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Another message came to me from the Lord in late November of the fourth year of the reign of King Darius.

The Jews of the city of Bethel had sent a group of men headed by Sharezer, the chief administrative officer of the king, and Regem-melech, to the Lord’s Temple at Jerusalem, to seek his blessing and to speak with the priests and prophets about whether they must continue their traditional custom of fasting and mourning during the month of August each year, as they had been doing for so long.

This was the Lord’s reply:

“When you return to Bethel, say to all your people and your priests, ‘During those seventy years of exile when you fasted and mourned in August and October, were you really in earnest about leaving your sins behind and coming back to me? No, not at all! And even now in your holy feasts to God, you don’t think of me, but only of the food and fellowship and fun. Long years ago, when Jerusalem was prosperous and her southern suburbs out along the plain were filled with people, the prophets warned them that this attitude would surely lead to ruin, as it has.’”

8-9 Then this message from the Lord came to Zechariah. “Tell them to be honest and fair—and not to take bribes—and to be merciful and kind to everyone. 10 Tell them to stop oppressing widows and orphans, foreigners and poor people, and to stop plotting evil against each other. 11 Your fathers would not listen to this message. They turned stubbornly away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing me. 12 They hardened their hearts like flint, afraid to hear the words that God, the Lord Almighty, commanded them—the laws he had revealed to them by his Spirit through the early prophets. That is why such great wrath came down on them from God. 13 I called, but they refused to listen, so when they cried to me, I turned away. 14 I scattered them as with a whirlwind among the far-off nations. Their land became desolate; no one even traveled through it; the Pleasant Land lay bare and blighted.”

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