Summary: Zechariah announces the divine blessing of faithful obedience to be realized during that time & in full during the future Messianic Age. At that time God's people will rejoice with great joy, gladness & experience popularity.
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.