On December 7 of the fourth year of King Darius’s reign, another message came to Zechariah from the Lord. The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regemmelech, along with their attendants, to seek the Lord’s favor. They were to ask this question of the prophets and the priests at the Temple of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: “Should we continue to mourn and fast each summer on the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction, as we have done for so many years?”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves? Isn’t this the same message the Lord proclaimed through the prophets in years past when Jerusalem and the towns of Judah were bustling with people, and the Negev and the foothills of Judah were well populated?’” (Zechariah 7:1-7)
The fourth year of King Darius’s reign was 518 b.c. For the previous seventy years, the people had been holding a fast in August to remember the destruction of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem was being rebuilt, they came to the Temple to ask if they had to continue this annual fast.
God did not answer their question directly. Zechariah told them that they had been fasting without a proper attitude of repentance or worship. The Israelites had lost their sincere desire for a loving relationship with God. They had no thought of God or of the sins that had caused the Exile in the first place. Zechariah reminded them that their acts of justice and mercy were more important than their fasting. What God wanted from his people were true justice in their dealings and mercy and compassion for the weak.
When you go to church, pray, or have fellowship with other believers, are you doing these from habit or for what you get out of it? God says that an attitude of worship without a sincere desire to know and love him will lead to ruin.