Following the apocalyptic nature of Zechariah’s first six chapters, we enter a stylistic and contextual change in chapter seven. Now in Darius’ fourth year as king, the temple at Jerusalem is nearly rebuilt. One day every year for the past seventy had been set aside to remember the temple’s burning. Many were wearied of this exercise. The temple was now frequented, even in its unfinished form. Why continue this ‘old’ tradition? asked the people of Bethel.
Here we approach Zechariah’s prophecy, words from God:
“…Was it really for me that you fasted?”
The Lord saw to their hearts. As we read chapters 7 and 8, we find a firm commitment to the reality of these hearts. Echoing words He had spoken to their ancestry, God reminded the nation what a callous heart would cause.
“When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen…”
All the Lord wanted was truth and justice. He asked for mercy and compassion, but the people had “stubbornly turned their backs and covered their ears.” Would Israel now fall again into this broken habit? Would they again forsake this love and power? Would their hearts be “hard as flint,” as had their ancestors’?
Hope ran through the message of the Lord. As we continue in chapter 8, we find God jealous to save. He offered a vision of a right future, rich in peace and prosperity. He asked for no more than to “Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this.” Again and again we find nestled in the core of Zechariah’s prophesies a simple request: live with integrity.
Though the circumstances change, our God does not. He hated these wrongs in the time of the prophets and He hates these wrongs in the present day.
It is a simple truth. Live with integrity. Be honest to yourself. Worship from truth, not selfishness. I have been caught up in the self-lies before. I care about my singing during worship. I fast but don’t pray. There are moments when emotion betrays, rather than supports, the work of Christ in me.
We need to turn away from those things the Lord hates. In Chapter 8 we’ve seen the good in store for Zion. Chapter 9 is the story of Jesus, whose victory is for us.
“The Lord their God will save his people on that day
as a shepherd saves his flock.
They will sparkle in his land
like jewels in a crown.”
With such beauty and majesty in store, we should worship in all peace and integrity. With an end so amazing on the horizon, we should be moved to bow and praise! Then we can be people of whom it is said “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.”