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God asks Israel, “Did you really fast for Me?”
A Call for Justice and Mercy
“(1) 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, Regem–melech, and their men to plead for the LORD’s favor (3) by asking the priests who were at the house of the LORD of Hosts as well as the prophets,
“Should we mourn and fast in the fifth month as we have done these many years?”
(4) Then the word of the LORD of Hosts came to me:
(5) “Ask all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and in the seventh months for these 70 years, did you really fast for Me?”
Did you really do this for me or for you?
This is another interesting statement which helps recalibrate our spiritual lives as we walk with our God and Father.
It’s a common enough question.
Probably all of us have had times in our lives and perhaps even certain people in our lives where, when they do something they want you to acknowledge it. In these situations you sometimes wonder… did you really do this for me or for you?
Most people who fast do so because of something going on in their lives or in the life of someone they love. So the natural answer to the question you would think would be no. No I didn’t fast for YOU God.
But this is where we MOST OFTEN have our walk with God askew. We think of this relationship as a relationship – but we treat it like a religion.
Relationship is all about investing in others and being the joyful and grateful recipients of their investments into our lives.
Religion is all about paying taxes to avoid prosecution and offering up our pound of flesh to evoke favor beyond our ability to help ourselves.
True, our relationship is with God Who in fact IS to be looked to for favor, mercy and help in times of need, but in a relational way.
Once mankind enters into covenant with their Creator, they BOTH enter into a partnership which is centered upon the Kingdom of God.
This is true regardless of Old or New Covenant. Remember the prayers we have noted for so long which Israel typically prayed – “NOT FOR OUR SAKES Oh God, but for the sake of Your Great Name.”
What is this? Well it is placing the other person in the relationship first. It is also building up King and Kingdom – of which we are a part.
When the kingdom prospers so do we since we are part of the kingdom.
The difference is much like that found in the story of the Prodigal son. Which I like to call the Parable of the Misunderstood Father.
Both boys did not know or appreciate their father. The one demanded all that was coming to him so he could leave life on the estate and the work associated with it. Thinking this would offer him freedom.
The other boy worked the property, obeyed his father like an employer and suffered under the delusion that he was little better than a slave. He was essentially earning his room and board.
The Prodigal saw himself as a son who could only return as a slave. And the older saw himself as a slave who would never be a son.
BOTH were wrong. DEAD wrong!
The estate belonged to them all. Every post hole that was dug, every nail that was driven, was building the estate which belonged to them all. It was, one day, to be these boys’ inheritance.
They didn’t eat the food they ate because they earned it, the food grown on the estate belonged to them.
They didn’t live under the roof and sleep in the beds they did as a result of earning it – it belonged to them as being part of the estate.
Now notice the heart of the Father.
The older brother was told – you are MY son and EVERYTHING I HAVE belongs to you. At ANY TIME you could have killed the fatted calf to make merry.
Regarding the prodigal He said, “It was RIGHT that we celebrate and make merry. For your brother was lost and has been found, was dead but is now alive!”
The old brother had called him “Your son!”, but the Father reminded him that he was also his brother.
This is relationship. We all honor one another and so we are all the recipients of honor ourselves.
Going back to God’s question.
(5) “Ask all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and in the seventh months for these 70 years, did you really fast for Me?”
Those things which needed fixing in the kingdom – be it the temple, or their houses and estates, be it their reverent devotion to God or whatever – all of these things are in the heart of God. In fact they begin there! We can only claim to have them in our heart because they were first in His.
Do we do what we do for our sole benefit alone, or did God’s desire and heart ever enter into our considerations even once?
We fast for these things, but we do so to see the desire, the purpose and the plans of God realized. We do so to bring joy to HIM!
Much like I told you a while back regarding praying for the lost. It isn’t that we shouldn’t care ourselves for the lost, but more than any desire of our own, we should pray for their reception to the gospel for God’s sake. For the sake of the work of the Spirit and the sacrifice of the Son. Their great hearts are caught up in this and they deeply desire that they lose NO ONE!
Every human being is a spirit God created and wants the privilege to know and be intimate with forever.
Therfore is stands that each one of them that denies Him, breaks His heart.
THAT is why we evangelize.
THAT is why we pray for their salvation!
So God asks – was I ever even in your minds or hearts when you fasted?
Zechariah 7 (cont…)
“(6) When you eat and drink, don’t you eat and drink simply for yourselves?
(7) Aren’t these the words that the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and secure, along with its surrounding cities, and when the southern region and the Judean foothills were inhabited?”
(8) The word of the LORD came to Zechariah:
(9) “The LORD of Hosts says this: Render true justice. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. (10) Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the stranger or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.
(11) But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder; they closed their ears so they could not hear. (12) They made their hearts like a rock so as not to obey the law or the words that the LORD of Hosts had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets.
Therefore great anger came from the LORD of Hosts.
(13) Just as He had called, and they would not listen, so when they called, I would not listen,” says the LORD of Hosts.
(14) “I scattered them with a windstorm over all the nations that had not known them, and the land was left desolate behind them, with no one coming or going. They turned a pleasant land into a desolation.”
More than likely this was in reference to the time of Isaiah the prophet.
The people of his day had cried out to the Lord wondering why He did not hear when they fasted.
The Lord spoke through Isaiah and told them that their fasting was NOT for God, but for their own selfish interests. He also counseled them to love their fellow Israelite, but they did not heed His warnings.
It was these warnings, among others, which led to the very Babylonian exile from which these Jews who were asking the same questions came.
Let’s read that passage. It is found in Isaiah 58:1-14.
“(1) Cry out loudly, don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a trumpet. Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
(2) They seek Me day after day and delight to know My ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God.
They ask Me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God.”
(3) “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. (4) You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high.
(5) Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the LORD?
(6) Isn’t the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke?
(7) Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and to not ignore your own flesh and blood?
(8) Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.
(9) At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer; when you cry out, He will say: Here I am. If you get rid of the yoke from those around you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, (10) and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.
(11) The LORD will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
(12) Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.
(13) “If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want on My holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much; (14) then you will delight yourself in the LORD, and I will make you ride over the heights of the land, and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
No doubt part of this prophecy given by Isaiah was being fulfilled by these very people. They were beginning to rebuild the ancient ruins of Solomon’s temple and Zerubbabel himself was in fact restoring its foundations!
Nevertheless, the fulness of this was not to be and is not to be fulfilled until the end times as is the truth of much of these prophecies.
In this way, and many others, we see the time of the Gentiles hinted at in the Old Testament. It was a time when the hardening of the Jews would reach a climax and God would lay them to one side for a time. Until the time of the Gentiles is complete, God will NOT resume His work on Israel AS A NATION, though He pursues their hearts individually even now.
Romans 11:25, “So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: a partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”
God’s love and devotion to Israel will not allow Him to turn His back on them forever. Paul tells us that it is due to God’s indescribable wisdom which is past finding out, that God has used the Gentiles to provoke His Own people to jealousy and to return WITH ALL OF THEIR HEARTS!
The Gentiles were ALWAYS in God’s plan and this serves as another great example of God’s sovereignty expressed in His purposes and plans.
God told Abram from the foundation of His covenant with him that through his seed, the entire earth would be blessed. That was ALWAYS the plan!
How it has played out is NO surprise to God, but it has not played out according to His desires.
God WANTED the world to be evangelized by the Jewish nation who came and surrendered to the Lordship of His Son Jesus their Messiah.
It was God’s desire to bring the world into the Kingdom, by the descendants of Abraham – but they would not! So God turned to the Gentiles, THROUGH a select number of His Jewish children like Peter and Paul – just like Jesus predicted would happen in His parable of the wedding feast.
Matthew 22:1-14, “(1) Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables: (2) “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
(3) He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come.
(4) Again, he sent out other slaves, and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: Look, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet. ‘ (5) “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business. (6) And the others seized his slaves, treated them outrageously and killed them.
(7) The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city.
(8) “Then he told his slaves, ‘The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
(9) Therefore, go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet.’
(10) So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding banquet was filled with guests. (11)
But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding. (12) So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’
The man was speechless.
(13) “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
(14) “For many are invited, but few are chosen.“
This is likely, in part, where Paul took the words for what he told the Jews as recorded by Luke in Acts 13…
Acts 13:44-48, “(44) The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the message of the Lord. (45) But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to oppose what Paul was saying by insulting him.
(46) Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: “It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first. But since you reject it, and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles!
(47) For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have appointed you as a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
(48) When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the message of the Lord, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed.”
It is interesting that the words “gnashing of teeth” has come to represent something which is not really consistent with how it is actually used in scripture.
In the 5 times it is used in the Old Testament it is NEVER used as an expression of pain as if often understood.
Job. 16:9 is a great place to illustrate this because in Job’s trials, as you remember, he began to blame God.
In this passage he describes God as “gnashing of teeth” at him.
Clearly this is not an expression of God being in physical pain or torment.
This agrees with the way this phrase is used in the other 4 references which are found in:
- Psalm 35:16
- Psalm 37:12
- Psalm 112:10
- Lamentations 2:16
In each of these examples, the “gnashing of teeth” is a sort of non-verbal expression of anger, intense frustration, hatred and even rage.
Today it might actually be a close comparison with flipping a bird at someone you are really angry with in traffic.
In the New Testament you see those who had been verbally put in their place by Stephen. These self-righteous Jewish elites rushed at him in anger to stone him, all the while “gnashing of teeth” at him.
I want to give credit to a FaceBook brother who I do not know personally, nor do I agree with him on all points but I love his heart and apparent devotion to the scriptures and to our Lord Jesus. His name is Chad Bird and his brief teaching on this I heard online helped steer my understanding of this phrase in a more accurate direction.
He believes those who are cast out will maintain their innocence and will “gnash their teeth” at God in anger.
I on the other hand believe it will be in grief and absolute fury at themselves for rejecting a God Who loved them in favor of selfish, prideful earthly pursuits.
The Future Peace and Prosperity of Zion
“(1) The word of the LORD of Hosts came:
(2) “The LORD of Hosts says this: I am extremely jealous for Zion; I am jealous for her with great wrath.”
(3) The LORD says this: “I will return to Zion and live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, the mountain of the LORD of Hosts, and the Holy Mountain.”
(4) The LORD of Hosts says this: “Old men and women will again sit along the streets of Jerusalem, each with a staff in hand because of advanced age. (5) The streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in them.”
(6) The LORD of Hosts says this: “Though it may seem incredible to the remnant of this people in those days, should it also seem incredible to Me?”–the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.
(7) The LORD of Hosts says this: “I will save My people from the land of the east and the land of the west. (8) I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem. They will be My people, and I will be their faithful and righteous God.”
(9) The LORD of Hosts says this: “Let your hands be strong, you who now hear these words that the prophets spoke when the foundations were laid for the rebuilding of the temple, the house of the LORD of Hosts.”
This phrase is used in Hebrews as a Christian encouragement to respond with encouraged tenacity to the chastening and correction of the Lord.
Hebrews 12:11-15, “(11) No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (12) Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, (13) and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead. (14) Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness–without it no one will see the Lord. (15) See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.”
Zechariah 8 cont…
“(10) For prior to those days neither man nor beast had wages. There was no safety from the enemy for anyone who came or went, for I turned everyone against his neighbor. (11) But now, I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days”–the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.
(12) “For they will sow in peace: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce, and the skies will yield their dew. I will give the remnant of this people all these things as an inheritance.”
This will first have a spiritual fulfillment and then a natural one. Israel will as as a nation turn to the Lord with all of their hearts. Which was the stated necessary heart condition of Israel in order for the prosperity spoken of in Ezekiel to be fulfilled [Ezekiel 43:11].
“(13) As you have been a curse among the nations, house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing.
Don’t be afraid; let your hands be strong.”
(14) For the LORD of Hosts says this:
“As I resolved to treat you badly when your fathers provoked Me to anger, and would not relent,” says the LORD of Hosts, (15) “so I have resolved again in these days to do what is good to Jerusalem and the house of Judah. Don’t be afraid.
(16) These are the things you must do:
Speak truth to one another;
render honest and peaceful judgments in your gates.
(17) Do not plot evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and
do not love perjury, for I hate all this”–the LORD’s declaration.
(18) Then the word of the LORD of Hosts came to me:
(19) “The LORD of Hosts says this: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth will become times of joy, gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah. Therefore, love truth and peace.”
“(20) The LORD of Hosts says this: “Peoples will yet come, the residents of many cities; (21) the residents of one city will go to another, saying: Let’s go at once to plead for the LORD’s favor and to seek the LORD of Hosts.
I am also going. (22) Many peoples and strong nations will come to seek the LORD of Hosts in Jerusalem and to plead for the LORD’s favor.”
(23) The LORD of Hosts says this: “In those days, 10 men from nations of every language will grab the robe of a Jewish man tightly, urging: Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”
This particular last part of the prophecy did not have even an immediate partial fulfillment in their day, but it was in reference to the Millennial kingdom.
Jeremiah 3:14-17, “(14) Return, you faithless children”–this is the LORD’s declaration–“for I am your Master, and I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
(15) I will give you shepherds who are loyal to Me, and they will shepherd you with knowledge and skill. (16) When you multiply and increase in the land, in those days”–the LORD’s declaration–“no one will say any longer: The ark of the LORD’s covenant. It will never come to mind, and no one will remember or miss it. It will never again be made.
(17) At that time Jerusalem will be called, The LORD’s Throne, and all the nations will be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD in Jerusalem. They will cease to follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.”
Isaiah 2:1-5, “(1) The vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
(2) In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s house will be established at the top of the mountains and will be raised above the hills.
All nations will stream to it, (3) 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. He will teach us about His ways so that we may walk in His paths.”
For instruction will go out of Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
(4) He will settle disputes among the nations and provide arbitration for many peoples. They will turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations, and they will never again train for war. (5) House of Jacob, come and let us walk in the LORD’s light.”
Micah chapter 4 is nearly identical to this and has it as occurring in the last days.