“Should we continue mourning?” seems like a strange question for a Jew to ask, since they had finally returned home after seventy years in captivity. And yet, it is exactly the question found in Zechariah 7:3. Jehovah only commanded one fast (Lev. 23:27) but the Israelites did not observe it. Instead, they observed four fasts of their own making to remember events connected with the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the carrying away (Zech. 7:4-7). These were not times of mourning over sin but rather fasts of self-pity. They fasted and mourned over Jerusalem’s destruction instead of the sin which caused it (Zech. 7:8-14).
The Lord’s answer was a resounding “No!” While Zechariah 7 remembers the past, Zechariah 8 looks to the future. In a chapter full of Messianic overtones, Jehovah paints a picture of a bright future. “I am returned unto Zion” (8:3) and “I will save my people from the east country and from the west country” (8:7), therefore “let your hands be strong” (8:9) was the Lord’s message. Looking forward to the time of Christ and His Kingdom, the chapter ends with a promise of blessing and fellowship to all (8:18-23). Though Israel’s past was stained with sin, better days were ahead.
Though presented in a Messianic context this passage offers hope to everyone whose sin has been forgiven. Though the consequences of sin can often be very painful, individuals who repent and submit to the will of God have no need to continue in mourning. The Corinthian man involved in fornication was to be delivered unto Satan (1 Cor. 5) but once he repented, he was to be forgiven and comforted lest he be consumed by sorrow (2 Cor. 2:7). It is true that sin changes things and sometimes produces irreversible consequences. Israel was allowed to go home but things would never be exactly the way they were before Babylon. A penitent person can be forgiven of sin and restored to fellowship and yet have to live with physical or emotional reminders of past decisions. Regardless, we should not mourn the past. Learn from it; use it as motivation for the future; and rejoice in the graciousness of a loving God.