In our study of Zechariah chapter seven, we look at the fact that God sees our heart in worship. In chapter 6, we saw the restoration of the temple and the priesthood. Now, we will look at the appropriate worship of God.
"In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the Lord by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, 'Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?'" NIV translation
The people sent their leaders to the temple to ask if they should continue to worship God the way that they had for many years. They wanted to know if they should continue doing what they had always done.
"Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: 'Ask all the people of the land and the priests, "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?"'" NIV translation
The Lord's answer to their question was a question and basically God asked them about their heart. God was trying to get them to see that He does not desire half-hearted followers or those who are just going through the motions. When we prepare for worship, we need to ask ourselves whether we are doing so out of obligation or out of true love for God. He knew the hearts of His people then and He knows our hearts now.
"And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 'This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other."'" NIV translation
God's answer to the people is very simple. Worship is not about our rituals or traditions but is a demonstration of our love for Him. On the day of our judgment, God will not ask us how many times we showed up to a church building but instead will separate out His children based on their love for Him (see Matthew 25:31-46). If we love God, then, we will love all people because He created them and loves them. If we love people, then, we will serve those who are in need of comfort. Our love will not just be words but will indeed be action.
"'But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.'" NIV translation
The people had put into practice the part of the law dealing with their relationship with God (the first four commandments). But, they had ignored the part that deals with the relationship between them and their fellow men (the last six commandments).
"'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the Lord Almighty." NIV translation
God had sent the prophets to call the people to repentance but they did not and, so when trouble came and they called out to the Lord, God did not listen to their prayers. This is a reminder that our prayer time is not simply a wish list of what we want from God but also a time of listening to what God wants to tell us through the Holy Spirit.
"'I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.'" NIV translation
The people had called out to God as they saw their land being made desolate but He knew their hearts and they did not listen to Him. Therefore, God's people were scattered throughout other countries and it is that way even today. That is a picture of what is happening today in many countries that will not listen to the Spirit of God. We see how things are getting worse everyday but are comforted by the Spirit living in us. We also know that the state of the world today is just as birth pains of the judgment that is coming because this is what Jesus told His disciples (see Matthew 24:8).