And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.” 11 But they refused to hearken, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts like adamant lest they should hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. 13 “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, 14 “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.” Zech 7:8-14
They have been 70 years in Babylon. The idolatry has gone. No one remembers Baal, Ashtoreth, or Molech. But nothing else has changed. So the LORD takes this opportunity to explain just where they are and how they got here.
Their priorities had been wrong. They were back in the land but they were still oppressing the widow the orphan etc. The whole system of tithing to feed the poor had broken down. The entire book of Malachi, which was written about this same time, it is about their unwillingness to follow the Law of tithing and the Law of mercy. They were bringing damaged animals to the temple. They were not giving the Levites enough to take care of the poor. They were not faithful to the wife of their youth. The Law was clear. They were not to afflict the widows, the orphans, or the stranger.
“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. Ex. 22:21
In English the pronoun “you” can be either singular or plural and only the context tell the read the difference. But in Hebrew “you” the plural and the singular are spelled slightly differently.
- The first “you “ is plural. So the community was not to oppress the strangers etc.
- The second “you” is singular. It only takes one selfish, inconsiderate person to cause affliction.
- The third “you” that is killed with the sword is also plural. The sinful uncharitable act of one person can bring down the whole community into judgment.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. Mal. 3:5
In verse 12 He says that their hearts that are like adamant, which is a very old English saying that means hard hearted, but nowadays it makes one think of Wolverine with his adamantium skeleton. However the Hebrew word is flint. It is a hard but brittle stone with sharp edges, that was and is favored for stone age weapon and some modern day surgical knives. Their heart were hard with sharp edges. Rather than soft and tender. They had no care for the less fortunate among them.
He reminds them that these have always been the rules. He has sent one prophet after another to tell them the same message. Are these not the things He has always been teaching His people? God has always instructed his people to be kind to the poor, the widows, the orphans etc. This is how nations are judged [Matt. 25:32-46].
“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ Matt. 7:21-23
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1Cor. 13:1