The Blessing of True Fasting
1 Then the word of the Lord who rules over all came to me as follows: 2 “The Lord who rules over all says, ‘I am very much concerned for Zion; indeed, I am so concerned for her that my rage will fall on those who hurt her.’ 3 The Lord says, ‘I have returned to Zion and will live within Jerusalem. Now Jerusalem will be called “truthful city,” “mountain of the Lord who rules over all,” “holy mountain.”’ 4 Moreover, the Lord who rules over all says, ‘Old men and women will once more live in the plazas of Jerusalem, each one leaning on a cane because of advanced age. 5 And the streets of the city will be full of boys and girls playing. 6 And,’ says the Lord who rules over all, ‘though such a thing may seem to be difficult in the opinion of the small community of those days, will it also appear difficult to me?’ asks the Lord who rules over all.
7 “The Lord who rules over all asserts, ‘I am about to save my people from the lands of the east and the west. 8 And I will bring them to settle within Jerusalem. They will be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and righteousness.’
9 “The Lord who rules over all also says, ‘Gather strength, you who are listening to these words today from the mouths of the prophets who were there at the founding of the house of the Lord who rules over all, so that the temple might be built. 10 Before that time there was no compensation for man or animal, nor was there any relief from adversity for those who came and went, because I had pitted everybody – each one – against everyone else. 11 But I will be different now to this remnant of my people from the way I was in those days,’ says the Lord who rules over all, 12 ‘for there will be a peaceful time of sowing, the vine will produce its fruit and the ground its yield, and the skies will rain down dew. Then I will allow the remnant of my people to possess all these things. 13 And it will come about that just as you (both Judah and Israel) were a curse to the nations, so I will save you and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid! Instead, be strong!’
14 “For the Lord who rules over all says, ‘As I had planned to hurt you when your fathers made me angry,’ says the Lord who rules over all, ‘and I was not sorry, 15 so, to the contrary, I have planned in these days to do good to Jerusalem and Judah – do not fear! 16 These are the things you must do: Speak the truth, each of you, to one another. Practice true and righteous judgment in your courts. 17 Do not plan evil in your hearts against one another. Do not favour a false oath – these are all things that I hate,’ says the Lord.”
18 The word of the Lord who rules over all came to me as follows: 19 “The Lord who rules over all says, ‘The fast of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months will become joyful and happy, pleasant feasts for the house of Judah, so love truth and peace.’ 20 The Lord who rules over all says, ‘It will someday come to pass that people – residents of many cities – will come. 21 The inhabitants of one will go to another and say, “Let’s go up at once to ask the favour of the Lord, to seek the Lord who rules over all. Indeed, I’ll go with you.”’ 22 Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord who rules over all and to ask his favour. 23 The Lord who rules over all says, ‘In those days ten people from all languages and nations will grasp hold of – indeed, grab – the robe of one Jew and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”
C H Spurgeon
Zechariah 8:1-2. Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.
Because they worshipped idols instead of the living God, Jehovah of hosts, who is a jealous God, was very angry with his ancient people, and allowed them to be carried away into captivity; and it is well for us, in these days, to recollect that we serve a jealous God, and that, if our hearts are not true to him, he will soon send us sharp afflictions, and make us feel the weight of his rod. It was Paul’s anxious desire that he might be able to present the church at Corinth “as a chaste virgin to Christ;” and, certainly, our Lord Jesus Christ will not accept the professing church of these days on any other terms. Let thy heart be loyal and true to him, or else thou wilt stir up the holy jealousy of thy God. Yet the same jealousy which makes God punish his people for their unfaithfulness, prompts him to return to them in love so soon as he sees that he can justly do so. When their enemies have sorely vexed and oppressed them, then is the Lord jealous, not against them, but against their enemies, and he swiftly returneth to his own people in love.
Zechariah 8:3. Thus saith the LORD I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
The first coming or the return of God to a church, or to an individual heart, always promotes holiness; so, unless thy piety is daily growing, do not imagine that God is in the midst of thee; for, wherever the Lord comes, he comes “as a refiner and purifier.” You will never find Jesus come except as John the Baptist pictured him to the Pharisees and Sadducees of his day: “whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor.” The coming of Christ into any soul, or into any church, is the death of sin and the birth of holiness.
Zechariah 8:4-5. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
It is an indication that there is peace in the city when the children can play in the streets without fear. We may apply these verses spiritually thus, — when God greatly blesses a Christian church, there are sure to be many aged persons in it, those who, by their long experience and their matured wisdom, are able to teach others the lessons which they have themselves learned at the feet of Jesus. Happy is the church that hath in it many fathers and mothers in Israel. At the same time, a church that is largely blessed by God will also have in it many young converts, who will be as full of life and joy as children playing in the streets of a city in time of peace. There is a text which is true both in its literal and its spiritual sense: “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord . . . . Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” There is no glory so great to a Christian minister, and a Christian church, as that of having an abundance of spiritual children, and multitudes of converts brought to Christ. So shall it be with any church when God is in the midst of her.
Zechariah 8:6. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.
This is a very remarkable passage, warning us not to judge of God by ourselves. Though a thing may be difficult to us, there are no difficulties with God. Nay, even if we imagine anything to be impossible to man, the word impossibility has no relation to the Deity, for “with God all things are possible.” Are you in trouble today? Do you say that it is impossible for you to be delivered? It is an easy thing for God to deliver you, though the task seems so hard to you. Do you feel the weight of your sin, and do you imagine that it is impossible for your sin to be pardoned? Would you look upon it as a miracle; and because it seems so marvellous to you, do you think it is marvellous in God’s eyes? Remember what he said by the mouth of Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” Consider the infinite difference between God and man, and look no longer at God through the misleading glasses of your own feebleness.
Zechariah 8:7-8. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.
Mark God’s emphatic language, how full it is of “shalls” and “wills.” “I will,” and “they shall,” saith he, again and again; and if God saith, “I will,” who shall dare to say that it shall not be? What God declareth shall certainly come to pass. Surely this is golden language of comfort to those who are bowed down; then, how great must be the sinfulness of that unbelief which dares to despair when God says “shall” and “will”! That one sentence in the eighth verse contains the whole gospel in two short sentences: “They shall be my people, and I will be their God.” This is the tenor of the covenant of grace. There is no “if,” nor “but,” nor “peradventure” in it, God does not say, “I will be their God if they will be my people;” nor, “I will love them if they will keep my laws.” That is the old covenant of works, which has been broken for ever; but the covenant of grace runs thus, “They shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.”
Zechariah 8:9-11. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men everyone against his neighbour. But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts.
The Jewish people had been brought into abject poverty; they were all so poor that there was not one who could hire his fellow-man or even pay for the hire of a beast of burden. This was before the foundation of Solomon’s temple was laid; but, as that wondrous structure grew, the State also grew; and, often, the prosperity of a church brings prosperity to the people around it, and to the residue of God’s people there comes a blessing, and not a curse.
Zechariah 8:12. For the seed shall be prosperous;
It is a happy omen for a church when the Word preached is with power.
Zechariah 8:12. The vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase,
Happy are the hearts that are like fruitful vines, and good and fertile ground yielding thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold increase.
Zechariah 8:12. And the heavens shall give their dew;
We cannot bring forth fruit unto God without the bedewing influences of the Holy Spirit. This is that “womb of the morning” of which David speaks in Psalms 110:3, and out of which the precious fruit of the Spirit must come.
Zechariah 8:12-15. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not: so again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
Did you notice the repetition of the exhortation, “Fear not,” and then again, “Fear ye not”? The Lord knows how much mischief doubts and fears do to his people, and therefore many a time, in Scripture, he aims a blow at them. “Fear nots” abound in Scripture; it would be well if you made every one of them into a gallows-tree upon which to hang your unbelief until it died. What is your fear at this moment? What is the cause of your trembling? “Fear ye not,” saith God to you; will you dare to fear after this?
Zechariah 8:16-17. These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour;
Some have wickedly said that “thought is free, and can’t be condemned;” but here we see that, if it goeth after evil, it is a wicked thing which God abhors.
Zechariah 8:17-19. And love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD. And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
God turns sad fasts to glad feasts when he visits his people in love. Is there one here who has been having a long fast? Has your soul been sorely afflicted? Have you been despondent and trembling, so that you have had no joy and gladness? Ah, when the Lord Jesus Christ reveals himself to you, he will soon change your sad state into something brighter and better. He will give you “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Look up, poor trembling soul, to yonder hill of Calvary where Jesus bled and died for you, and there let your joys begin, and never, never end.
Zechariah 8:20-21. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.
You see that, in the latter days, there is to be a great spirit of prayer and of seeking the Lord. This will include the hearing of the Word, and the love of the truth; and one good sign is that the people will say, “Let us go speedily.” They will not come in late, as so many do nowadays, just getting into their seats when the Scripture is being read, instead of being present at the opening prayer. I am sorry to say that some of you are getting later and later; and some morning, I shall most certainly carry out my threat, and preach the sermon first, unless you are more punctual. A little more thought, and a little sooner start, and you might all be at God’s house in time. David longed to be a doorkeeper in the Lord’s house, and you know that the doorkeeper is always the first in and the last out. May you all have more of David’s spirit, though you cannot all be doorkeepers! These people are to say, “Let us go speedily (the marginal reading is ‘continually’) to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also.” That is the best way of bringing others to God’s house, — to say, “I will go also.” I have read that Julius Caesar never said to his soldiers, “Go,” but “Let us go.” So should we seek to get others to God’s house by saying to them, “Let us go; . . . I will go also.”
Zechariah 8:22-23. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
In the latter days, the Jews, who are still despised, and oppressed, and persecuted in many countries, shall be so highly honoured by God that men of other nationalities will want to be in their company. But, no doubt, there is here a special reference to Jesus, the Jew, the Son of God who became the Son of Mary too. Oh that, this very day, many Jews and Gentiles may take hold of his skirt by a living faith, and so may receive blessing from him, and be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation!
Zechariah 8:9-10. Thus saith the LORD of hosts: Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the month of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.
See into what a state sin brought Israel. There was no bread, no work, no wage, no peace. Every man was the enemy of his neighbour.
Zechariah 8:11. But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts.
He would change everything, and give them happiness and prosperity.
Zechariah 8:12. For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
God can turn our estate as easily as a man turneth his hand. “The Lord can clear the darkest skies, can give us day for night.” As the wheel revolves, so can the whole fortune of a man change speedily under the kind hand of God.
Zechariah 8:13. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
The Jew had become the very model of a curse. “You are as cursed as a Jew,” said the enemies of Israel; but God would make them to be the very model of a blessing, so that men should say, “You are as blessed as the house of Israel.”
Zechariah 8:14-15. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not: So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
It is a very instructive and encouraging passage. When God threatened to punish his people, he did it. He did not play with words. He punished them, and repented not. And so when God promises to bless his people, he will not run back from his word, but he will carry out every jot and tittle of it in the blessing of his people.
Zechariah 8:16-17. These are the things that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour: execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.
He will have his people true, even if they swear to their own hurt. They must not change. They are to speak the truth, though a thousand calamities should be let loose thereby. May God make us a truth-loving, truth-speaking, truth-doing people.
Zechariah 8:18. And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying,
This is the point that I call your attention to. You had the question when I began to read, and here is the answer.
Zechariah 8:19. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
Here is an answer to more than they asked for. The messengers only enquired about one fast — what they should do with it — namely, the fast of the fifth month; but they get instruction upon three other fasts. If you come to God’s Word upon any point, you will not only be resolved upon that point, but you will be guided in many other ways, for God’s Word is full of instruction, and they that are willing to be taught of it shall become wise in all ways. So now they are told that these fasts were to be turned into feasts.
Zechariah 8:20-21. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.
It is a fine thing when we invite other people and can always say, “I will go also.” There are many people who say, “Do as I do, not as I say”; but if our example keeps pace with our precept, there will be power in our precept. “Let us go,” said they; and he that said it added, “I will go also.”
Zechariah 8:22. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
And it is so, even now. We have received our religion from a Jew. We believe in One who was of the seed of Abraham. We rejoice in him as also the Son of God, and many nations come crowding about the Christ of God.