True vs. False Religion: Zechariah Devotional, Part 9

In December 518 B. C., the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, 2 years after his first vision. (Duguid)  By this time, the temple had been dedicated, but it wasn’t yet completed.  Since being restored to the land of Judah, after the Jewish people had been captive in Babylon for 70 years, not everything had gone as planned.  The Lord had been gracious to restore His people to the Promised Land after they had been taken away, but they had been lazy in the rebuilding effort, getting distracted by other concerns instead of focusing on serving the LORD in Spirit and truth.

Zechariah 7:1 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;

When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the Lord,

And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?

Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying,

Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?

And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?

The two messengers sent from Bethel to the north of Jerusalem were asking a logical question.  Ever since the first temple had been destroyed, they had been observing a fast in the fifth month of the year (according to the Jewish calendar) to mark the event, ask forgiveness, and plead God’s mercy.  They had also been fasting in the seventh month of the year to mark the date of the assassination of Gedaliah the imperially-appointed Jewish governor. (Jeremiah 41:1-3, Duguid)  Now that the temple had been rededicated, were they required to keep observing these fasts?, they came to ask.  The question makes sense, but the LORD takes the opportunity to give a deeper and more meaningful rebuke.  That is, were they truly fasting out of sorrow in their hearts, and repenting to the LORD, or had they just been going through the motions these last seventy years?  Before exile in Babylon, when they were eating and drinking, not fasting, were they giving glory to God in their feasting or were they vainly exalting themselves and ignoring the God of Israel?  What difference does feasting or fasting make if their hearts are not tuned and eager to hear the word of the LORD, which he had spoken through the prophets before enslavement and exile in Babylon, like through the prophets Jeremiah and Haggai?

National Cathedraw, Washington DC; wikimedia commons

Let us remember that the service which God requires, although it includes external means which are absolutely vital for the spiritual life of our souls (the hearing of the word, public prayer, songs of praise, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper), yet going through the motions externally is not enough.  We can fool ourselves into thinking we are good Christians by having our names on a membership role, by going to church, and by partaking of Holy Communion.  These things are required of Christians in God’s holy word.  But the vital life of the soul is what matters most to God, and these external things are meant to feed it by placing Christ before our eyes and in our ears and hearts.  If our hearts are hard and our ears are dull to the word that the Lord speaks in His church, these good things will not do us any good.  That service which God requires starts in the heart, which only God sees, and flows out in obedience to everything God has commanded, the way we speak and worship, and also, the way that we act in love toward those who need it most.

 

And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying,

Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, 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.

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.

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:

14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.

Through the mouth of His prophet Zechariah God speaks the same word to His people that He’d spoken through the prophets that had come before.  Just decades prior, in the gate of the temple of the LORD, Jeremiah stood and said,

Jeremiah 7:3 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.

The temple of the LORD is intended to be a meeting place of His people within His presence, so that they will become more like him, to think His thoughts and reflect His mercy.  But tragically, the people of Judah trusted in the physical structure of the Temple as a symbol of God’s favor upon them, assuming that he would always stand with them no matter what, instead of examining their hearts to be sure that they stood with him.  What was the result?  God sent them away from that place, enslaved and cruelly mistreated by a barbarous army of marauders, in order that in future generations the Jews might learn to serve the LORD from the heart.

Let us remember their example.  Maintaining a beautiful church building and keeping the traditions that remind us of God’s favor to us in the past are not enough, if we do not know Him, enjoy Him, and reflect His love to others.  A true relationship with the Lord, standing by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, is intended by God to yield fruits of obedience in our lives.  Grace in the heart breaks out in action: in acts of obedient worship and in love to others.  The God who saved us through Jesus Christ and gathered us together as His body is the same God who said,

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. 

National Cathedral, Washington DC, capitolescapes.com

Let us as the people of God draw near to Him, not just with our feet every Sunday, but with our hearts, and daily in meaningful prayer, so that we may be made more like him.  And let our lives abound with the love of Christ, opening our hearts with mercy, grace, and forgiveness to the most forsaken and looked-down-upon among us, welcoming the stranger, the oppressed, the hurting, and the disadvantaged to experience the love of Christ as we have, through our example of love to them.  If we do not, God will have no choice but to remove us from our place with the whirlwind, ripping through our empty traditions like a tornado, as He did to His hard-hearted people of old when they were packed off to the evil land of Babylon.

 

 

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“Hunting for Elk” by Priscilla Fraas

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“Francis Turretin” By Luke Fraas

turretin_Luke

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Meredith Kline’s Covenantal Dissonance

methodistfindinggod.blogspot.com

Although Kline wants to restrict the works principle to Israel’s inheritance of Canaan and associated temporal blessings, he considers these as typological of the blessings of the covenant of grace.  These blessings, received by us through grace, are founded on Christ’s meritorious obedience to the covenant of works as the second Adam.  Let us suppose for a moment that this was so. If this argument is correct, the archetypal blessings of salvation in Christ would be received by grace through faith, as Kline acknowledges, but Israel would receive the typological blessings, such as Canaan, by meritorious law-keeping according to the works principle.  These, Kline has stated, are two alternative, antithetical ways of inheritance.  But a type corresponds to the antitype.  If the one is a type of the other, we conclude either that the blessings of the covenant of grace are received by law-keeping on the part of the recipients – in which covenant were to be received by grace, which undermines Kline’s argument.  The only other possibilities are either that law and grace work together, in distinct ways, or that the typical relationship is untenable; in both cases the argument is undermined.

Robert Letham, “Not a Covenant of Works in Disguise”, Mid-America Journal of Theology, vol. 24, 2013.

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Jesus Foretells the Restoration of Israel in Acts 1:8

by Riley Fraas, 9/2/10

Acts 1:6-8 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

CELPentecost

CELPentecost

In Acts 1:6, Jesus disciples ask him when the Kingdom of Israel will be restored. They are anticipating the fulfillment of the OT prophets like David, Isaiah and Jeremiah who prophesied of the future restoration of the Kingdom in the last days (from their perspective.) Jesus’ answer points them to look forward to Pentecost. He tells them, “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (v. 8) This is in direct answer to their question. Jesus is telling that when the Holy Ghost comes upon them, that will be the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. This is what happened at Pentecost a few weeks later (Acts 2:1ff.) The kingdom of Israel was restored in the form of the Church of Jesus Christ, which was inaugurated at the event of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God descended on the church and empowered her to go to all the world and preach the message of the kingdom of God. This church of Jesus Christ is the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel as prophesied by the Old Testament Prophets. We, the church of Jesus Christ, are the restored Kingdom of Israel, commissioned by God to go forth and conquer the nations through the preaching of the gospel, by the power of his Spirit. Jesus’ disciples were not wrong to expect the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel soon after Christ’s resurrection, though the way in which Israel’s restoration came at Pentecost may have surprised them.

 

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The Lord’s Day as Our Sabbath Delight and Rest

by Rev. Nollie Malabuyo

I remember our younger days when our Lord’s Day practically started on Saturday evening. We all ironed our clothes and spit-shined our shoes. My mother prepared our meals for Sunday. There was no staying late on Saturday nights, because there were no malls, no computers, no video games, not even late-night parties.

via The Lord’s Day as Our Sabbath Delight and Rest.

 

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How to Preserve Heterodoxy

1. Teach something that contradicts the Bible, because you like it better than the biblical teaching.

2. Keep doing it for a long time, and make disciples who will teach it when you’re gone, preferably for centuries.

3. When someone points out that the Bible is clear on that topic, and shows from Scripture how your teaching is in the wrong, deflect by pointing out that Christians have disagreed on it for centuries, so it obviously could not be very clear in the Bible.

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The Deceiver’s Top Ten Tips For Making Sure You and Your Family Have a Miserable And Fruitless Experience in Church this Sunday

highplainsparson:

This is a pretty reliable guide to making sure you get nothing out of going to church.

Originally posted on Building Old School Churches:

mr-bean-asleepIf you’ve been a Christian for any period of time at all, you may have noticed that the more time you spend in church, the harder it is to fit in and feel comfortable with non-believers or to really enjoy worldly activities, relationships, speech, movies, habits, etc.

So how on earth are you going to make sure that your church attendance doesn’t end up damaging your friendship with the world? How can you make sure that you’ll never seem weird, different, and overly religious to friends, relatives, and coworkers? I mean, you don’t want to be the guy who can stop the telling of a dirty joke just by walking into the room, do you? Well friends, as he has been since the beginning, the deceiver is here to help. He’s prepared this handy list of his top ten tips for minimizing the sanctifying effects of Church attendance. Simply by…

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Independent Ministers In the Welsh Methodist Connexion

[Mr. Thomas Gray] lived among the Methodists and with them only he mixed.  Many ministers came over from the Independents in this way, the Rev. Benjamin Thomas being another example.  It was hardly considered that a formal reception was necessary for them.  Almost imperceptibly to themselves and to others, they slipped into their places within the Connexion.

Jones and Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, The Banner of Truth Trust, vol II, 198.

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Introducing the Hope Congregational Church Podcast

Now listeners will be able to get automatic updates of newly uploaded audio files sent directly to their Itunes or RSS accounts via the Hope Congregational Church Podcast.

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