Thursday, March 10, 2016

Zechariah 7:1-8:23 Sermon Notes

Zechariah 7:1-8:23
Sermon Notes
Fast to Feast

         Sometimes when we think about the Old Testament, we think about a lot of doom and gloom. It certainly is there. But we tend to compress history and think these things happened in a short time frame. I am thankful we are making our way through the Minor Prophets. We are talking about a span of about 400 years. That is the entire history of the United States, even all the way back to first settlers in Jamestown in 1607.
         So, do not compress even the history of the Minor Prophets into a few years of gloom. Much happened during that time. There was waxing and waning of Israel. There were many wars and alliances. But Israel did continue on a downward spiral and it took many generations before the Lord finally acted with great wrath.
         The high point of Israel’s history was in David and Solomon from around 1000 B.C. down to the mid-900’s. And after Solomon, the kingdom divided and never realized her former glory. Samaria was the center of the ten northern tribes and was destroyed in 722 B.C. Jerusalem falls in 586 B.C.
         We are now talking about the time of restoration as the Jews return from their exile to Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. The days of restoration are at hand.
In light of this, they ask a simple question. One that seems to be wise and filled with religious zeal. Shall we still keep the fasts that commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem?

Will God be pleased with us as we fast?
Fasting 7:1-8:23 Dec. 7, 518 BC They held the day of the destruction of Jerusalem in remembrance. Shall they still do this? Should they continue the fast? God tells them to obey is better than sacrifice.
         God asks them if they fasted and ate for Him? He says that they did it for themselves. Instead of fasting or feasting, they should have obeyed the voice of the Lord.
         7:9 Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:  10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.  11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. 
         God did not command them with an impossible task. Be fair. Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the stranger or the poor.
Do not think to put a fast one over on your brothers and sisters.
         But they refuse to hear or obey. They pulled away the shoulder and stopped their ears. It wasn’t that they were taught. They were taught and taught well.
         They were culpable because their disobedience was not ignorance. It was willful disobedience. They knew what to do and that the Lord was right and good in telling them what to do. They even knew that doing the right thing was good for them and for others. But they still refused.
         The picture he gives us here of their behavior is telling. They pulled away the shoulder. When they did wrong, the Lord put His hand on their shoulder because He wanted to talk them and turn them around.
         “Leave me alone!” they said.
         Wait, a sec. Can I talk to you?
         I already said, leave me alone.
         But you’ve been doing some things you shouldn’t and there will be severe consequences if you don’t stop.
         What are some of things we say to parents or to others who try to correct us?
         You are such a killjoy. You don’t even care about us. Who made you so righteous. Oh, it’s not that big of a deal. Get lost or a heart that says  much worse things.

12 Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.
The Adamant Stone was hard, like a rough diamond. Someone who is hard thinks they cannot be broken. But if they won’t be cut and made into something of value by God’s Word and Spirit, they will be crushed and turned into powder.
The wrath of  God is stronger than your wrath.

         13 Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:
         This is a scary passage. The Lord is gracious and kind, slow to anger and quick to forgive. He is extending grace repeatedly, speaking by His prophets, His minister, the written Word of God, parents and friends. If we hear and heed Him, His grace flows over us like rivers of living water.
         But if we continually refuse to hear Him or think in our hearts, I will obey on my terms when I am ready. Let God suffer a while while I do my thing. I will talk to Him when I am good and ready. This high handed arrogance is dangerous.
         The Lord is patient and kind but His patience has an end. When does it come to an end? I am not sure. He waited for Israel and Judah to turn for many hundreds of years before the final destruction came.
But when does His patience run out with an individual? I cannot answer that question. There certainly are death bed conversions. Remember the thief of the cross. But He was meeting Jesus for the first time. What about those who are around Jesus and people their entire lives, always pulling away the shoulder. When does the Lord decide He won’t hear them when they cry out to Him? I don’t know but the Bible teaches that is a very real possibility.
I only know that He is speaking to you today. Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.

But God is both able and willing to do a greater work that redounds to His own glory, reveals His graciousness .
Zech. 8:1   Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,  2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.  3 Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.  4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.  5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
         8:6 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.
         Just because this seems impossible to you does not mean that it is impossible for God.
8:14 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not: 
He thought to punish them and He did punish them. Jerusalem was unfaithful and she was utterly destroyed. But God is in the Resurrection business.

15 So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not. 
16 These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:  17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.
God returns to them and tells them again their simple calling. Just do right! You don’t need fasting and asceticism. We are not trying to pay our way to God or earn His favor through penance. Fastings don’t make God feel sorry for us. Just do right. Be honest with God and men. Tell the truth. Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Do not promise a thing just so you can get your way, get elected. God hates that!
         God kept His Word when He overthrew Israel. He will also keep His Word in the restoration.

         Zech. 8:18   And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying,  19 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace. 
         These fasts when you put on a sad face and try to court the Lord’s favor do not work! Instead be joyful and glad. Be cheerful. Love truth and peace. That is the real fast but it is not a fast. It is a feast!

20 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:  21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.  22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. 
Israel was always meant to be the lighthouse that guides men to the shores of Jesus Christ. But they hid their light and made a shipwreck of the gospel. But speaks to them again. I will restore. I will establish the Branch. The light will once again shine among my people and the nations will flock to Him.

23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
We should think of Pentecost at this point. People were gathered from all nations and heard the gospel preached to them.
         Change the fasting to feasting for the day of blessing is at hand.

         We are in the days of feasting for we are in the days of Jesus Christ. Our Father has shown His exceeding grace to us through Jesus and in sending His Holy Spirit to dwell with us. In Christ, He forgives our sins. He puts His hand on our shoulders to reason with us. He does this as a kind father addresses his little children. His intention for us is forgiveness, goodness, blessing.
         How will you respond?
         There can be several areas of response.
         Children and teenagers, How do you respond when you are corrected by your parents? Do you pull away the shoulder and skulk? Do you complain about your parents not understanding you? Not being fair? Is your heart growing hard to their patience and kindness? Can you not even now see how they really are patient and kind?
         Adults, how do you respond to the Word when it is preached. Do you hear it? Or, come here to church and fall asleep? Some of you literally fall asleep? Why is that? Are you pulling away the shoulder?
         Or, when the preacher touches your particular sin, anger, lust, gossip, fearfulness. Do you heed then and repent or do you pull away the shoulder? “Leave me alone!” Or, are you simply deaf to the call?
         Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.

         The result of continually refusing to hear is hardness of heart, self-deceit and very real time consequences are looming for you.
         But if you hear and turn from you sins, then the Lord showers forgiveness, peace and life on you. His Spirit will flow over you restoring His grace and mercy, granting you peace and healing your relationships with other people.
         Which do you prefer? Being alone in your self-justification? Or the peace and joy of the Lord? Sadly, many prefer to be justified in their anger, rather than turn to Jesus. The Heavenly Father is putting His hand on your shoulder. Don’t pull away. Turn to Him.
         What happens when you turn to Him?

         Psa. 16:8   I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.  10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.  11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.d 

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