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.
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?"
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.
"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.'
"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.
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."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)