Zechariah Chapter 7: The Feasts are Not Unto the Lord, Righteous Living is

Dec 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name), Zechariah

Zechariah Chapter 7: The Feasts are Not Unto the Lord, Righteous Living is

Zech. 7:1 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;

The following vision was given to Zechariah in the fourth year of Darius Hystaspes, specifically in the fourth day of Chisleu, the ninth month. By piecing together scattered information in Scripture, we know each month of both the Hebrew year and the so-called civil year.

Zech. 7:2 When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regem-melech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,

Two individuals, Sherezer and Regem-melech, and their associates were sent from Babylon to pray before the Lord, but they had something else in mind, as we will see. These men were sent by Jews who had remained in Babylon, choosing not to return to the homeland to build the Temple when Cyrus issued his decree. They were still under captivity, but the situation was more liberal under the Persians, even though Daniel and the three Hebrews had occupied a high office while in Babylonian captivity. Most of the Jews stayed behind because they were comfortably settled there with houses, children, and temporal means. Those without faith weighed the matter and decided not to leave and go to Israel. Instead they sent these two representatives.

Comment: The modern Jew today, especially in this country, does not move to Israel for the same reason.

Zech. 7:3 And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?

Sherezer and Regem-melech were to speak to the priests (plural) who were in the Temple. The high priests were Joshua and an unnamed alternate in case of sickness, sudden death, or some other emergency. Sherezer and Regem-melech were to ask the priests, “Should I [we] weep in the fifth month, separating myself [ourselves], as I [we] have done these so many years?”

Zech. 7:4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,

Zech. 7:5 Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, 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?

The word of Jehovah came unto Zechariah, instructing him to say to all the people and the priests, “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?” What had happened to initiate the custom of fasting in the fifth and seventh months? There were two separate incidents.

The first incident is recorded in 2 Kings 25:8,9, “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: 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.” The outstanding event was the burning of Solomon’s Temple with fire.

The second incident is given in 2 Kings 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, and the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah.” Gedaliah was assassinated at Mizpah, along with Jews who were associated with him and Chaldeans who had been left there. In 606 BC, after Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed, Gedaliah was left in the land of Israel with vinedressers to keep the land from getting fallow. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were infuriated that after they showed this crumb of favor, other Jews killed the Chaldeans stationed there. The vinedressers quickly fled to Egypt out of fear of the king of Babylon. The summary result was the utter desolation of the land, leaving Israel without any inhabitants for 70 years.

Therefore, the Jews fasted and mourned in the fifth month in remembrance of the burning of the Temple, and they fasted and mourned in the seventh month in remembrance of Gedaliah’s assassination. Thus the 70 years of desolation commenced with the assassination of Gedaliah, which occurred in the same year. In other words, all three events took place in 606 BC—the destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the Temple, and the murder of Gedaliah—putting the nails in the coffin for the beginning of the 70 years of desolation of the land.

In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim, Jeremiah predicted that the land would be made desolate for 70 years (Jer. 25:1,8-11). But that prophecy was not fulfilled until 606 BC, which was 19 years later. It is important to understand this point because of the chronology changes that are taking place, altering the chronology as presented by the Pastor in the Second Volume. It is wrongly claimed that the land was desolate for only 51 years because Jews were taken captive 19 years earlier. But only a handful of people were taken captive at that time: Daniel, the three Hebrews, and a few others.

2 Chronicles 36:19-21 further confirms that the desolation began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 606 BC, and not earlier. “And they [the Babylonians] burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he [King Nebuchadnezzar] away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.” To fulfill those 70 years, the land had to be desolate for 70 years. The Hebrew is clear on this point, but some translations are so wed to the chronology of 587 BC (instead of 606 BC) that the translators have altered the text. In order for the land to fulfill its sabbaths and the word of the Lord, it had to lie desolate for 70 years, not for 51 years.

Q: These two fasts were not instructed by the Lord or by the prophets. Did the people just observe them of their own volition while in Babylonian captivity?

A: Yes, the fasts were self-initiated.

Zech. 7:6 And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

Zech. 7:7 Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?

When the city and the Temple were destroyed and the land was left desolate at the time of Gedaliah’s assassination, the people who survived suffered and mourned, but the fasting and mourning were a subsequent practice. As the years went by, they became more a perfunctory custom. Instead of mourning before the Lord and saying they deserved the experience because of their sins, the people mourned for themselves. And as more time passed, even that mourning became less sincere.

Comment: The lack of sincerity is somewhat surprising because, generally speaking, the survivors were the cream of the crop.

Reply: Jeremiah had told the Jews of Judah that if they wanted to live, they should surrender to the enemy and allow themselves to be taken captive to Babylon. Hence the survivors not only had to believe that Jeremiah was a true prophet but also had to have faith that if they hearkened to his advice, the Lord would spare their lives. Thus those who obeyed exercised faith, much as the Holy Remnant will do in the holocaust of Jacob’s Trouble at the end of this age. Gog and Magog will come down, and those who exercise faith in the message that will be announced to the nation through the Great Company—those who respond favorably prior to the invasion—will no doubt be spared, their names having been “written in the book” (Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1). Incidentally, the “south” in verse 7 is the Negev desert, which was part of Judah.

Zech. 7:8 And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,

Zech. 7:9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother:

Zech. 7:10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

Zech. 7:11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.

In verse 11, we can almost see the motion of an individual pulling away his shoulder, but the verse also shows that the Lord, in reasoning with the Jews, more or less put His hand on their shoulder to give them a message of comfort. “If you do such and such, I will be merciful to you,” but no, they “pulled away the shoulder.”

Comment: The prophets had been preaching this same message all along, even prior to the Jews’ captivity in Babylon.

Reply: That is true, as verse 7 shows. “Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity…?” The reason for the punishment was that when God gave the Jews a way out, they would not obey.

Consequently, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. But now the Lord was giving them another opportunity. The returned Jews were building the Temple again, but the work halted for a while. They started with the altar and then completed the Temple, but the walls of the outer court still had to be finished. By inference, God was saying, “Do what your forefathers failed to do; obey these simple requirements. (1) Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassion to your brother. (2) Do not oppress the fatherless, the stranger, or the poor. (3) Do not imagine evil against your brother in your heart.” These instructions were an easy way out.

A lenient condition had been placed upon previous generations, but they would not listen. And now again, the Lord was pleading with the Jews, but they refused to hearken. The inference is that they would even get Jerusalem back and that the problems with their neighbors would cease. The neighbors, who were half Jew and half Gentile through intermarriage, were afraid to inhabit the waste city, but they dwelled up near the border and were troublesome to the returned Jews.

Consider the simple requirement that was given to Adam and Eve. God said, “You can eat freely of all the trees in the garden but not of this one kind of tree.” Similarly here, a lenient and merciful governance was being exercised, but the people would not tolerate it. To use a common expression, the people wanted to do “their own thing.” “They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears [by figuratively—and perhaps even literally with some—sticking a finger in each ear], that they should not hear.”

In witnessing, many of us fail to mention the leniency God showed in His judgment of Israel. Yes, the land was laid desolate, but the requirements were not burdensome to perform.

Comment: A King James marginal note for verse 9 is Micah 6:8, “He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Reply: Yes, isn’t that a simple requirement? The Law was much more pointed with many details of what to do and what not to do, but here and in Micah, God was merely asking the people to change their attitude.

Comment: A parallel is what Jesus said at his First Advent when he was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40).

Reply: The people were willing to go through the perfunctory ceremony, which might cost them an animal, but they did not want to obey from the heart, which was the inward cleansing.

Zech. 7:12 Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.

The tenor of these verses reminds us of our experience in making a decision to consecrate. We heard the invitation “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). God promises to ease the burden and refresh the mourners who come to Him through Jesus, but the old man, the old nature, reasons, “Yes, that sounds good, but if I make the commitment, I will have to give up many things.” However, the requirements are very reasonable (Rom. 12:1). Jesus gave the advice to sit down first and count the cost, and all he asks is that we make up our mind and be definite and mean what we say (Luke 14:28). The old man fears that once the commitment is made, he will have to live like a puritan, and he will lose his friends. Just as the individual is tested in the Gospel Age, so the nation of Israel was tested back there. To most people, consecration is an insurmountable step. That is why the Lord appreciates each individual who makes the commitment. Very few give their little all to please God. Of course a greater commitment is required in the Gospel Age, but God has promised not to try us above what we are able (1 Cor. 10:13). This is particularly true with regard to the Christian who cannot, in the final analysis, be a more-than-overcomer, for God shows mercy to the Great Company class as well. He simply requires each Christian to do what he is able. If we should have the blessing of making our calling and election sure, we will be rewarded with more than we deserve, and the joys will be a hundredfold greater than anything we might have previously anticipated. In short, faith can surmount any barrier the old man might put forth.

Comment: We have fertile imaginations, yet the Apostle Paul said, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Reply: Yes, our imaginations are not fertile enough to go as high as what the Lord has in reservation for those who truly love Him.

Zech. 7:13 Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:

“Therefore it is come to pass, that as he [Jehovah] cried [back there through the mouth of the former prophets, whose message was to repent and change their ways], and they [the Jews] would not hear; so they [the Jews] cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts.” This response was natural. Even in Old Testament times, God stooped down and humbled Himself to deal with fallen man, but the Jews would not hear. Yet when they cried, they expected God to answer. Today, in spite of their history, the Jews do not cry to the Lord as a nation. Isn’t that surprising? There is no national fast. Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented [and fasted] at the preaching of Jonas [Jonah]; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here” (Matt. 12:41). The Ninevites, who were God’s enemies at one time, repented.

Zech. 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.

Anyone traveling through Israel during the 70 years of desolation saw the pitiful condition of the land. Not only were the cities in ruins, but it was almost as if a curse was on the land itself.

Strangers couldn’t wait until they got back to their homeland with its trees and herbage. They did not think of taking up residency in the desolate Promised Land during those 70 years. Chapter 7 was more or less a lecture or a tongue-lashing, showing why the Jews had their former experience. God was saying, “Learn from the past. Now you know why I scattered you like a whirlwind among other nations and why the land was so desolate.” Hearing this review should have been the basis for their taking a favorable step. The Lord prospered the building of the Temple but not the city at this time. The Jews did finish Zerubbabel’s Temple. Thus the Book of Haggai and the preceding six chapters of the Book of Zechariah were very encouraging. No doubt young Zechariah spoke enthusiastically in those chapters, but now, in this seventh chapter, he was speaking soberly. The words from the Lord were common sense.

Comment: It is interesting and providential that Dome of the Rock is on the Temple Mount, for without this impediment, the Jews would have tried to build the Third Temple. God has purposed that the Temple will be built after Jacob’s Trouble and according to His specifications.

Reply: Yes, the current experiences are conditioning the Jewish people. Some are developing a character that will not respond, so it will be necessary for them to die in Jacob’s Trouble. The Kingdom will be inaugurated and the Temple will be built with a righteous nucleus of Jews, a pure and holy lump. The others will come forth later in the general resurrection and have an opportunity to walk up the highway of holiness (Isa. 35:8). The Kingdom will start fresh with no Canaanite in the Temple of the Lord or, by implication, in the land (Zech. 14:21).

(2000 and 2003 Studies)

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