Nepaug Bible Church - http://www.nepaugchurch.org - Pastor's Evening Sermon Notes - http://www.nepaugchurch.org/ev/ev20090607.htm
THRU THE BIBLE EXPOSITION
Zechariah: Paving The Path Toward A Blessed Future
Part III: Instructing God's People About Man-Authored Rituals, Zechariah 7:1-8:23
B. God's Direction For God-Centered Obedience Over Self-Centered Ritualism
Lesson: To escape the need to develop dead ritualism in trying to thwart the pain of God's discipline, God called Israel to REPENT of the SINS that had LED to God's DISCIPLINE, that instead of taking advantage of the vulnerable, they might nurture them compassionately in true justice, not even thinking evil of anyone else since such thinking inevitably leads to oppressing others!
- The way out of self-centered ritualism that man typically creates to ease his discomfort in life that comes from God's discipline is a necessary step toward overcoming dead religious ritualism.
- Zechariah 7:8-14 supplied Israel the deeds God wanted her to perform so that His painful discipline that had tempted Israel unto pain-numbing ritualism would be exchanged for His settled blessings (as follows):
- God's Direction For God-Centered Obedience Over Self-Centered Ritualism, Zechariah 7:8-14.
- Zechariah 7:8-14 is the second of four messages God had Zechariah give Israel when Jews from Bethel traveled to the Jerusalem temple priests to ask if they should cease observing the man-authored fast(s) that recalled Jerusalem's fall to Babylon, Zechariah 7:1-3, 4, 8 NIV ; Bible Know. Com., O. T., p. 1559.
- The first message rebuked Israel for such self-centered ritual fasts that recalled the pain of God's judgment when Israel should have repented of the sins that had led God to judge her so severely in the first place!
- Thus, this second message gives specific DIRECTIONS for repenting, detailing issues that had led Israel to face God's discipline via the Babylonian invasion, matters that Israel still needed to correct, 7:9-14:
- The Lord revealed the specific directives He wanted Israel to heed for His blessing, Zechariah 7:9-10:
- God wanted His people to dispense true justice, to show mercy and compassion to one another, 7:9.
- Specifically, He wanted them to stop mistreating people in their midst who were easy prey by ceasing to oppress widows, orphans, foreigners and the poor, Zech. 7:10a,b. (cf. Exodus 22:21-24)
- In fact, God didn't want His people even to think evil thoughts of one another, for such thoughts led to evil, destructive deeds against each other, Zechariah 7:10c with Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15!
- For failure in these realms, God had judged pre-exilic Israel with judgments that had appropriately matched Israel's specific wrongs, Zechariah 7:11-14:
- God had repaid Israel by ignoring her cries to Him for help just as she had ignored the cries of His prophets for her to repent: (1) Pre-exilic Israel had refused to heed God's prophets who warned about obeying God in these matters as they stubbornly turned their backs and stopped their ears to them, Zechariah 7:11-12a NIV. (2) Accordingly, God's great wrath had come upon Israel in the form of the Babylonian invasion that had led to the pain Israel had commemorated for seventy years in her fasts, Zech. 7:12b, 3. (3) Thus, as God had cried unto the pre-exilic nation of Israel by their pre-exilic prophets, but the people had failed to listen, God had responded in kind in wrath to refuse to hear them when they cried to Him in great suffering in the Babylonian invasion, Zechariah 7:13.
- God had paid Israel back by arranging for her to be mistreated as she had mistreated the vulnerable: (1) God had then scattered pre-exilic Israel as with a violent whirlwind among the Gentiles, leaving them foreigners vulnerable to cruel overlords, Zechariah 7:14a. (2) This punishment fit the crime, for they had refused to repent from mistreating the widows, orphans, foreigners and poor, the vulnerable who had once lived in their midst in the land of Israel, Zechariah 7:14a with 7:10a,b.
- God had paid Israel back by withdrawing His blessing as Israel had failed to bless the oppressed: He had left Israel's land so desolate after Babylon's invasion that no one could come or go, making a once pleasant land of blessing a land desolate with the lack of His blessing, Zechariah 7:14b!
Application: (1) To escape the need for dead religious ritualism that man initiates to thwart the pain of God's discipline, may we (a) nurture the vulnerable, and (b) avoid even thinking evil thoughts of other people! (2) God will then bless us, eradicating the pain that tempts us to formulate dead ritualism!