Friday, August 24, 2012

Zechariah 7 - Religious Ritual and Hardened Hearts

Hello Project Ezra!  Running a bit behind today, so don’t have much time for commentary.  However, I think this outline will be a blessing.  This week’s passage is Zechariah 7, and recounts the Lord’s rebuke of the men of Bethel, when they came to the prophet after following religious rituals, but hardening their hearts toward God.  I believe that this describes many in our society, including many regular church attenders.  It may even describe someone reading this.  But Christianity is not about rituals observed by men, but about hearts transformed by God through the blood of the cross.  I pray that through this outline, we will be reminded and those that hear will be convicted.

All for His glory,



In this passage the people of the city of Bethel sent a messenger to speak with Zechariah, the prophet of God

They sent men to entreat the favor of the Lord, asking if they should have a time of mourning and fasting, as they had done for the previous 70 years.

God’s reply was a very convicting message then, and should be to us today as well

God made it clear that the people had acted out of spiritual duty and religious ritual, and had no true heart for God

He asked “Was your fasting for me?  Do you not eat and drink for yourselves?”

God had called them to follow His laws, but they turned a stubborn shoulder and closed their ears to Him

They did not want to hear the voice of God.  They just wanted to fulfill what they saw as His requirements, so they could go on with their lives.

The Lord said they made their hearts diamond hard, lest they should hear the law and the words of the Lord of hosts, sent by the Spirit through the former prophets.

The most frightening aspect of His rebuke, is that God stated that if He called and they would not hear, so when they called, He would not hear.

If you go through the motions of religion or spirituality, but do not listen to God’s word and His law, 

He will not hear you when you call out to Him.

God’s mercy is not a play thing, to be taken out when you feel the desire, and put aside when something more interesting comes along.

Being spiritual will not help you

Religious ritual will not help you

Confession of your sins to a man in a box will not help you

Wearing a cross around your neck will not help you

Showing up to church on Christmas and Easter, or other religious holidays, will not help you.

Jesus Christ made the same statements to the Pharisees

They observed the rituals and the legalistic requirements, but Ignored the weightier things of the law (Matthew 23:23)

It may be that you have been just going through the motions with a heart hardened to God’s law

If you’re not going through the motions, and have rejected God outright, you have still have hardened your heart, and are in just as much danger.

God desires a heart that is broken before Him.  He says:
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
                        a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  (Psalm 51:16-17 ESV)

Don’t follow your heart.  God’s word says the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.

But God has not left our wicked hearts unchecked.  He has written His law on our hearts.

God’s  law can wake and break our hearts, and our conscience bears witness to the truth of His law

When we lie we feel guilt.  We feel guilt because we are guilty, and deserving of God’s justice

When we steal or covet, we feel guilt, because we are guilty.  God, in His providence, has given us all we need, but our lust and greed is never satisfied.

When we look with lust, coveting a man or woman that is not our husband or wife, we feel guilt.   
God has made marriage to reflect His relationship with His church, in love, in purity, and in exclusivity.

When we use God’s name lightly or disrespectfully, or in some other way fail to give God the honor and glory He is due, failing to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we blaspheme His name.

In truth, God condemn us right now, and give no chance of reconciliation, and be perfectly just.

God could throw every man, woman and child into an eternal hell, and would be perfectly right to do so.

Hell, a place of fire and darkness and pain, is an appropriate punishment for those who know God, yet have rejected Him

For even the smallest sin, is infinitely sinful against an infinitely holy and perfect God.  And our sins have not been small

But God, although He is holy and just, is also loving, kind and patient.

He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn and live. (Ezekiel 18:23)

So He sent His one and only son to bear our guilt and sin

Jesus Christ, God the Son, through whom and for whom all things were created, humbled Himself and came to earth in a human body. (John 1)

He lived a perfect life, perfect in thought, word and deed. (Hebrews 7:26)

Then He willingly went to a Roman cross, and shed He blood so that we would not have to shed ours.  For without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. (Hebrews 9:22)

He died.  And when He did, the veil in the temple split, top to bottom, and the Holy Place of God was opened.  (Matthew 27:51)

Now, through Jesus Christ, the one and only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), we can be seen as righteous when we stand before God.

Through His sacrifice our sin is atoned for, and we are changed

But salvation is not just a choice we make.  It is a supernatural work of God, received through repentance and trust in Christ alone

When we turn from sin and trust in Him we become a new creature through the blood of the cross.  We are truly born again

God gives us a new heart and new desires.  Hear what God says in Ezekiel 36
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV)

So turn to Christ and trust in Him today, while He has graciously given you time

He will change you, His Spirit will empower you, that you too may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light! (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

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