ZECHARIAH 8: 18-23
WHEN FASTING BECOMES FEASTING
In the previous chapter Zechariah proclaimed to the people the mere externals and empty ritualism in their observance of the fasts as well as pointing out to them the sins and transgression which caused their suffering (7:1-7). He also gave them specific warning against certain sins which were still common (7:8-14). Zechariah was then free to announce the divine blessing of faithful obedience to be realized (in part) during that time and in full during the future Messianic Age (8:1-17). At that time God's people will rejoice with great joy, gladness and popularity (CIT).
So here Zechariah reveals a picture of a time of great transformation (the Millennial Age) which comes after a large number of Jews have been brought to faith in the Messiah during the tribulation period through the proclamation of the 144,000 flaming Jewish evangelists (Rev. 7:4,9). This picture shows the reversal of even heathen life during the Messianic Age.
I. THE VIEW OF HISTORY REVISED, 18-19.
II. THE NATIONS SEEK GOD'S FAVOR, 20-22.
III. THE ENTREATING OF THE CHOSEN PEOPLE, 23.
1st, THEIR VIEW OF HISTORY REVISED, 18-19.
Zechariah introduces in verse 18 another sequence break in the divine messages he received. "Then the Word of the LORD of Hosts came to me saying,"
Here we have again the word translated then ( ) which has been used to divide the various sections of the second part, chapters 7 & 8, of Zechariah. The word "then" is seen in chapter 7, verse 1 thereafter the formula then the Word of the LORD of Hosts is used in 7;4, 7:8, 8:1 and now 8:18. This is done so that attention may be transferred to the matter that gave rise to this message.
Verse 19 declares that the four yearly fasts that commemorate the people's grievous disasters would be transformed from days of mourning into days of rejoicing. "Thus says the Lord of Hosts, ‘The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah, so love truth and peace.'"
The preceding instructions for restoration have prepared the way for the prophet to address the initial question first presented by the group from the city of Bethel. Zechariah 7:3 states the original question. "Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?" [See Zechariah 7:3-14].
Only the fasts of the 5th (the blackest of all days commemorating the destruction -burning- of both the City and Temple (2 Kgs. 25:8-10; Jer. 52:12-14) and the 7th months (the assassination of governor Gadeliah, 2 Kings 25:22-26; Jer. 41:1-3) had been indicated in the original inquiry of the delegation. In the final divine answer however the whole gamut of fasts are included.
All this group of fasts have been self-imposed in order to express the Nation's grief because of great calamities. The fasts of the 4th month (Tammuz) lamented the breaching of the walls (2 Kgs 25:3-4; Jer. 39:2; 52:6-7 and the opening of the city of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar as a result of the severe famines within the walls during Zedekiah's 11th year (Jer. 39:2,3; 52:6,7; 2 Kings 25:3). The fast of the 10th month (Tebeth) mourned the beginning of the siege by Nebuchadnezzar in his ninth year (2 Kings 25:1; Jer. 39:1, 52:4,6,7; Ezek. 24:1-2).
The LORD is about to transform every aspect of their national existence. The promise is that [once the Temple is completed] these times of weeping, sorrow and fasting are to become joyful experiences and times of great happiness. "Cheerful feast" will occur because the Lord will have revolutionize their circumstances. Isaiah also saw the transformation of fasts to feasts in 61:3 and 66:10. [Also see Isa. 65:18-19; Jer. 31:10-14].
All these fast days are observed still today by Jewish people in all parts of the world. Thus we know that by-in-large the long night of weeping has not yet been followed by a new morning of joy. So the nation still griefs because of these great calamities. However when God brings about His mighty benefits for the house of Judah, these episodes that are still regarded as the greatest calamities will be so entirely reassessed that they will even be seen to be part of God's wise and gracious dealings with His people. Thus these fasts will be converted into days of joy and gladness and will be cheerful feasts because they commemorate the necessary actions of God out of His desire to bring His people back to Himself.
One day we also will have a new realization of our personal and corporate history of seeming disappointments in our life. Our seeming individual and mutual calamities which we may have brought upon ourselves by our rebellion and disobedience will be made clear and we will become grateful for them because we will see through His loving eyes how God wanted to use them to bring us closer to Him.
[Notice that the passage is talking about "the house of Judah" which may indicate the Davidic Kingdom established to literally fulfill the Davidic Covenant. The fact that Christians have long ago abolished these fasting events, which are a tradition of man, and only Jews still keep them could indicate that it also refers saved Jews and Gentiles who were converted during the tribulation period.] The manifestation of the Kingdom will be attended by such a dramatic change of the way we view History that not only the Jews but all of us will forget our mournful events and will only rejoice in the benefits brought about even by God's discipline!]
In light of God's good and gracious promises Zechariah exhorts "so love truth and peace" (ha-emeth ve hashalom) or be honest and faithful in all our life and in all our dealings. Let the truths of God's Word rule your head and the peace of God's Spirit rule in your hearts. These are the terms man must meet if he would open the doors for God's promises in any age. For all God's promises should produce willing obedience to their precepts. The blessing we receive in every instance are intended to be incentives to holiness and consecration to God's service in the present.
II. THE NATIONS SEEK GOD'S FAVOR, 20-22.
The blessings of the LORD will flowing out from Judah and Jerusalem to encompass all nations. "Thus says the LORD of Hosts, (it will) yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities."
At this desolate time of the nation in Zechariah and in the trying times of the Jews today one might wonder if God has forgotten the place of importance He has given to Jerusalem and His people. But here we have the nature and magnitude of the deliverance appointed for Israel. Not only will fasting become feasting for the saved Jews and saved Gentiles of the tribulation but heathen nations will go to the abode of God to worship and seek guidance of the LORD of Hosts. For the nations will see what great things God has done for His people and desire His blessings also. Yes, the unbelief of skeptical men will give way to the desire to receive the benefits which God gives. Peoples everywhere will finally recognize that God's favor must be gain.
Notice the statement, it will yet be, the original intention of Jerusalem and Israel was to be a light to the heathen nations and it will one day fulfill its original intent no matter how impossible it may appear for the light of the world will shine forth from Jerusalem and from His people (Ps. 67).
Peoples is a collective term and the inhabitants of many cities, emphasizes the great numbers. Delegates will come from Washington, London, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Peking and from all the cities of import. The people will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord and the blessing of His administration.
Verse 21 indicates that finding the favor of the LORD will be a matter of shared importance and urgency. "And the inhabitants of one will go the another (city) saying, ‘let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of Hosts'; I will also go,"
The inhabitants of one city will go to another city and then both will go to the Lord to find solution because the same things are occurring or not occurring in each area so they will understand that it is not just a regional change occurring. They will realize that no one has the answers, but the LORD alone.
So these nations go to the Lord desiring the favor of God which Israel has received so that they may know what's going on and what to do. For they know how to work evil in an evil world and now that cannot be done without severe repercussions. The fact that they are seeking favor and not salvation may be because it is no longer possible to be saved at this time. Also notice there is not talk of offering sacrifices to the Lord to find His favor for they have been abolished.
See Isaiah 2:2-4. The people are going to Jerusalem for the dispensing of the way of God for the old ways of earth have passed away and the ways of God's kingdom have come and unregenerate minds do not know them. "I will go, too" is the wise response. As people become intently eager about seeking the LORD ["let's go at once" is as strong an expression as is possible in Hebrew to indicate intensity and urgency], even the reluctant or doubters will decide "to seek" God. For the ways of the world have so decidedly changed during this administration of righteousness and peace that in order to function as has been thrust upon each person and nation to do, the instruction which only God can give, must be attained.
Yes, people will finally fully realize that they cannot stay at home and expect God to come to them but they must go to GOD's House and there entreat favor of God.
Verse 22 indicates that the LORD will truly be recognized as the LORD of All the Earth in that day. "So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord."
In the Millennial earth, Jerusalem, as the center of administration, will receive delegations like the one which came to Jerusalem in Zechariah's day (Num. 14:21, Isa. 11:9). With the Davidic Kingdom established, Israel will be a medium of blessing to the entire globe (Isa. 55:5, 56:6-7, Mk. 11:17), for "Jerusalem" will no longer be regarded simply as the seat of Judaism but as the center of God's dealings with all nations.
III. THE ENTREATING OF THE CHOSEN PEOPLE, 23.
The final prophecy in this section brings out two additional features of this international turning to the LORD in verse 23. It will be accompanied by a recognition of the rights and privileges of the Jews, and it will be motivated by reports about how the LORD has blessed them and how He is to be found in their midst. "Thus says the LORD of Hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew' saying, ‘let us go with you for we have heard that God is with you.'"
Here is the climax. Not only will the heathen pour into Jerusalem to seek the God of Israel, they will also seek those that personally know Him. True spirituality will be an attraction to the heathen instead of the deterrent it so often is today.
This amazing verse indicates that the Jewish Remnant will be endowed with divine favor. The previous state of scorn and derision is past forever.
Has this seeking and honoring of Jews ever happened? No, because "in those days" represents the Millennial Kingdom when those Jews who believed on the Messiah during the tribulation period are going to be honored by the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Ten is the number of wholeness. Our number system is a base 10 system as all numbers meet it and start from it again. We have 10 fingers, 10 toes. The number is representative of completeness (Lev. 26:26; Gen. 31:7; Num. 14:22; Neh. 4:12).
Why are "all the" people here zealously reaching out to the Jew? Because "God is with" them. What better reason could there be? When the earth becomes the place where God is sought, those that know God will be seen as the prize that they are.
The word God is Elohim, Creator God not YHWH covenant making God. This is another indication that they are not seeking Him because they have a covenant relationship with Him, but because they need to know God's ways in His Rod of Iron Millennial Rule. Isaiah 66:18-19.
Today people are disinterested in the Lord and His ways. People seem to distance themselves from those that walk with the Lord and are zealous for Him. And people generally do not desire to be taught by someone whom the Lord has His hand upon.
But one day that will all change. People will become desperately and zealously interested in knowing the Lord's ways. And those that know Him, those that are in His favor, those who He has His hand upon, will be sought out.
God has a future for His Jewish people on this earth. And in the concluding age of human history God will make all things as He wills them and His people will be blessed and be a great blessing.
But the Millennial is just a prelude for eternity. It is a foreshadowing of what great blessings God has in store for those who were zealous for Him.
For if the Millennial is an upholding of His former Covenants and we see what favor He will show the believing Jewish remnant, what uncomprehensible blessings are in store for all His people that are under His eternal covenant established in the blood of Jesus!
"Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; (7) but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; (8) the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; (9) but just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him." (10) For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God" (NASB). 1 Corinthians 2:9. "God Haste the Day."