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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Zechariah 7

 

 

Verses 1-7

CRITICAL NOTES.] The Didactic part. Replies to questions relative to fasts observed by the Jews, but which they supposed no longer binding after restoration to prosperity. Fourth] Two years, nearly, after the foundation of the temple was laid (Hag ), and nearly two years before it was finished. Chisleu] Corresponding with part of November and part of December. "The end of B. C. 518" [Pusey].

Zec . House of God] here a rendering for Bethel. Unto] A word for which there is no corresponding Hebrew. Bethel is construed by most as nominative to the verb, and the translation given, "When Bethel (i.e. the inhabitants of that city) sent Sherezer and Regem-melech, and their men" as an embassy to Jerusalem. Pray] Lit. to entreat the face of, i.e. to seek and conciliate the favour of Jehovah, to obtain a Divine answer to their inquiry.

Zec . Weep] They fasted and mourned in captivity, on account of the ruins of the temple. Why fast now when the city and temple are being restored? Separating] by vow of consecration, sanctifying oneself by separating from defilement and food, as in solemn fast (cf. Joe 2:16).

Zec . Word] of reproof for the method and spirit in which they fasted.

Zec . All] The answer given not only to those who put the question, but to the people at large. Fasted] in fifth month in remembrance of the burning of the temple; in seventh to commemorate the murder of Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. To me] Fasting alien from God and for selfish ends.

Zec . Did] ye not eat and drink in self-indulgence? Neither in feasting nor fasting had they any regard for Jehovah; all was done for self-interest.

Zec . Words] of former prophets threatened a curse upon hypocrisy and disobedience, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous. The lessons of former teachers had been verified in the nation's history; they should heed the warning.

HOMILETICS

PAST WARNINGS AND PRESENT JUDGMENTS.—Zec

The former prophets taught the worthlessness of fasting, when God was forgotten and the weightier matters of the law disregarded. If the Jews had listened to the messages, the evils which they were suffering would not have come upon them. Belief that fasting could obtain the favour of God overthrew the nation. Hence take warning—

I. Israel had been warned in the past. "The Lord hath cried by the former prophets." God declares his will loudly and sufficiently in his word, but men disregard the trumpet-call.

1. Warned by various messengers. Zechariah was not the first prophet; they had been warned by every prophet whom Jehovah had sent.

2. Warned in different periods. Warnings were not only addressed to them in adversity, when men should "consider," but in prosperity, when they should humble themselves before God to save themselves from the punishment of pride and rebellion; when Jerusalem was inhabited in prosperity. God tells us beforehand, arranges "one over against another," that we may rightly chose and have no excuse for our sin (Ecc ).

II. If past warnings had been regarded present punishment might have been avoided. "Should ye not hear the words?" Should men disregard the Scriptures and have no concern for their own salvation and the interests of the nation? Too often the admonitions of ministers are disregarded by those flushed with prosperity. The Jews before and after the captivity failed to learn from their fathers, and had to mourn for their country. "Study the past, if you would divine the future" [Confucius].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 7

Zec . God or self—Which? A certain king had a minstrel, and he bade him play before him. It was a day of high feasting; the cups were flowing, and many great guests were assembled. The minstrel laid his fingers among the strings of his harp, and woke them all to the sweetest melody, but the hymn was to the glory of himself. It was a celebration of the exploits of song which the bard had himself performed. He had excelled high Howell's harp, and emulated great Llewellyn's lay. In high-sounding strains he sang of himself and all his glories. When the feast was over, the harper said to the monarch, "Oh king, give me my guerdon; let the minstrel's mede be paid." And the king said, "Thou hast sung unto thyself; pay thyself: thine own praises were thy theme; be thyself the paymaster." He cried, "Did I not sing sweetly? O king, give me the gold!" But the king replied, "So much the worse for thy pride that thou shouldst lavish such sweetness upon thyself." If a man should grow grey-headed in the performance of good works, yet when at last it is known that he has done it all to himself, his Lord will say, "Thou hast done well enough in the eyes of man, but so much the worse, because thou didst it only to thyself, that thine own praises might be sung, and that thine own name might be extolled. [Spurgeon].

Zec . Not hear. There is a story which tells of a bell which was suspended upon a rock of the ocean dangerous to navigation. The waves of the ocean beating upon it caused it to give a noise of warning to keep off the approaching mariner. It is said that at one time some pirates destroyed the bell to prevent the warning. Not long after these very pirates struck upon this rock and were lost. How many hush or remove the voice of warning from the point of danger, who as soon as the warning ceases founder upon the rock of temptation and are lost for ever [MeCosh].


Verses 8-14

CRITICAL NOTES.] Zec .] God requires obedience, not formal fastings. The disobedience of the fathers brought judgment upon the nation.

Zec . Execute] Admonitions which have special reference to evils of which they were guilty. Judgment] Righteous impartiality in public and private matters. "Judgment of truth (cf. Eze 18:8) is such an administration of justice as simply fixes the eye upon the real circumstances of any dispute, without any personal considerations whatever, and decides them in accordance with truth" [Keil]. Mercy] Tender love to all. Compassion] to the unhappy, sympathy for human suffering.

Zec .] This verse specifies some of the chief ways of violating the preceding requisition, and shows that it covers the thoughts of the heart as well as the acts of the members [Lange]. Imagine] i.e. devise evil (Psa 36:4; Mic 2:1). Meditate no revenge, but act up to the royal law of love.

Zec .] The attitude of the people towards these precepts described. Their fathers and some of them refused], paid no serious attention; then pulled away], like a refractory beast refusing the yoke (Neh 9:29; Hos 4:16). "It seems rather to refer to one on whose shoulder we lay our hand, when he is reluctant to listen to us, in order to arrest, and beseech him to hear, but he fretfully and violently ‘draws the shoulder' from our kind and earnest grasp" [Wardlaw] Stopped] Made heavy (Isa 6:10; Jer 7:26; Act 7:57).

Zec . Adamant] Hard and impenetrable as stone (Eze 3:9; Eze 11:19). Wrath] The consequence of disobedience and obduracy (2Ch 36:16).

Zec . He] by his prophets. They] cried in calamities, retribution in kind. They would not hear God, and he would not hear them (Pro 1:24-26; Isa 1:15).

Zec .] The great wrath described in its execution. Scattered] for 70 years among foreign and barbarous nations; like a tempest driven among those who pitied them not. After] their exile and expulsion no occupants possessed the land. Passed through] Lit. goes away and returns again (Exo 32:27), pass to and fro. They] The Jews themselves to blame; they desolated the pleasant land] lit. the land of desire; made the choice land a desert by their sins (Jer 3:19; Psa 106:24).

DIVINE REQUIREMENTS AND HUMAN DISREGARD.—Zec

The prophet exposes the hollowness of mere outward forms, and reminds the people that their ruin was not caused by neglect of ritual, but by disregard of the plainest duties of justice and humanity. They had refused to hear the reiterated and explicit injunctions of the prophets, and they are reproved for their folly. Notice—

I. The Divine requirements specified. They had practised injunctions of their own imposing and neglected the commands of God. The prophet repeats the substance of former teaching and urges the claims of Jehovah.

1. Sincerity in life. Obedience is better than sacrifice.

(1) Execute judgment. Practise justice officially and privately, before God and man. Judgment must be true, without personal considerations or partiality. "He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man."

(2) Compassionate the miserable. "Show mercy" to the unfortunate, be kind and have "compassions every man to his brother." "Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together," says Goethe.

(3) Oppress not the helpless. Special regard must be paid to the widow and the fatherless, the stranger and the poor. "Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child" (Exo ). "Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."

2. Purity in heart. We must not only do no wrong, but not even wish it. No evil must be devised in the heart. "Let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart." Cherish no ill-feeling, no wish to retaliate. All evil inclinations and spiteful intentions must be subdued. We can never act rightly if we do not feel and think rightly. Hence the law of God restrains the heart. "Beware that there be not a thought (word) in thy wicked (Belial) heart" (Deu ).

II. The Divine requirements disregarded. Except men execute judgment, whatever be their fastings and pretensions, they reject the word of God. Ceremonial observances without love to God and man are a solemn mockery.

1. They refused to hearken to God's word. They hated the claims and rebelled against the authority of God's commands.

(1) They were wilfully deaf. "Stopped their ears."

(2) They were wilfully prejudiced. "That they should not hear." They had no desire to know, much less to practise. God pursued them in earnest, constant warning, but they shook their shoulders, refused to submit or bear the yoke, and were determined in their obstinate purpose (cf. Act ). "They hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward."

2. They hardened their hearts in sin. "They made their hearts as an adamant stone." They were resolved that nothing should make an impression upon them: they became proud, presumptuous, and inflexible. Divine power even could neither soften their hearts nor shape their lives. "They dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments (which, if a man do, he shall live in them), and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck and would not hear."

III. The fatal consequences of disregarding the Divine requirements. Most terrible are the penalties here set forth. "Therefore," since they have rejected God, punishment will be in proportion to the violation of his law. "Terrible penalties, withal, if thou still need penalties," says Carlyle, "are there for disobeying."

1. God was angry. "Therefore came" wrath, a great wrath, from the Lord of hosts. This anger is evinced—

(1) By disregarding their prayers. "They cried, and I would not hear." There is "great reason," says Bp. Reynolds, "that God shall refuse to hear him who refuseth to hear God." "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."

(2) By scattering them among other nations. "I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations." The common bond of humanity and social intercourse was broken (Deu ); they were cast out of their own into a land of perfect strangers, from whom they received no kindness nor mitigation of sorrows.

2. The land was desolated. "For they laid the pleasant land desolate." It was not the enemy, but their own sins that had cursed their country. God's presence is the beauty of a nation, but sin will turn it into a barren waste. Human guilt desolates everything that is "pleasant." Let us take warning. If we despise God's word he will not hear our cry in the day of wrath. The harder men grow in heart, the heavier the stroke at the judgment day. Those who are lost will have to blame their own folly. No delusion will rob them of this conviction, and no remedy can be devised for the misery which they despised and cannot endure. "They would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof: therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices."

RIGHTEOUS RETRIBUTION.—Zec

This is the first part of punishment, retribution in kind. They would not hear God when he called to them; now he will not hear them when they cry to him. This is God's method of dealing with nations and individuals.

I. It is often physically true. The drunkard pays when at last he feels himself the slave of habits which he knows will ruin soul and body, and yet unable to throw them off. The licentious who survive the power of gratification may be tortured by appetites for which exhausted nature has no provision [cf. Lange].

II. It is always spiritually true. He that digs a pit for another shall fall into it himself. The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own devices (Pro ). Those who contemn the word of God shall be unheard in the day of distress Alarmed at their situation, they will call, but God will not answer them. Thus men become the cause of their own misery, and constantly remind us of the wise man's words: "Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way" (Pro 1:30-31; Pro 28:9; Gal 6:7-8).

"I do as truly suffer

As e'er I did commit" [Shakespeare].

HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Zec . Love, the royal law of life, the essence of religion. Not religious profession, but the practice of social duty. Keep from evil in thought and act. Meditate no revenge, brood over no wrongs, but in all things act up to the requirements of God's law. "Love worketh no ill." "Love will not permit us to injure, oppress, or offend our brother; it will not give us leave to neglect our betters, or despise our inferiors. It will restrain every inordinate passion, and not suffer us to gratify our envy at the expense of our neighbour's credit and reputation; but it will preserve us harmless and innocent" [Bp. Sherlock].

Moral duties. Required in every age. Superior to external ordinances.

Zec . Widow and fatherless.

1. A sad condition in life. Weak and helpless.

2. A proof of God's care. "Widows and orphans are God's clients taken into his special protection" [Trapp].

3. An evidence of true religion. "One of the surest tests of an intelligent Christianity, as well as of a high civilization, is found in the provision made and maintained for those who so often are the victims either of cruel neglect or, alas, of wilful oppression" [Lange]. Compare the teaching of Scripture with the customs of heathenism.

Zec . Pulled away the shoulder. What is implied in these words?

1. A benevolent purpose.

2. Remarkable human power to resist it.

3. Mysterious providence to permit resistance.

4. Astounding effrontery in the conduct indicated. "Pride not only withdraws the heart from God, but lifts it up against God" [Manton].

"All pride is willing pride" [Shakespeare].

Zec . Hearts as adamant. The stone, whatever it be, was hard enough to cut ineffaceable characters (Jer 17:1); it was harder than flint (Eze 3:9). It would cut rocks; it could not be engraven itself, or receive the characters of God. This is the last sin, obduracy, persevering impenitence, which resisted the Holy Ghost, and did despite to the Spirit of grace. Not through infirmity, but of set purpose, they hardened themselves, lest they should be converted and be healed (Isa 6:10). Observe the gradations.

1. The words of God are not heard.

2. The restive shoulder is shown. Men turn away, when God by the inner motions of his Spirit, or by lesser chastisements, would bring them to the yoke of obedience. They would not hear the burden of the law, whereas they willingly bore that most heavy weight of their sins.

3. Obduracy. Their adamantine heart could be softened neither by promises nor threats; therefore nothing remained but the great wrath which they had treasured to themselves against the day of wrath [Pusey].

Hardness is the state of a person insensible alike to entreaties, expostulations, warnings, admonitions, and chastisements (Jer ). Men become obdurate—

1. By separating themselves from God, the source of all life, just as a branch dries up when detached from the tree, or as a limb withers when the connection between it and the heart ceases.

2. By a life of pleasure and sin, the effects of which may be compared to those of the river north of Quito, petrifying, according to Kirwin's account, the wood and leaves cast into its waters; or to those of the busy feet of passers-by, causing the crowded thoroughfare to grow hard [Rev. C. Neil].

Zec . Causes of spiritual ruin.

1. Heedless indifference.

2. Stubborn rebellion—

(1) in refusing the yoke, and

(2) in stopping the ears.

3. Resistance to the Holy Spirit.

Zec . Self-inflicted calamities.

1. Rejection of God in trouble.

2. Dispersion in strange lands.

3. Devastation of country. Mark the contrast: the land of desire and the land of desolation. Obey the word of God and seek to reach that heavenly "land of desire," where desolation is unknown, and whither the spoiler can never come [cf. Fausset].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 7

Zec , Duties. Your daily duties are a part of your religious life just as much as your devotions are [H. W. Beecher]. Formality in religion is the name of being alive [Jenkyn].

"The path of duty is the way to glory" [Tennyson].

Zec . Stopped ears. Wise men are instructed by reason; men of less understanding by experience; the most ignorant by necessity; and beasts by nature [Cicero].

"The ear is the road to the heart" [Voltaire].

Zec . Come to pass.

"The past lives o'er again

In its effects, and to the guilty spirit

The ever-frowning present is its image" [S. T. Coleridge.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Zechariah 7:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/zechariah-7.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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