Morning Bible Study
The background to Zechariah, like that of Haggai, is
found in the book of Ezra.
After having been captive in Babylon for seventy years, the Jews are given permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild
their Temple in Jerusalem.
When the Temple construction is stopped, it was Haggai
and Zechariah who began to prophesy and encourage the people to finish the
Temple. (Ezra 5:1-2)
Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in
Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over
The prophecies of Zechariah are given during the
years of 520-518 BC.
One of the key distinctions of the book of Zechariah is the amount of
prophecy about the coming Messiah.
Chapters 1-6 contained a series of eight “night visions”, all of which Zechariah
received from God on a single night.
They all took place on February 15, 519 BC.
: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, Chislev,
:1 in the fourth year of King Darius
When you convert the dates of the Jewish calendar into our Julian calendar,
we are now at Dec. 7, 518 BC.
It has been nearly two years since the eight night visions of chapters 1-6.
It’s also been two years since Temple construction
got restarted. Within two more years the Temple will be complete.
:2 when the people sent Sherezer,
with Regem-Melech and his men, to the house of
God, to pray before the Lord,
: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
:2 to the house of God
The Hebrew here is literally “Beit-El”,
the equivalent of the city named Bethel.
When you translate this as “Bethel”, the verse reads like this:
(Zechariah 7:2 NIV) The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer
and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat
Both Ezra and Nehemiah record people from Bethel returning from
Babylon. Nehemiah indicates that people
began to rebuild and live in Bethel.
the men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three;
the men of Bethel and Ai, one hundred and twenty-three;
The fact that the city of Bethel is sending a delegation to Jerusalem to
ask God a question is kind of important.
Bethel was one of the two cities that ancient King Jeroboam of the northern
kingdom had set up as spiritual alternatives to Jerusalem. Jeroboam had built temples with golden calves
and ordered the northern tribes to stay away from Jerusalem.
The golden calves were the reason why the northern kingdom had been carried away by the Assyrians.
The delegation coming from Bethel gives us a hint that the people of Bethel
had learned one (but not all) of their lessons.
They had learned that God had indeed chosen Jerusalem as
the place where He was to be worshipped.
:3 Should I weep in the fifth month and
During the Babylonian captivity, the Jews had started a new, annual time of
“fasting” in the fifth month of their calendar.
It was to remember the day that the Temple was destroyed in 586 BC (Jer.
Now in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month
(which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who served
the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.
It’s a little like the ceremonies you see
practiced every year on September 11.
Jews today still fast on the day they call “Tisha
B’Av” (“the ninth of Av”)
It was not only the day that Solomon’s Temple was destroyed, but strangely enough it would also be the day that Herod’s
Temple (refurbished from Zerubbabel’s Temple) was destroyed by the Romans in AD
The day occurs in July or August on our calendar.
:3 as I have done for so many years?
The implication is that the people are tired of this day of fasting that they’ve held to for seventy years.
They don’t see the value in it anymore since the
Temple is now on its way to be rebuilt.
:4 Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying,
The answer to the people’s question of God is given
to the prophet Zechariah.
: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?
:5 fasted and mourned in the fifth and
They also fasted in the seventh month.
The Day of Atonement is a day of fasting in the seventh month, but that’s not what’s being referred to.
They had started a fast on the 3rd day of the seventh month to
mourn over the murder of Gedaliah, the governor the
Babylonians had first appointed over the land (Jer. 41:1).
:5 did you really fast for Me
The men from Bethel might have thought that they were going to get a pat on
the back or at least an “at-a-boy” from God for having done all these fasts for
Instead, God brings their motives into the light and exposes them.
The people had gone through the motions of fasting,
probably even beating on their breasts, but it was an outward display without
any introspection and examining of their own hearts.
Sometimes even things like “fasting” can be done
for purely self-centered reasons.
Some people fast for the sole purpose of losing weight.
There is NOTHING wrong with getting your health in order.
Just don’t call it “fasting”.
The benefit is for you, not your relationship with God.
Some people fast so they can get more attention and people will think they’re something extra special.
(Matthew 6:16–18 NKJV) —16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the
hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they
may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their
reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that
you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the
secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Ideally, the only person who you want to impress when you
fast is God. So don’t
make a point of letting everyone else know what you’re doing.
:6 When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat
and drink for yourselves?
:6 eat and drink
In some church traditions, where they regularly practice “fasting”
together, they usually follow up the period of fasting with a “feast”. I think we should skip the fast and go straight for the feast … just kidding.
:6 do you not eat and drink for
A month or so ago, Victoria Osteen, the wife of Joel Osteen, made an
interesting comment about why we ought to worship.
Now to be totally honest, there is a little kernel
of truth there – the best thing we can do for ourselves is to follow and
BUT – when you live your life only to please
yourself and not to please God, you are going to go off the rails.
The real secret to happiness is not in doing what makes
YOU happy, but in learning to do what makes GOD happy.
: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?’ ”
:7 Jerusalem … South … Lowland
These are specific places that cover pretty much the entire nation of Judah which had been taken by the Babylonians seventy years
:7 Should you not have obeyed
Before the captivity in Babylon, the people were warned over
and over again to turn from their sins.
They even fasted and made sacrifices, but they were only outward
displays. The people never actually
changed the way they live. And so God said to the people at that time…
(Jeremiah 14:12 NKJV) When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and
when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But
I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.”
They have been fasting and mourning for seventy years over something that
would never have happened if they had listened to the warnings of prophets like
Isaiah and Jeremiah.
:8 Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying,
:9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and
compassion Everyone to his brother.
: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.’
:9 Execute true justice …
We really have not left the idea of fasting yet. The theme will continue through the next
Fasting & Obedience
Technically, “fasting” involves denying yourself a meal or two. It might involve denying yourself some sort
of pleasure, like turning off the TV for a night.
There is a connection with fasting and God answering prayers.
There was an incident where the disciples were unable to cast out a
demon. When Jesus showed up, He cast out
the demon and then said,
17:21 NKJV) However, this kind does not go out
except by prayer and fasting.”
With this principle, we can sometimes fall into the trap
of thinking that if I fast, then God is obligated to answer my prayer.
The problem is that we don’t
understand what fasting is all about.
Connecting with God
Fasting is about getting you connected to God.
That involves denying your flesh
You learn that you can live for a few hours or a few days
without “feeding your flesh”.
The Christian life involves self-denial:
16:24 NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples,
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
It involves self-control.
If you can go without a meal (something that your body
actually needs) and survive, perhaps you can go without that “thing” that you don’t actually need.
Perhaps you can indeed break that bad habit or sin.
It involves mourning over sin.
The people of Zechariah’s day had been mourning over the
loss of their Temple.
They should have been mourning over their sin that
resulted in the loss of their Temple.
Isaiah wrote about these same issues.
NLT) —3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will
tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. 4 What good
is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will
never get you anywhere with me. 5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover
yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this
will please the Lord?
The people are expecting to impress God and have Him
answer their prayers when they are fasting, but He isn’t
answering their prayers.
The reason is that they are going through the motions of
fasting while their lives haven’t changed at all on
6 “No, this
is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten
the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the
chains that bind people. 7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need
These are all things that should have
been done. This is about
correcting things that are wrong. This is about repentance.
Fasting ought to be connected with
changes that start on the inside. And when that
8 “Then your
salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your
godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9 Then when
you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply…
Deliverance from difficulties.
Healing from wounds.
Answers to prayer
These are the things that happen
when we do fasting correctly.
:11 But they refused to heed, shrugged their
shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.
:11 so that they could not hear
Sometimes it’s too hard to hear God because there’s
too much noise in the room…
Zechariah isn’t saying it was too noisy, these
people just didn’t even want to hear from God.
: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.
: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.
:13 they called out and I would not
Fasting can be a powerful enhancement to your prayer life, but only if you
pay attention to things like denying yourself, self-control, and dealing with
(John 15:7 NKJV) If you abide in Me,
and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done
Having His words abide in you is not about memorizing
It’s about allowing Scripture a
place in your heart. It’s
about learning to treasure Scriptures and obeying them.
God says, “If you want me to listen to you, then
try listening to me first.”
This is not about “earning” brownie points with God so He will grant you
It’s about learning to walk with God. It’s about learning
what God’s heart is all about. It’s learning to grasp the kinds of things God wants to do
so you can ask for those things.
: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
:14 they made the pleasant land desolate
The people had not paid attention to the warnings that God had given them over and over again.
Their continual disobedience led to them being taken
to Babylon for seventy years.
And even after they’ve returned from Babylon, they
still haven’t fully understood yet.
God wants them to obey Him.
I think there are probably times in our lives when God has to give us a
loving warning when we’ve strayed from Him.
The Bible says,
12:6 NKJV) For whom
the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges
every son whom He receives.”
God’s warnings don’t come because
He hates us. The difficult times that
might come as a result of our sin aren’t because He’s
trying to grind us to dust.
He warns us because He loves us.
12:11 NKJV) Now no chastening seems to be
joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the
peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been
trained by it.
The good results of discipline come after we have been
“trained”, after we learn to do what we need to do.