Study Notes

Zechariah 7:1-8:23


Nearly every outline of the book of Zechariah makes note of its three obvious sections, or divisions. The first section is that which we have already studied - the first six chapters. The second section is found in the next two chapters, which we will be looking at tonight. The final chapters, nine through 14, encompass the third and last section.

7:1 The Fourth Year Of Darius

At this point in our narrative, it is now the fourth year of Darius, during the month of Kis-LAVE. That translates into December of 518BC. The temple is still two years away from completion, as we saw in the book of Ezra (Ezra 6:15), but it has been two years since the night Zechariah had received the eight visions. Now, the prophet again receives the Word of the Lord.

7:2-3 Shall I Weep And Abstain?

If you remember our study of 2Kings 25, Jerusalem had been under siege by the Babylonians for two years. Once the people were starved, the Babylonians broke into the city. Many of the people were slaughtered, the rest taken into captivity, and the temple was burned, along with the city. This happened on the seventh day of the fifth month (2Kgs 25:8).

In memorial, the Jews decided to remember the destruction of the temple by fasting every year on this anniversary, as well as several other key dates in the history of their capture. Each year, they fasted on these dates throughout their time in the Babylonian Captivity.

But now they began to wonder, "Do we need to keep doing this if we're rebuilding the temple? And the city is recovered, so do we need to keep mourning its loss?" And so the town of Bayth-ALE sent two men, Shar-EH-tser and REH-gem MEH-lek to ask the prophets and the priests if it was necessary to continue this observance.

7:4-7 The Word Came To Me

The Word of the Lord came to Zechariah - the Lord told him what to say. I don't know exactly how that happened, whether it was an inward knowledge or an audible voice. I do know that Peter said,

2Pet. 1:21 prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Did You Fast For Me?

God spoke through Zechariah to the people, "When you were observing these fasts for the last 70 years, was it actually for Me?"

You see, it wasn't God's command to observe these fasts - they themselves had initiated them. Now that they were tired of doing them, they were looking for an "out" from God.

This has made me wonder exactly what about our own Christian observances are self-induced. Certainly, there must be areas in our lives which have not been initiated by the Lord, but we feel obligated to continue them, even though they are a burden.

I encountered one of these in my own life a few months ago. I was really weighed down by part of the ministry I was performing. It was like pulling teeth every time I had to do it. When I asked another pastor friend of mine about it, he asked, "Why are you doing it?" I replied, "Well, that's what a good pastor does." His response? "Where is it written in the Bible that this is what a good pastor does?" You know what? I was set free that very day from a burden that God had never placed on me - I had put it on myself, and was weary from carrying it!

Are you in bondage to something religious today? Maybe it's a practice, an idea, or an obligation. You think, "Well, this is what a good Christian does." But is it really? Sometimes people are in bondage because they think, "Well, a good Christian dresses up on Sunday morning. A good Christian homeschools their kids. A good Christian would never read science fiction books. And a good Christian shouldn't go dancing."

Now, there's nothing wrong with dressing up for church, or homeschooling your kids. There's nothing bad about abstaining from science fiction books, or not going dancing. But if things like this are a burden on you and yet you keep doing them because you feel obligated as a "good Christian," then God would say to you, "Are you doing this for Me? When did I command you to do that?"

Paul asked the Colossians why...

Col. 2:20-22 you submit yourself to decrees, such as, "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" ... in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?

Don't let people put religious obligation on you that's not from God. Jesus rebuked those in His day, saying,

Luke 11:46 " weigh men down with burdens hard to bear..."

Remember, Jesus told us,

Matt. 11:29-30 "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light."

Many people all over the world began their religious observance of self-denial with Ash Wednesday yesterday. I wonder how many of them resent this practice, being in bondage to it, when the Lord has not commanded it?

7:8-10 Justice, Kindness, And Compassion

In contrast to the self-appointed religion they'd placed on themselves, the Lord addresses what they really should be centering on. We should be focusing in on what God has commanded, not in the multitude of things He hasn't said.

What He wants from them is not fasting, but honesty, kindness, and compassion.

7:11-14 They Refused To Listen

God had told all of this to the nation previously. But they had hardened their hearts to the Word of God, and refused to listen. He says, "You fast in mourning over what happened, but it was caused by your sin. You should be more concerned with turning from sin than turning down food."

8:1-3 The Lord Of Hosts

Chapter eight contains an interesting repetition. As we divide the chapter up into nine exhortations, each one begins with the expression, "Thus says the LORD of hosts." This title of God has already been used more than 20 times in the book of Zechariah, and it is used well over 200 times in the Old Testament (interestingly, it's not used at all in the New Testament). So this is probably a good time to explain it.

"Hosts" is the Hebrew word "Tsaw-BAW." As a verb, it means "to go forth, wage war, fight." As a noun, it speaks of an army that goes forth to fight or wage war. So, saying that God is "the Lord of hosts" means that He is over all of the host of heaven, the armies of angels. He is also over all the armies of the earth, for...

Rom. 13:1 ...there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities —all things have been created by Him and for Him.

The translators of the NIV and NLT have chosen to render this phrase as "the Lord Almighty." While I think a more accurate literal rendering would be, "the Lord of Armies," the idea being conveyed by "the Lord of hosts" is that of God's total power over the events in heaven and earth, which would be aptly described by "the Lord Almighty."

Jealous For Zion

The Lord says through Zechariah that He is jealous for Zion. As you recall, Zion is another name for Jerusalem, as the city is built into the side of Mt. Zion. When the Lord returns to Jerusalem, dwelling on Mt. Zion, the people of the earth will call Jerusalem, "the City of Truth," and Mt. Zion, "the Holy Mountain."

8:4-5 Old Folks And Children

When the Lord rules and reigns on the earth during the Millennium, the city will be a good place to live. People will grow old as the years pass, and children will be born. Lifetimes will be extended. Isaiah wrote of this time, quoting the Lord as saying,

Isa. 65:19-20 "I will also rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying. No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed."

8:6 Too Difficult?

Naturally, the people's response to Zechariah when they heard this would be, "How in the world is Jerusalem going to be transformed so radically? That's practically impossible!" But the Lord reminds them that He is the God of the impossible. It was like what Jesus said years later,

Matt. 19:26 ..."With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

8:7-8 I Will Bring My People Back

At this point in Israel's history - as is true now - some of the Jews were living in the land, but the vast majority of them were scattered throughout the world. The day will come when God will gather all of His chosen people together in the land of Israel.

Notice that there are no conditions placed on that promise. There are many denominations today that say God has forsaken the Jews. That since they rejected Christ as their Messiah, they are no longer part of God's plan. This simply is not true. Years after the Jews shouted, "Crucify Him," Paul wrote,

Rom. 10:21-11:2 But as for Israel He says, "ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE." I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says...?

God has not rejected His chosen people. Many of the promises He made to the Jews, as we have read here in Zechariah, are unconditional.

8:9-13 Let Your Hands Be Strong

The Lord tells the Jews to be strong. He reminds them that it was not long ago that the temple lay in ruins - now it was near to completion. Not long ago, Israel was a curse among the nations, but God was going to make them a blessing.

In fact, we see this as a reiteration of the prophesy to Abraham,

Gen. 22:18 "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed..."

Paul explained this prophecy, saying,

Gal. 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as {referring} to many, but {rather} to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.

So when God said that Israel would become a blessing among the nations, He was proclaiming that the Messiah would come from Israel. Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, has come, offering salvation to everyone of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation!

Since God had such tremendous plans for the nation, the people should be encouraged to continue on in the work, to be strong.

8:14-17 I Have Purposed To Do Good

Israel's forefathers had been cursed because of the sins of rebellion they had committed against the Lord. They had been warned, and then they had been judged. They had been carried off to Babylon as God poured out His wrath on them. But now they have returned from that captivity. They have turned to seek the Lord, and God will once again be blessing the nation.

However, they must not repeat the sins of their fathers. They must be truthful, for God hates lies and treachery.

8:18-19 From Fasts To Feasts

The fasts which the people observed because of the horrible events of history would be forgotten. Fast days will be replaced by feast days. Mourning will be turned to happiness, sorrow replaced by joy.

8:20-22 Seeking The Lord In Jerusalem

During the Millennial Kingdom, the Lord will be accessible to all the people of the world. Again, looking at Isaiah's prophecy,

Isa. 2:2-3 Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

8:23 Grasp The Garment Of A Jew

The Jews will have such a favored position in the Millennial Kingdom, that people from all over the world will hold onto them, saying,

Zech. 8:23 ..."Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."

Today, Israel is a thorn in the side of the nations, a problem that most world leaders hope will just go away. The Jewish nation will increasingly be the center of world conflict until God takes from the nations the mantle of authority on earth. Until that day comes, we continue to pray for the people of God and the peace of Jerusalem.

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