Journey Through The Scriptures

The Prophecy of Zechariah

Lesson 4: A Rebuke and a Reminder

(Scripture to Read: Zechariah 7:114)

About two years after receiving his eight night visions, Zechariah delivered four messages from God to the people of Judah who had returned as exiles from Babylon (7:4–7; 7:8–14; 8:1–17; 8:18–23). A group came from Bethel, twelve miles north of Jerusalem, to the holy city with a question. Now that the second Temple was being built, should they continue a fast the Jews had begun in Babylon to commemorate the burning of the first Temple by King Nebuchadnezzar over seventy years ago when he destroyed Jerusalem? It was a straightforward question, but it revealed a lack in the people’s lives that God desired to address. So the answer He gave to Zechariah addresses not just the question, but the people’s underlying motivation.

God’s response to the question was basically, “Whether you fasted or feasted, you were not doing it to honor Me.” Verses 8–10 in particular strike at the heart of true religion: having the proper inner attitude in worship, and practicing justice and compassion with one’s fellow humans, especially the most vulnerable and needy. It was the failure to do this that had caused God to enter into judgment with the generation of Israelites who had gone into the Babylonian captivity. Mere outward religious performance that masks an evil heart has never been acceptable to God, nor does it satisfy the holy requirements of the Torah, the Law. The people of Zechariah’s day needed frequent reminders not to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors.

Study Questions

  1. What indication do we have in Zechariah 7:7 that the Israelites who went into captivity in Babylon had plenty of advanced warning from God to change their ways?
  2. What is the heart of God’s instructions to His people concerning what pleases Him (7:8–10)?
  3. Why was the Lord angry with the generation that went into captivity?
  4. Why did God refuse to listen when that earlier generation finally called out to Him for help?

Something to Think About

The reference in 1 Samuel 16:7 is from the story of God choosing David to be Israel’s king. We can take heart from the reminder that God is still looking for people to bless and choose today whose hearts are right toward Him.