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. 2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the Lord, 3 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?”
4 Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: 5 “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? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? 7 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?”
8 And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 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. 13 “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts, 14 “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.”
Questions to Consider:
2. What is the “weeping and abstaining in the fifth month” referred to by Sharezer and Regem-melech? (2-5) Instead of saying, “Yes, keep the fast,” or “No, forego the fast,” what does God say instead? (4-7) During the seventy years of exile, were the people keeping the fast out of love and reverence for God or simply as a self-pitying ritual? (5-6) Which is more important to God, the outward actions of obedience, or obedience from a heart of love for Him?
3. Examine your motives for going to church, worship, serving others, giving offerings, studying your Bible, and praying. Do you do these things out of rote obedience or because you love God? Pray and ask God to change your change your heart in any area in which you are not acting out of love for Him.
4. What instructions did God give the people in verses 9-10? What does the word “they,” the use of the past tense (refusED, turnED, etc.), and the phrase “former prophets” in verses 11-14 indicate about the previous recipients of these instructions? Who were these recipients? What was Israel’s response to God’s instructions before the exile? (11-12) What was God’s response to Israel’s disobedience? (13-14)
5. Why did God have Zechariah tell the people about Israel’s past disobedience and His punishment of that disobedience? (11-14) What can we, as Christians learn from this passage about the importance God places on obedience from the heart? Though verses 9-10 were written specifically to Israel, does God want Christians to carry out these same principles? How do you know? What are some examples of ways you can carry out the spirit of God’s instructions in verses 9-10?