“Now in the fourth year of King Darius it came to pass that the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, on the fourth day of the ninth month, Chislev, when the people sent Sherezer, with Regem-Melech and his men, to the house of God, to pray before the Lord, and to ask the priests who were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and the prophets, saying, ‘Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?’ " (Zechariah 7:1-3).
Have you ever had difficulty letting go of a past failure you committed? During what should be happy times in your life, do you find yourself continuing to focus on your previous mistakes?
The prophet Zechariah ministered to God’s people following their return from Babylonian captivity. They had gone into captivity because of the sin and rebellion against God. However, now things were looking brighter. Cyrus, King of Persia, had released them to go and rebuild the Temple of God at Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-4). Through a series of visions and prophesies, God had sent the prophet Zechariah to encourage them to finish this great work.
However, as the opening verses above indicate, as the people are engaged in this noble work, they send some people to inquire of the priest of God about whether or not they should continue to observe certain “fasts” which they had begun (Zechariah 7:3). During these “fasts” the people would refrain from certain foods as a way to express sorrow and to call upon God to show them attention.
What were these fasts and why were they instituted? The people had begun this fast in the fifth month because 70 years before it was during the fifth month that the previous Temple of God in Jerusalem had been destroyed (2 Kings 25:8-9, Jeremiah 52:12-13). Furthermore, the people had instituted “fasts” during the fourth, seventh and tenth months of the year as well (Zechariah 7:5; 8:19). Why? It was during the 4th month prior to the destruction of the Temple that the wall protecting the city of Jerusalem was breeched by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:3-4; Jeremiah 52:6-7). It was during the 7th month following the destruction of Jerusalem that the governor Gedaliah had been murdered (2 Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 41:1-3). Moreover, it was during the 10th month of the year that the siege of Jerusalem began (2 Kings 25:1-2; Jeremiah 39:1; 52:4-5).
To say the least God’s people of Zechariah’s day seemed to be focused on these negative events. They had a hard time of letting go of the past. In His reply to their question about whether or not to continue to keep these “fasts”, through Zechariah God states that what He wanted was for the people to simply obey Him (Zechariah 7:4-11). God reminds them of His zeal for them (Zechariah 8:1-2). The Lord promises them a bright future where they will rebuild the ruins of the city as His blessings fall on them (Zechariah 8:3-8). God will turn these times of mourning and fasting into times of joy and celebration: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace’ ” (Zechariah 8:19).
God doesn’t want me to be stuck focusing on my past failures. He wants me to walk with Him, obey Him, and to experience the joy only He can bring to my life. Today, I will let go of my past mistakes as I ask for God’s forgiveness and celebrate His love and rejoice in the blessing He gives to me!
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).