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Zechariah 7

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 12, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Regular:  2900 words    Communion: 2500 words

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)

After the people began to build, opposition arose from their enemies, and for a period of 15 years, the Temple construction was halted.

It was then that God raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, who began to encourage the people to get back to work and make God’s House a priority.

(Ezra 5:1–2 NKJV) —1 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 them. 2 So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them.
It was under the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah that the work got stirred up again.
The Temple won’t be complete until March 12, 515 BC (Ezr 6:15-18)

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.

Except for the prophet Isaiah, there are more prophecies about the Messiah in this book than any other Old Testament book.
One set of scholars list 41 quotes or allusions to Zechariah in the New Testament.

It seems that Zechariah has dated each of his prophecies, like Haggai did.

The first prophecy is 1:1-6
It was given on 08/??/02
The second prophecy is 1:7 – 6:15
Hag.2:10-19 talks about how “uncleanness” defiles everything it touches.

Haggai’s prophecy was given on 9/24/02

In Zec. 3 God talks about Joshua the high priest being “filthy”, but being cleansed.

Zechariah’s prophecy was given 11/24/02

The third prophecy is 7:1 – 14:21
Some suggest that only 7:1-7 are tied to the last date, and the rest of the book is undated.

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.

7:1-7 Fasting

: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 been two years since Haggai had stirred up the people to restart the Temple construction project (Hag. 1:1).
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 years?”

:2 Sherezer – “prince of fire”

:2 Regem-Melech – “king’s heap”

: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 the Lord

Both Ezra and Nehemiah record people from Bethel returning from Babylon.  Nehemiah indicates that people began to rebuild and live in Bethel.

(Ezra 2:28 NKJV) —28 the men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three;
(Nehemiah 7:32 NKJV) —32 the men of Bethel and Ai, one hundred and twenty-three;
(Nehemiah 11:31 NKJV) —31 Also the children of Benjamin from Geba dwelt in Michmash, Aija, and Bethel, and their villages;
The two men in the delegation were probably born in Babylon because they don’t have regular Hebrew names, but foreign born names.
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.

:2 to praychalah – to entreat, pray, beg

The word can carry the idea of stroking the face or caressing it.  It can carry the idea of smoothing away the wrinkles of displeasure in another person’s face.

One translation reads:

(Zechariah 7:2 NASB95) …to seek the favor of the Lord,
These men are sent as a delegation to ask a question of God.

:3 Should I weep in the fifth month and fast

weepbakah – to weep, bewail, cry, shed tears

fastnazar – (Niphal) to dedicate oneself, devote oneself

This is not the normal word for “fasting” from food, but implies the abstinence of both food and pleasure.

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. 52:12-13)
(Jeremiah 52:12–13 NKJV) —12 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. 13 He burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire.
It was the year that the Temple was destroyed and the city was burned to the ground.
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 70.
The Jewish philosopher Maimonides wrote that it was the day that God told Moses that the people weren’t allowed to go into the Promised Land (Num. 14).

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.

We’re going to see by the time we get through chapter 8 (8:19) that the people had actually been fasting on certain days in the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 10th months.

: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 Say to all the people of the land

Even though it was the people from Bethel asking the question, God knows that this is something that’s on everyone’s minds.

The answer goes to all the people.

:5 fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months

fastedtsuwm – to abstain from food, fast

mournedcaphad – to wail, lament, mourn

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 seventy years.

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.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were very careful to do all the right things on the outside, so people would think they were righteous.  Yet what really counts is on the inside.

(Matthew 23:27–28 NKJV) —27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.


Self-centered fasting

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 yourselves?

A month or so ago, Victoria Osteen, the wife of Joel Osteen, made an interesting comment about why we ought to worship.

Video:  Victoria Osteen - Happiness
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 worship God.
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 earlier.

:7 Southnegeb – south-country; the region of southern Judah

:7 the Lowlandshephelah – lowland, valley; strip west of Judean mountains (technical term)

: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.

7:8-14 Obedience

: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 chapter.


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.
Video:  The Skinny on Fasting
Powerful prayer
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,

(Matthew 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:

(Matthew 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.
(Isaiah 58:3–9 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 the inside.

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 your help.

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 happens…

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.

God’s protection.

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…

Video:  Cell Phone Crashing

Zechariah isn’t saying it was too noisy, these people just didn’t even want to hear from God.

The words we read from Isaiah were written a couple hundred years before the captivity.
If the people had learned to pay attention to the things spoken by the prophets like Isaiah, they would never have gone into captivity.

: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 listen


Answered Prayer

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 your sin.
Jesus said,
(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 for you.

Having His words abide in you is not about memorizing Scripture.

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.”
Are there prayer requests you have that you wonder if God will ever answer?

I wonder if we should be asking ourselves, “Is there something that God has been trying to tell me that I haven’t paid attention to?”

This is not about “earning” brownie points with God so He will grant you three wishes.
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 land desolate.”

:14 they made the pleasant land desolate


Pay attention

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.
God had been warning them from the time of Moses that He wanted them to follow Him, and that was around 1400 BC.
Over and over God sent the prophets, warning the people to turn from their wicked ways.
Finally, in 586 BC, the judgment came.
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,

(Hebrews 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.

(Hebrews 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.