,
Verse 9 – “Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Execute true justice , show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother.
Verse 10 – Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’
And there lies the problem with the people.
Verse 11 – “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.
There were three disobedience that the people were guilty of and Zechariah reminded them; empty worship, idolatry, and social injustice. Mistreating the poor brought the most severe punishment.
Verse 12 – “Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts.
Verse 13 – “Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,” says the LORD of hosts.
Verse 14 – “But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate.”
Zechariah explained to the people that their ancestors brought God’s wrath on themselves by hardening their hearts – like flint. Any sin seems more natural the second time. As people become hardened, each repetition is easier. Ignoring God’s warnings, harden a person each time they do wrong. Sensitivity and submission to God’s Word will soften our heart and allow us to live as we should.