If attending church one service is good, won’t attending four more be better? Is this what God wants? This is what the Jewish remnant wanted to know as they came to ask about the fasts they had been keeping for over 70 yrs. Let’s see what God has to say about true worship and true obedience.
PRINCIPLES: One’s attitude weighs more with God than one’s actions; God hates hypocrisy because He is a jealous God.
AIM: That we may learn what God requires for pure worship and then demonstrate that in our everyday walk.
DAY ONE: Background and Zech 7:1-3: The people ask God about fasting
1.How much time has passed from the revelations of visions? It has been approximately 2 yrs. since God first spoke to Zechariah and showed him 8 visions.
Zech 1:1 2nd yr of Darius, 8th month
Zech 7:1 4th yr of Darius 4th day of 9th month.
2.A delegation came to ask the priests and prophets a question. From where did they come and what did they ask? See Ezra 2:28, Neh 11:31. They came from Bethel. The phrase “house of God” refers to that city, if it had said “house of the Lord” it would refer to the Temple. Zech 7:2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech and their companions to seek the Lord’s favor
The delegation came to inquire as to whether they should continue to weep and fast as they had been doing “these many years”.
Neh 11:31 The children also of Benjamin from Geba dwelt at Michmash, and Aija, and Bethel, and in their villages,
Ezr 2:28 The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty and three.
Note: Jdg 20:31 –
To the house of God – “To Bethel,” as in the margin. On “Gibeah in the field.”
Barnes: Zec 7:2 –
When they held sent unto the house of God – Rather, “And Bethel sent;” that is, the inhabitants of Bethel sent. “The house of God” is nowhere in Holy Scripture called Bethel. Bethel is always the name of the place. . The “house of God” is designated by historians, Psalmists, prophets, by the name, “Beth-elohim,” more commonly “Beth-Ha-elohim, the God;” or “of the Lord,” YHVH. Zechariah and Haggai use these names. It is not likely that the name, Beth-el, should have first been given to the house of God, when it had been desecrated by the idolatries of Jeroboam. Bethel also is, in the Hebrew order of the words, naturally the subject . Nor is there any reason why they should have sent to Bethel, since they sought an answer from God. For it would be forced to say that they sent to Bethel, in order that those at Bethel should send to Jerusalem; which is not said.
Osorius: Bethel then, that is, the assembly of the city, sent messengers to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God and consult the wise there.”
3.The people had been fasting during several months of the year for over the last 70 yrs. They had mourned, fasted, wept as a way to remember the past. Read 2 Kings 25 to gain the background behind their question. Note specifically these verses: v 1, 3&4, 8&9, 25. What had occurred in each of these verses and in what months?
In vs 1: the siege of Jerusalem: 2Ki 25:1 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about.
In vs 3&4: 2Ki 25:3: the famine in Jerusalem: And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.
2Ki 25:4 And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.
In vs 8&9: The burning of the Temple: 2Ki 25:8 And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:
2Ki 25:9 And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.
In vs 25: The murder of Gedaliah: 2Ki 25:25 But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died,
4.Read Zech 7:5 and 8:19. What months did God note that they had been fasting? In chapter 7 God only notes the fasts for the 5th and 7th months, but in chapter 8 we find that He noted the 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th.
In Zech 7:5 we read: When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years
In Zech 8:19 The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth,
5.The people had been fasting for 70 yrs. Did God require these times of fasting? _NO____ What did God require?
Lev 16:29-31; 23:26-32; Num 29:7: This set of verses speak of the Day of Atonement and what God required: God only established one fast, which was on the Day of Atonement. There were other fasts but this one only was required.
Full explanation: 16:29 “This is to be a perpetual statute for you. 1 In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you must humble yourselves 2 and do no work of any kind, 3 both the native citizen and the foreigner who resides 4 in your midst, 16:30 for on this day atonement is to be made for you to cleanse you from all your sins; you must be clean before the Lord. 5 16:31 It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must humble yourselves. 6 It is a perpetual statute. 7
23:26 The Lord spoke to Moses: Lev 23:27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement:
29:7 “‘On the tenth day of this seventh month you are to have a holy assembly. You must humble yourselves; 20 you must not do any work on it.
The Israelites had placed a burden upon themselves that God did not require. Where have you placed a burden upon yourself that is not scripturally based? How often do we place boundaries and burdens upon ourselves that God did not require nor does He see them as pleasing. For instance, how often do we place the burden of church attendance upon ourselves? How often do we place the burden of dress codes, behavioral codes that are not scripturally based? God desires a contrite heart, pure attitude and pure motivation above “rules” and legalism.
DAY TWO: Zech 7:4-7 God Rebukes Hypocrisy
6.God sent Zechariah back to the people with 3 basic questions. List them from vs 4-7.
Question #1 vs 5: When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
Question #2 vs. 6: And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
Question #3 vs 7: Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets,
7.In what way were the people being hypocritical? The people were fasting without regard to the requirements that God had established. They imposed fasts upon the people that were not scripturally based and they were doing it with the wrong motives and attitudes. They were not doing it for God but for themselves. God rebuked them for their empty formalism that had no spiritual reality.
8.Read Is 58:1-7 for a similar time when God asked the people about their hypocrisy. What did God say He required? God begins this chapter with how the people were responding. Then He asks a pertinent question: Isa 58:5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? But rather in vs. 6 God tells them what fast He is looking for: Isa 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Isa 58:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? God does not see the affliction of one’s person to be pleasing, but rather God is looking for the outcome that comes from a fast. He is looking to see if there is fruit such as what James speaks of as true religion. Jam 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
Jam 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
9.In contrast to fasting, what does God desire? Micah 6:7&8, Is 1:16-19; 58:5-9a; Amos 5:21-24,1 Cor 10:31. God is looking for a changed heart that demonstrates that change in the society about us, which should bring glory to God because others see God in us.
Micah 6:7&8: what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Is 1:16-19 Isa 1:16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Isa 1:17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Is 58:-5-9 God is looking for fruit that touches the lives of those around us: the oppressed, those under the yoke of bondage, to feed the hungry, to meet the needs of the poor
Amos 5:21-24 Put away the sacrifices that are not a sweet aroma in its place: But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
1Co 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
DAY THREE: Zech 7:8-14 God Requires Repentance and Sincerity
10.In contrast to these self-imposed fasts, now God tells the people what He desires. Recalling our “4C’s” walk through vs. 8-14 to see it “played out in living color”.
C = consider the choice: what choice did God give to the people? They had a choice to demonstrate pure religion
C = compare to God’s Word: again Is 58:6 and Zech 7:9&10. What did God say to do? God said to prove your heart by touching the lives of others, meet their needs wherever they are and whatever circumstance they find themselves, execute true judgment and mercy as He would
C = choose God’s Way: Zech 7:11&12 What does God note about their choices? they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear
C = count on God for His provision and protection: Zech 7:13. Did the people experience these “2p’s”? NO: Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear,
- The people had a choice, they had God’s Word, but they refused to choose His way. What was the ensuing consequence of their choice? Zech 7:14 God sent them into exile for 70 yrs.
Zec 7:14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.
Where have you a choice and are refusing to choose His way and thus are not experiencing His provision and protection? Daily we face this as we choose to be obedient or not.
DAY FOUR: Zech 8:1-18 God Will Dwell in Their Midst
- Chapter 8 is a beautiful picture of God’s lovingkindness and mercy. Read the whole chapter through to get the picture. As you read note the 7 R’s found in this chapter.
The 7 R’s ch. 8
8:1-3, 13-15 restoration –what will be restored? The city will be restored to a city of truth and God will dwell in the midst as He desired to do before: I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem:
8:4-6 the remarkable – how will it be remarkable? It will be remarkable because this city has been a city of violence and hatred but now it will be a city of peace and harmony: yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
8:7-8 a relationship- what kind of relationship will be in evidence? God will be the people’s God and they will be His people: a parent/child relationship; Father and child: pure and holy: I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.
8:9-11 rebuilding- what will be rebuilt? The temple will be rebuilt: that the temple might be built.
8:12 renewal- what is renewed? Nature will return to its former glory: For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. The removal of the curse and in its place blessing:
Zec 8:13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
8:16-19 righteousness-how is righteousness revealed? Righteousness will be revealed in the actions that are demonstrated between everyone; and the attitudes that lead to proper actions. Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
8:20-23 reaching out-who will be reaching out and to whom? All from across the globe will come and say: the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts:
- Has any of this happened at this point in time? If not, when will it most likely occur? This is a picture of the millennial kingdom and has not occurred at this time.
DAY FIVE: Zech 8:18-23 From Fasting to Feasting.
14.What a difference one letter makes! The people had asked a question about fasting, but God says now add one letter. You will no longer fast but feast! In what ways will this be different from the fasting in chapter 7? In chapter 7 the fasts were characterized by sadness and somberness as they in sorrow and misdirected motives recalled the tragedy of Jerusalem and the loss of the Temple, but in chapter 8 the feasts will be characterized by joy and gladness and the people will love what God loves.
Fasting is fruitless when done with the wrong attitude and wrong motives. Are you still dwelling beside the grave of your past sins and fasting in added rituals that God has never asked you to do OR have you added a letter to fasting to now make it feasting? How are you demonstrating that in your daily walk? Personal responses needed here.