In this post, we are examining our compassion in light of Zechariah’s message to the Israelites. The Israelites have returned to Jerusalem after 70 years of living in exile. During their time away from home, the people have developed patterns of fasting during their time away from home. In response, Zechariah is talking about the significance of religious practices.
(The people are arguing over the importance of fasting.) For us, the equivalent could be arguing over the importance of baptism, partaking in the Lord’s Supper, or even church attendance.
7-10 “There’s nothing new to say on the subject. Don’t you still have the message of the earlier prophets from the time when Jerusalem was still a thriving, bustling city and the outlying countryside, the Negev and Shephelah, was populated? [This is the message that God gave Zechariah.] Well, the message hasn’t changed. The Almighty God said then and says now:
“‘Treat one another justly.
Love your neighbors.
Be compassionate with each other.
Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor.
Don’t plot and scheme against one another—that’s evil.’
11-13 “But did your ancestors listen? No, they set their jaws in defiance. They shut their ears. They steeled themselves against God’s revelation and the Spirit-filled sermons preached by the earlier prophets by order of the Almighty God. And God became angry, really angry, because he told them everything plainly and they wouldn’t listen to a word he said.
The question being asked of the people, are you fasting in remembrance of God or are you fasting for yourselves? Ultimately, why are you fasting?
Zechariah is speaking for God, he brings the people back to the earlier message of the prophets. Stop being so focused on yourself, and start focusing on the needs and hurts of the people. Who cares about fasting if you are not living in the love of God.
In the book of Zechariah, we encounter the compassion of God. Compassion for the needy. 500 years before the birth of Christ, Zechariah is trying to prepare the people to respond to their community through the love of the God. The same love, Jesus will come to establish centuries later.