“In Zechariah’s time [about 6 B.C.] the people of God were beginning a new day. They were back in their homeland and they were free. Their future, however, was unclear. Would they return to the sins which resulted in their forefathers entering into captivity or would their future be marked by fidelity to God? Would they be able to rebuild the Temple? Would they be protected from their enemies? The people were at a crossroads. They needed to be challenged regarding their past and encouraged regarding their future. It was into this setting that God sent Zechariah, and he came to Judah with a two-fold message. He told them to look back with discernment and look forward with reassurance.” (The Prophets Speak of Him: Encountering Jesus in the Minor Prophets, Anthony Selvaggio)
“You’re Interested in Religion, I’m Interested in People”
7 On the fourth day of the ninth month, in the fourth year of the reign of King Darius, God’s Message again came to Zechariah.
2-3 The town of Bethel had sent a delegation headed by Sarezer and Regem-Melech to pray for God’s blessing and to confer with the priests of the Temple of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, and also with the prophets. They posed this question: “Should we plan for a day of mourning and abstinence next August, the seventieth anniversary of Jerusalem’s fall, as we have been doing all these years?”
4-6 God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave me this Message for them, for all the people and for the priests: “When you held days of fasting every fifth and seventh month all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? And when you held feasts, was that for me? Hardly. You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people.
7-10 “There’s nothing new to say on the subject. Don’t you still have the message of the earlier prophets from the time when Jerusalem was still a thriving, bustling city and the outlying countryside, the Negev and Shephelah, was populated? [This is the message that God gave Zechariah.] Well, the message hasn’t changed. God-of-the-Angel-Armies said then and says now:
“‘Treat one another justly.
Love your neighbors.
Be compassionate with each other.
Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor.
Don’t plot and scheme against one another—that’s evil.’
11-13 “But did your ancestors listen? No, they set their jaws in defiance. They shut their ears. They steeled themselves against God’s revelation and the Spirit-filled sermons preached by the earlier prophets by order of God-of-the-Angel-Armies. And God became angry, really angry, because he told them everything plainly and they wouldn’t listen to a word he said.
13-14 “So [this is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies said] if they won’t listen to me, I won’t listen to them. I scattered them to the four winds. They ended up strangers wherever they were. Their ‘promised land’ became a vacant lot—weeds and tin cans and thistles. Not a sign of life. They turned a dreamland into a wasteland.”
(Zechariah 7, The Message, emphasis mine)