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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Zechariah Bible Study # 11 Chapter 7

Zechariah Bible Study # 11
Zechariah Chapter 7
The Negative Answer

Hearts like Flint - A Call for Justice and Mercy

7 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month,which is Chislev. 2 Now the town of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regemmelech and their men to seek the favor of the Lord, 3 speaking to the priests who belong to the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, “Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?” 4 Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, 5 “Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted? 6 When you eat and drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves? 7 Are not these the words which the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous along with its cities around it, and the Negev and the foothills were inhabited?’”
8 And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger 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 he nations that 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.” NASB and ESV

Fast forward, two years, from the night of visions that Zechariah was given. Things are going well, the hindrances to completing the rebuilding of the temple had been removed by Darius. So a natural question forms in the minds of people who have continuously observed a fast ever since the destruction of the Temple and the conquering of the land, 70 years of expressing national sorrow, lamenting and commemorating that day, “Should we continue to do this, now that things are 'looking up?'”
It is important that it is mentioned that they came to Jerusalem from Bethel. Bethel was set-up as an alternate 'house of God' (what the name means) when Israel, (made up of 10 tribes chose to separate from, Judah and Benjamin, and the priests of the tribe of Levi, during that days of Solomon's son, Rehoboam) So in coming from Bethel to get answers at Jerusalem that are demonstrating a humility and a willingness to learn from the people inhabiting the city that God has chosen. (A city by the way that is mentioned twice in the Koran, not by name but by inference, and over 800 times in the Bible, by name...hmmm!) On the part of the group from Bethel this demonstrates that they have learned from the judgments of the captivity, that there is no separate destiny for the other 10 tribes and there is no other center of worship.
This is a lesson that God is teaching me VERY clearly at the moment, do not be contentious. Quote from Augustine, “In the essentials, unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things love.” Shane Idelman states in a sermon that there are always three parties involved when you are confronting someone, you, that person, and GOD, who is the ONLY one who can change the other person and who already has a loving plan for that change. We need to stop and pray and make sure we are going to the person in the Spirit of God, before, we confront.
The names of these men, do not have meanings related to Jehovah, but to the false gods of Assyrian worship. What David Baron takes this to mean is, like the changing of the names of Daniel and his three friends, these were probably people who had become important in the land of their captivity, but had chosen to return to Israel. They come to ask the priests who are the teachers in Israel and the prophets who speak the words of the Lord.
The fifth month of Av, in the Jewish calendar, and the ninth day, has been the day of terrible judgments on Jewish people throughout history. (From an article on the internet)

“1.The Jews balk, and reject the promised land. 9th of Av, 1313 BC(now commemorated by the Jewish holiday and day of mourning called "Tisha B'Av").
2. The first Holy Temple destroyed. 9th of Av, 586BC.
3. The second Holy Temple destroyed. 9th of Av, 70AD
4. The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 100,000 Jews, on July 8, 132 AD (Av 9, 3892 AM). Following the Roman siege of Jerusalem, Roman commander Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and the surrounding area, in 133 AD.
5. The First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II on July 20, 1095 (Av 9, 4855 AM), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland. A grand total of 1.2 million Jews were killed by this crusade that started on the 9th of Av, this crusade killed each and every Jew that they could get a hold of on the way to and back from the promised land.
6. The Jews were expelled from England on July 25, 1290 (Av 9, 5050 AM).
7. The Jews were expelled from France on July 21, 1306 (Av 9, 5066 AM).
8. The Jews were expelled from Spain on August 11, 1492 (Av 9, 5252 AM).
9. On August 1, 1914 (Av 9, 5674 AM), World War I broke out, causing unprecedented devastation across Europe and set the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.
  1. On August 2nd, 1941, (Av 9, 5701 AM), SS commander Heinrich Himmler received approval from the Nazi party for "The Final Solution". One year later, to the day, the plan was formally implemented. The final solution was the almost completely successful plan to murder all the Jews in Europe. Almost 50% of the Jews on the face of the earth were captured and killed at that time.”
In our lesson the only day that they were memorializing was the destruction of the first Temple by the Chaldeans. Should we continue to do this now that the new Temple is almost finished. The answer that is given has two parts the negative reply in this chapter and the positive reply in chapter 8. This is given as an authenticate message from God, due to the use of the phrase, “the word of the Lord of hosts came to me.”
What follows is a strong call to repentance, the necessary precursor to the announcement of the blessing of God, just like in the visions. The inclusion of the priests means that they too are being addressed by God as needing repentance. When the ministers sink down to the level of the people, when they are no longer pursuing the standard of God... bad things happen.
Fasting in itself is not a meritorious act. The reference to the seventh month is when the assassination of Gedaliah took place. That act of rebellion against the authority that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, led to the little remnant that he had left in the land, migrating to Egypt out of fear of vengeance. They fasted, they mourned, they lamented and God rejects it all, because even in their fasting and mourning they were centered on themselves they fasted not unto God.
It was not the outward sign and accompaniment of true sorrow and repentance for sin, but of sorrow for their calamities. They were self-imposed to begin with; and they regarded them, not only as intrinsically meritorious, but as an end in themselves rather than as the means of turning away from self and, all idea of self-merit to the grace of God. And not only in their fasts but also in their feasts there was the same concentration on self and regardlessness of God.” D. Baron
The exhortation from Paul is, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We can only throw ourselves on the mercy of God and ask Him to judge and reveal the motives of our hearts. We do not want to fall into this in our 'religious observances.' Only His Spirit can save us from this. Going all the way back to the words of Samuel to Saul, 1 Samuel 15:22
Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
Again and again God makes the point, what is your life saying? Do you show mercy? Do you show kindness? Do you render true judgments? Obviously these are things that require being humble, being led by and filled by the Spirit of God. It is our debt of love and gratitude toward God, that is the fountain head of these actions toward our neighbors.
Do not oppress those who are worse off than you.
Do not think evil against your brother in your heart. The heart is the issue in both testaments, which are actually one united story.
There is an interesting thing that takes place in scripture. The command, “Be not like your fathers.” is side by side with the reminder, “You are no better than your fathers.” Just another reminder to be humble and seek for the Spirit of God to change who we are.
This turning of the “stubborn shoulder” in verse 11 is a word picture of pulling out of the yoke of God. The “stopping of the ears” is a warning that the more you choose to disobey the more you self-harden your own heart. Hebrew 4:7 contains a quote of Psalm 95:71, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” The stone mentioned in verse 12 is harder than flint and was known to be able to cut rock. It is altogether hopeless that we could soften this stony heart and make a heart of flesh. That is the work of God, we must cry out for it.
While looking at the Jewish story we must remember the history of Christendom is nothing to boast of either. These solemn words, “and I will not hear” are spoken to cause us to repent. The scattering that follows disobedience is meant to be a reminder and a cause for repentance. The judgment comes as a result of the sin and what should be a pleasant land is made desolate.

Baron summarizes, “You have not yet truly repented of the root cause of your suffering. Your fasting and mourning are in themselves nothing to God so long as they are not the accompaniment of a real sorrow for sin, and a heart-desire to do His will as expressed in His moral law. Take warning, therefore, from the experience of your fathers—who kept on hardening their hearts, until there was no more remedy, and great wrath from God came upon them—lest the same, and something worse yet, happen to you.”  

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