Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the book of Zechariah chapter 7 and we’ve entitled this session “Empty Ritual”… empty ritual. So, we’re actually at a turning point in the book of Zechariah.
Remember that chapter 1, verses 1 through 6 (Zech 1:1-6) was a call to repentance as Zechariah is trying to get that post exilic group to rebuild the temple and then section two, which is a big section that we finished last week, chapter 1, verse 7 (Zech 1:7) through chapter 6, verse 15 (Zech 6:15) are basically eight visions that Zechariah received in a single night and all of those deal with the… in one way or another, the sovereignty of God and the cleansing and purification of Israel and they deal with God’s future purpose for the temple and so they are sort of designed to get Israel to get busy in the present. So the end times, actually contrary to what people say, has a tremendous effect on how we live now because when you study the end in the Bible you see God’s priorities and after you see God’s priorities, then you start to say to yourself, well, if those are God’s priorities maybe I should pursue God’s priorities now. So, you have for example 2nd Peter, 3, verse 10 (2 Pet 3:10) which says, it describes the destruction of this world by fire and then 2nd Peter chapter 3, verse 11 (2 Pet 3:11) says: Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holiness and godliness… So that’s a very clear passage dealing with the fact that the future shapes our behavior in the present. Over in 1st John, 3, 2 and 3 (1 John 3:2-3), I didn’t.. have you open there but it says: Everyone who has this hope… What hope? The return of Christ… Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure… So, whether it’s 1st John, 3:2 and 3 (1 John 3:2-3) or Revelation, 3, verse 10 and 11 (Rev 3: 10-11), all of those passages basically communicate that the future impacts the present; and so that’s what Zechariah is doing here in these eight night visions. The Holy Spirit is giving him a picture of the future and you learn in that that the temple is a big deal so that ought to motivate the returnees to get the project moving; and last week we saw at the end of chapter 6, that those eight night visions end with the coronation or the crowning of the high priest Joshua. So that’s what those eight visions point to, it’s the end game. It’s going to be the reigning king priest Jesus Christ in the millennium. 3:54
So with all of that being said, that section ends and now we enter the third section of the book which is called “Questions and Answers”
III. Questions & Answers Concerning Fasting (Zech, 7‒8)
and basically there’s a question that some people ask of the Lord in chapter 7, verses 1 through 3 (Zech 7:1-3) and that gives God through Zechariah an opportunity to give four answers, and boy! There are some answers, let me tell you! And so the question is followed by four divine answers and you see the breakdown there on the outline, chapter 7 and 8 and if we’re fortunate we’re only going to be able to get through chapter 7 tonight, if that, but this is how chapter 7 and 8 comprise its own section. So part one, call to repentance chapter 1. Part two, the eight night visions stretches all the way to the end of chapter 6. Part three, chapter 7 and 8 are a question and four answers from God to Israel through the prophet Zechariah.
So with all that being said, let’s look at the question.
Question (Zech 7:1-3)
The question is in chapter 7 verses 1 through 3 (Zech 7:1-3). We have a date verse 1 (Zech 7:1), the questioners verse 2 (Zech 7:2) and then the question they ask is in verse 3 (Zech 7:3). So take a look at the date here, it’s very interesting verse 1 (Zech 7:1): In the fourth year of King Darius… Darius is a Persian king… In the fourth year of King Darius the word of the LORD came to Zechariah… Notice the precision here… on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is… I think it’s pronounced… Chislev… if I’ve got that right. So you notice this expression here “the word of the Lord came to Zechariah” and it gives the date. Now, this is the second date that’s been given in the book of Zechariah. You might recall that the first time a date was given was in Zechariah, 1 verse 7 (Zech 1:7) where it gives us the date of the night visions on the twenty fourth day of the eleventh month which is the month of Shevat in the second year of Darius, so that would be about 519, and when you contrast that with what we just read it’s basically almost roughly two years later. So now we are in the fourth year of Darius. 6:53
So about two years you know has passed in between the night visions and what’s going to happen here in chapter 7 and 8. The month is Chislev… Chislev and here is a Jewish calendar and how it sort of overlays the Gentile calendar.
You can see the Jewish months of the year on the outer ring and then you can see the gentile calendar sort of on the inner ring and so Chislev or Chislev would be basically our month of December and so since this happened on… in the fourth year and then it goes on and it says, the fourth day of the nine month. We believe that this questions were posed December 7th, 518 BC. So again, almost two years have passed between the night visions and what’s happening here. So it is interesting to me that a lot of detail about the setting is given and I think the reason the Holy Spirit gives us this is to show us that this is actually real history. This is not, you know, as I like to say Veggietales or Jack and the Beanstalk time, this is real history that actually happened; and then we move away from the date to the questioners
Question (Zech 7:1-3)
and you see that there in verse 2 (Zech 7:2), it says: Now the town of Bethel had sent… Here are some more names I can’t pronounce… Sharezer and … Let’s see… Regemmelech… I think is how you say that… and their men to seek the favor of the LORD… So the town that these questioners came from is Bethel, you’ll see the word Bethel there in verse 2. Where is Bethel? Dr. Constable tells us that:
Thomas L. Constable – Constable’s online notes on Zechariah, p. 72.
“Israelites who lived in ‘Bethel,’ about 10 miles north of Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 2:28; Neh. 7:32; 11:31), sent two representatives to ask the priests and prophets in the capital about how they should worship the Lord (cf. Mal. 1:9).”
Bethel is about 10 miles north of Jerusalem… So it’s a little town nearby Jerusalem and that little town apparently sent some ambassadors, they are given by the name here, specific names just like we have a specific date. So these are real people and why did they approach the priest and the prophets that we’ll see in verse 3? Because they were trying to seek the favor of the Lord. That’s not a bad idea, is it? When you think about it. Hey! I want to seek God’s favor, I want to seek His will, I want to seek what He thinks about things; and it’s kind of interesting how so few people actually do that. You know, they’re so busy with whatever that they really never seek out God and so here’s a little group of people from a little town, sent out a couple ambassadors and they’re trying to seek the favor of the Lord. They have a spiritual question. 10:14
So the question that they ask is right there in verse 3 (Zech 7:3):
Question (Zech 7:1-3)
…speaking to the priests who belong to the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying… So, this was obviously a spiritual question because they sought out the priests who were functioning or basically trying to rebuild the temple at this time and they were seeking out the prophets, people like Zechariah. So obviously, if you have a spiritual question, you go to a spiritual leadership and that’s what these little two person ambassadorship is doing from the town of Bethel and what’s their question? Their question is: …Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain as I have done these many years?… What are they asking about? Well, these many years relates to the temple that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had destroyed seventy years earlier and they had started a kind of a ritual and when it got to be the ninth day of the fifth month they would have a ritual where they would kind of mourn over the destruction of that temple, they would fast because it really was a terrible, you know, time in Jewish history, when Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed that temple just before the Babylonian captivity seventy years earlier; and basically, what they’re wanting to know is now that the temple is being rebuilt, should we keep up the ritual? So Dr. Constable said:
Thomas L. Constable – Constable’s online notes on Zechariah, p. 72-73.
“Whoever these men were, they wanted to know if they should continue to ‘weep’ and ‘abstain’ from food (i.e., to fast), which had become traditional but which the Mosaic Law did not require. The only fast that the Mosaic Law prescribed was on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29; 23:27-32)…The question was a reasonable one.”
Whoever these men were, they wanted to know if they should continue to weep and abstain from food (i.e., fast), which had become traditional but which the Mosaic Law did not require. The only fast that the Mosaic Law prescribed was on the Day of Atonement… So their question, Dr. Constable says, was a very reasonable one. You know, we’ve started this ritual of mourning and fasting related to the destruction of the temple on the ninth day of the fifth month and so should we keep it up? Now that the temple is being rebuilt, after all the Law of Moses doesn’t tell us to keep… you know, it doesn’t prescribe a fast for this but we started it anyway, so should we keep going? Is basically what they are saying and you’ll notice the expression “many years”? They had done this for many years. How many years is that? That’s basically seventy years. So when they went into captivity, this particular day would roll around and they would, you know, fast and mourn and weep to commemorate the destruction of the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had brought into existence. 13:31
They are kind of following in the pattern of Jeremiah, do you remember? Who we believe wrote… probably wrote the book of Lamentations. Why is it called the book of Lamentations? Cause Jeremiah is lamenting. Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet and Jeremiah was just so… I don’t know, can I use modern psychology? Depressed, sad when the temple was destroyed because that’s the hub of the whole nation. If you don’t have a temple, you don’t really have a nation anymore. So, it’s kind of interesting that in the middle of the book… in the middle of all of this lamenting, Jeremiah says: His mercies are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness. In other words, if God kept verbatim, His prophecies of the destruction of the temple under Nebuchadnezzar, then God is going to keep verbatim, His prophecies of restoration. So that’s why right in the middle of the book of Lamentations there’s this hope, you know, that Jeremiah expresses in the book of Lamentations.
ISRAEL’S FOUR TEMPLES
But this was a special day, the Solomonic temple that had been built in 966 BC and was finally destroyed in 586 BC that destruction was commemorated and they commemorated it all the way through the seventy years of the Babylonian deportation and they had a very special day for this, the ninth of Av and you can see that Av is on the fifth, if you look at the outer ring there, which gives you the Jewish months, it would be the fifth month. Now, this is very interesting because according to Jewish tradition, temple number two which they were just getting busy rebuilding, the temple that would be functioning at the time of Jesus Christ, that temple Jesus said, would be torn apart brick by brick, you remember and this time would not be Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon that would destroy temple two, it would be Titus of Rome in a terrible event called AD 70; and what is very interesting in Jewish tradition is the second temple was destroyed on the exact same day that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed temple number one and this is why this particular day, now that two temples have been destroyed in Judaism, continues to be commemorated, you know, amongst Israelis today, it’s the ninth day on the fifth month and you say, well, how do you really know that temple two was destroyed on the exact same day as temple number one? It’s just a matter of looking at Jewish tradition. 16:49
Josephus – Antiquities 6.4.5
“So Titus retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the holy house; but, as for that house, God had for certain long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages; it was the tenth day of the month Lous [Ab], upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them…”
Here is a quote from Josephus, who was a 1st Century Jewish historian and he writes a lot concerning the destruction of temple two in AD 70. He says: So Titus… that’s the general of Rome that destroyed temple two… retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the temple the next day, early in the morning with his whole army, and to encamp round about the holy house; but as for that house, God had for certain long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come according to the revolution of ages. It was the… and it gives the month of Ab, upon which it was formerly burnt by Nebuchadnezzar… He mentions here a day and here Josephus says on that… basically on that day, when Titus destroyed temple number two, it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon, that would be Nebuchadnezzar… although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them… So Josephus and his Antiquities and I can’t remember… I may have the reference wrong, I don’t think it’s Antiquities, it might be the wars of the Jews or Antiquities, one of the two. I did look it out before I came in, obviously, to put this slide together but Josephus indicates that temple two was destroyed on the exact same day as temple number one. So what happened to the day in 586 BC was replicated in AD 70 so that’s why this particular day in Judaism, this time of fasting and weeping and mourning continues on. So what we’re seeing here in Zechariah is just the beginning of that tradition. It would continue on and would accelerate, obviously, when temple two was destroyed on the exact same day. 19:09
Here is a reference to the Mishnah, which basically is a book of extra biblical Jewish tradition. Oh, I had to read through a lot of that in seminary and when you read through the Mishnah which is what the Pharisees were all into, rules and regulations, it makes you really grateful that we are non-legalistic Christians that believe in this finite revelation here, 66 books, because reading through that is an absolute maze. I mean, you wouldn’t believe the rules that they were required to keep. That’s why when Jesus heals on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are all upset because their extra biblical traditions told you what you could or couldn’t do on the Sabbath and that’s where Jesus says, you’ve made null the word of God to your traditions. So, it’s like reading through the IRS tax code, is what it’s like. It’s just exhausting reading. In fact, it’s oppressive reading through it. It’s completely oppressive, you just psychologically and emotionally feel the weight of the world on your shoulders just trying to read that stuff and you start to understand what Jesus was talking about in Matthew, 11, when He says: Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you… What?… give you rest… Why do they need rest? They were laboring under Phariseeism, under this maze of man-made rules, but there is part of the Mishnah that indicates that temple two was destroyed on the exact same day as temple one many centuries later.
Mishnah – m. Taanit 4.6
“On the ninth of Ab (1) the decree was made against our forefathers that they should not enter the land, (2) the first Temple and (3) the second [Temple] were destroyed, (4) Betar was taken, and (5) the city was ploughed up [after the war of Hadrian].”
It says: On the ninth of Ab the decree was made against our forefathers that they should not enter the land… They are talking about all the things that happened on this day, a decree was made by the forefathers that they should not enter the land, that’s Numbers, 13 and 14 (Num 13-14)… number two (2) the first Temple and number three (3) the second Temple were destroyed… all on that exact day, and then it talks about some other things that happen on that day. 21:38
So if all of this tradition is true, and I don’t know why we would doubt it in terms of history, what you learn is that God is a God of precision. Things happen on particular dates and sometimes on the exact same day. So God deals in precision, He deals with math, He deals with calculations like this and this is where the whole feast day and mourning and all of these kinds of things came from on the ninth day of the fifth month; and of course, this is a good six hundred years before temple two would be destroyed but this is the beginning of that tradition. So basically they are asking, we’ve been, you know, we’ve been memorializing and commemorating with sadness for seventy years, it’s not commanded in the Mosaic Law for us to do this, temple two is about ready to be rebuilt so should we keep mourning? Is their question. So this little group comes from Bethel and they come to the priest and the prophets and they just ask this question and now God begins to talk. This gives God an opportunity to give four answers. How do I know there’s four answers here? Because of the expression “Then the word of the Lord came to me saying” Every time you see that expression, we have a new oracle from God through Zechariah. 23:21
III. Questions & Answers Concerning Fasting (Zech, 7‒8)
So, you’ll notice right there in verse 4 (Zech 7:4): Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying… That is oracle number 1. Then look at verse 8, same chapter (Zech 7:8): Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah saying… So now we have oracle two, and then look at chapter 8, verse 1 (Zech 8:1): Then the word of the LORD of hosts came, saying… Now we are in oracle number three and then look at verse 18, chapter 8 (Zech 8:18): Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying… Now, we’re on oracle number four. So, you’ll notice that when I put this outline together, which is a common outline, it’s not original with me. I’m grouping the material based on a literary clue in the actual biblical text and that is how you outline things in the Bible. We’re seeing some of this in Sunday school as we are dealing with Ezekiel, 36, and the Middle East meltdown, it’s the same thing. You try to look for a repetition of literally clues because what happens with a lot of preachers is they put their own outline on the Bible because it rhymes or Oh no! I’ve only got twenty minutes left to cover this, so let’s space it out and you know, we got to get the people to lunch on time and, you know, that kind of stuff. That’s not how you outline the Bible. When you outline the Bible, you look at the marks that God Himself gives, okay? Then it’s not your outline, it’s God’s outline. 25:09
So here we go, here is oracle number one chapter 7, verses 4 through 7 (Zech 7:4-7). Then there’ll be oracle number two chapter 7, verses 8 through 14 (Zech 7:8-14). Then there’ll be oracle number three chapter 8, verses 1 through 17 (Zech 8:1-17) and then there’ll be oracle number four chapter 8, verses 18 through 23 (Zech 8:18-23). So what is God saying in oracle number 1? He is condemning empty ritualism. He is making a condemnation against this ritual that they had started because they were mourning the effect, you know, what happened to temple one, the effect but not the cause behind it. In other words, they were upset over the fact that temple one was destroyed. They weren’t upset about their violations of God’s law that forced God’s hand to discipline His people, they weren’t upset about that. They weren’t upset about the cause, they were upset about the effect and God is saying, you need to be more upset about the cause than the effect. You need to be more upset about what got you into this mess rather than what the mess looks like. I mean, rather than cry over the spilled milk, we’ve got to figure it out how did the milk get spilled, you know kind of thing, and this… you know, it’s tempting to say, this is just stuff for people living five hundred years before Christ, nonsense, we’re just… we’re exactly like this. We’re into, you know, certain things happening on certain days, we’re into calendars, we’re into feasts and fasts and sometimes you get so hung up on the holiday that you forget what’s behind it. I mean, Christmas is just like that for us, right? You know, we are all into, you know, presents, which aren’t bad things and we forget the reality behind the ritual, that’s what they forgot and once you forget the reality behind the ritual, it’s nothing more than an empty ritual. So the Lord takes this opportunity to point this out to them in oracle number one chapter 7, verses 4 through 7 (Zech 7:4-7) and He points out two things: (1) Israel’s insincerity, verses 4 and 5 and (2) Israel’s selfishness, verses 6 and 7. So let’s look first of all at its insincerity. 28:03
Empty Ritualism – (Zech 7:4-7)
Verse 4 (Zech 7:4): Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying… verse 5 (Zech 7:5) God speaking through Zechariah: 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… Look at this now, this is a great question… was it actually for Me that you fasted?… I mean, you’ve been following this ritual for seventy years and I have a question for you God says as they were asking should we continue this ritual? Who are you doing this for? Are you doing this for you? Or are you doing this for me? And this is the power of religion. Religion will get you so caught up in doing things, this and that, do’s and don’ts, that you forget the purpose behind it to begin with. So the Lord says, this is nothing but an empty religion. You notice the expression “Seventy years” there? That’s the seventy year captivity that they faithfully kept this particular day to commemorate the destruction of temple one. Are you doing this for you? Or are you doing this for me? You are mourning the effect, the destruction of the temple and your eyes are not on the cause of the temple’s destruction. So as you go through Old Testament and New Testament, you’ll see a lot of very sharp condemnations of empty ritual. You see this in the writings of Isaiah, the pre-exilic prophet, back in the 7th Century. Isaiah says in Isaiah, 29, verse 13 (Isa 29:13): the Lord said, Because this people approaches Me with their words And honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of the commandment of men that is taught… When I was a youth in the Anglican Church that I grew up in because I was an acolyte, or an altar boy in that church, I had the whole thing memorized. I knew when to stand up, there’s a lot of standing up and sitting down in that church. I knew when to stand up, I knew when to sit down. I knew like clockwork, cause I had been under this, you know, for years as a youth. I knew like clockwork the whole service by heart, I knew the prayers of the people, I knew the responses, I knew the pastor’s sermon and how long he was supposed to preach, which was exactly seven minutes. You can see I’ve kind of rebelled against that (laughs) as I got older; and in fact, he wasn’t the pastor, he was the priest. I mean… and I don’t know, we did the stations of the cross, I had those memorized. In hindsight, you know, was it a terrible environment to be in? No, because I think seeds were planted, but the truth to the matter is, if I had died during that time period, I would have gone right to hell, I would have gone directly into hell, cause I did not know Jesus personally, I did not know anything about a personal relationship with Jesus, and so that is the power of ritualism and I don’t think the Anglican church started off that way. When I got saved and went back to that same church to visit, suddenly the stuff they were doing was making sense to me. Oh, that’s why they do this. Oh, that’s why they do that, but someone that doesn’t have any relationship with God at all, it’s just an empty formula and so, this is what Isaiah and Zechariah are condemning. 32:19
Jesus in Mark, 7, verse 13 (Mark 7:13) issued the same criticism, He says: thereby invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as this… You know, I don’t think God would be against them mourning the destruction of the temple if they were more into the cause of the destruction rather than the effect of the destruction, then that wouldn’t be a problem but they lost sight of that and that’s what He is saying in verses 4 and 5 is you’re insincere, and then verses 6 and 7, He basically condemns them for their selfishness. The ritual is more for you than it is for me, in other words, God says; and look at what He says in verse 6 (Zech 7:6): When you eat and drink… In other words, when you go through this ritual… When you eat and drink do you not eat for yourselves? And do you not drink for yourselves?… So, you’re doing it for yourself and a lot of people are like that. I spend a lot of my life prior to salvation that way. I went because first of all, my parents make me go but I always kind of felt, you know, a little spiritual liver quiver, you know, after the Sunday morning mass, you know, was over and, you know, I felt like I, you know, look it all my friends out playing and kind of, you know, what’s wrong with them, you know kind of thing. I went through this ritual and they didn’t so, you know, let me break my arm patting myself on the back. So the whole thing really became something for myself rather than it was for God and that’s what God is condemning them here for. You are eating for yourself, you’re drinking for yourself but you’re not doing this for me because you are not mourning the reason that caused the temple’s destruction, it’s just empty tradition and then, as you look at verse 7 (Zech 7:7), He says: 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?… So Zechariah, God through Zechariah says, I’m telling you now exactly what I spoke through Isaiah, the former prophets, the pre-exilic prophets. God through Isaiah, before the temple was destroyed, condemned the people for the exact same reason. These people honor me with their words and they honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me. So now that that exile has happened and you’ve come back from the captivity, you’re repeating the same mistakes. 35:33
So, everything that I spoke through Isaiah, I’m now speaking through Zechariah and by the way, the words are the same, the ideas are the same, it’s just you’re in different circumstances now. Now you are rebuilding what was destroyed. When I spoke these things though Isaiah and the other pre-exilic prophets, the land was prosperous, it was inhabitable and it was flourishing in the Negev.
There’s a map there with a circle around the Negev, towards the southern part of the nation and the nation of Israel really never thought the seventy year captivity would happen. I mean, the economy was up, unemployment was down, they had a Republican in the White House, they were winning some of their wars, I mean, how bad could it be? And God kept condemning them for empty ritual and they wouldn’t listen to the former prophets and so the exile came. The northern kingdom, as you know, was scattered by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The remaining southern kingdom of Judah, was taken into Babylonian captivity for seventy years and they kept mourning and they kept fasting every time of the year this rolled around and now they are going back and they are committing the exact same mistake. So, you’ll notice this in the outworking of biblical revelation, is God doesn’t contradict Himself in His word. I mean, what… what Zechariah is saying here is exactly what Isaiah told them way, way back. The circumstances are different but it’s the exact same message. That’s important to understand cause that’s how you recognize false teaching. If the message of Zechariah was completely disharmonious with Isaiah, you could dismiss Zechariah as a false teacher or a false prophet on the authority of Deuteronomy, 13, 1 through 5 (Deut 13:1-5), you know, a false teacher, a false prophet it would say let us follow other gods. So the moment one prophet… prophet B contradicts prophet A, is the moment when you’re dealing with false a prophet and you’re to take such a prophet in the age of the law, you were to stone them to death. Here, you’ll notice that God through Zechariah says, Zechariah is a true prophet cause his message harmonizes with the pre-exilic prophets, that’s why He mentions here the former prophets. 38:28
Now, that moves us into oracle number two. Oracle one, empty ritual.
III. Questions & Answers Concerning Fasting (Zech, 7‒8)
Oracle two, what caused the problem to begin with? You’re upset about the destruction of the temple, which is nothing but an empty ritual. Let me now explain to you in oracle number two, the cause behind the first temple’s destruction. So therefore as you’re rebuilding the temple, temple two, don’t repeat these same covenant violations and so in oracle two, chapter 7, verses 8 through 14 (Zech 7:8-14), you have condemnation of past covenant failure.
Covenant Rebellion – (Zech 7:8-14)
So we have covenant requirements verses 8 through 10 (Zech 7:8-10), covenant rebellion verses 11 and 12 (Zech 7:11-12) and then covenant discipline or judgment verses 13 and 14 (Zech 7:13-14). So since your ritual is empty because you’re recognizing the effect and not the cause, let me tell you what the cause of the problem was. This is what your ritual is not recognizing. I mean, you’re fasting and you’re mourning cause your first temple was destroyed but you’re not fasting and mourning because of the behavior that caused the first temple to be destroyed. So, notice the covenant requirements, verses 8 through 10 (Zech 7:8-10) and how do we know this is a fresh oracle, verse 8 (Zech 7:8): Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah saying… which is a near repetition of verse 4 so you know that this is something new that God is disclosing here, and then you go to verse 9 (Zech 7:9) and it says: Thus has the LORD of hosts said, Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother… 40:49
Now, He is bringing the nation back to the Mosaic Law, which was given by God to Moses all the way back in 1445 BC, long time ago; and the Mosaic Law is set up as a Suzerain Vassal Treaty.
Six Parts of a Suzerain-Vassal Treaty in Deuteronomy
The Suzerain is the superior, the Vassal is the inferior. This is a common treaty structure in the Ancient Near East when you study the archeology of the time and God lays out the covenant like a Suzerain Vassal Treaty. So, there’s a preamble, the whole book of Deuteronomy is laid out this way by the way. There’s a preamble and then there’s a prologue basically tracing the historical relationship between the parties and then chapters 5 through 26 (Deut, 5-26) is the covenant obligations. So the Suzerain or the superior comes to the Vassal or the inferior and says, if you obey the covenant text I’ll bless you, if you disobey the covenant text I’ll curse you. This is very different than the Abrahamic Covenant which was given at the time of Abraham six centuries before this, which gave Israel ownership of her blessings, but whether Israel possesses or enjoys what she owns, cause you can own something and not enjoy it, depends on whether Israel is going to keep her obligation under the Suzerain Vassal Treaty. So what Israel was supposed to do is chapters 5 through 26 (Deut, 5-26). Chapter 5 is the ten commandments and then you can outline chapters 5… the rest of that section there by showing how commandment one plays itself out as they are about to enter the land, section two how commandment two place itself out as they were to enter the land and so you can actually come up with a very easy to follow outline of chapters 5 through 26 and then there were storage and reading instructions in the Suzerain Vassal Treaty. In this case, the covenant was to be stored in the Tabernacle and they were supposed to pull… the Suzerain had a copy and the Vassal had a copy and according to Suzerain Vassal Treaty structure, they were to review the language regularly. So there are instructions in the book of Deuteronomy about how the nation is to publicly read this document to make sure that they’re all remembering it and complying with it and then every Suzerain Vassal Treaty calls witnesses as the covenant is being entered into. The problem is, who could be a witness for God? No one can. So God says okay, I’ll summon the heavens and the earth as my witnesses; and then Deuteronomy, 28, that’s the spine of the Old Testament, verses 1 through 14 (Deut 28:1-14) are blessings for obedience, verses 15 through 68 (Deut 28:15-68)… Gosh! 1 through 14 is a smaller ground than verses 15 through 68. There’s these much blessings and these much curses. You kind of get the idea that God knew what they would do. Here are the curses for disobedience and so this is the background of the entire Old Testament and New Testament for that matter and God is saying, this is why temple one was destroyed. It’s because you didn’t do your part in terms of my covenant, the Suzerain Vassal Treaty. You as the Vassal didn’t do your part so I brought discipline which I was obligated to do cause you entered into the covenant with me; and so, all Zechariah is doing here is reminding them of what got them into the mess that they found themselves in, getting them to see the cause and not just the effect. The ritual that they were involved in was all about the effect and their eyes were off the cause. So God says, here’s what caused the problem. 45:30
So, what caused the problem? Verse 9 (Zech 7:9), they didn’t dispense true justice. Now, notice the word “true”, verse 10… excuse me verse 9, in front of the word “justice” because God’s definition of justice is very different than the Social Justice movements today, where they basically think that justice is Communism or Marxisim. You know, somebody got ahead and they have a bigger business than me and they have a bigger house than me, they obviously took it unfairly. That’s not God’s definition of justice. Communism is not what God thinks of when He thinks of justice. When God thinks of justice, He thinks of people being oppressed. In other words, if you got rich by not paying your employees, that’s what God is upset about, those kinds of things. If you put someone to death because you want their property as Ahab did, you recall in the Kings’ books, that’s what God is upset about. So they were just ripping each other off, they were stealing from each other. That’s why in the Mosaic Law, God keeps saying, your balances need to be fair, the weights need to be fair. You know, don’t charge somebody something for far more than its worth, don’t cheat people; and they were not doing that, they were not dispensing true justice and you can find provision after provision after provision of the Mosaic Law, which clearly spelled that out and they weren’t following it.47:21
What else caused the first temple’s destruction? They weren’t dispensing true justice and they weren’t practicing kindness. Do you mean God is into kindness? Like being nice to each other within the community of the believing? 2nd Peter chapter 1, verses 5 through 7 (2 Pet 1:5-7) talks about the portrait of spiritual growth, what spiritual growth looks like. See, how do you know you’re spiritually growing? Well, I go to Sugar Land Bible Church and I go to three public teachings a week and that makes me a growing Christian. Well, that might be a step on the right road but that doesn’t make you a growing Christian. What makes you a growing Christian is when you take the studies done at Sugar Land Bible Church and you start to apply them to your life.
PORTRAIT OF GROWTH – 2 Peter 1:5-7
So that’s why 2nd Peter, 1, verses 5 through 7 (2 Pet 1:5-7) says start with faith and add to faith goodness, add to goodness knowledge, add to knowledge self-control. So when my wife says Honey, can you take out the trash? Can you empty the dishwasher? I don’t say, WHAT?? You know, I don’t react in an angry way, of course, I have no credibility with her when I say that but that’s how I know I’m growing on that particular day. I’m not irritable, I’m not mad at everything, How dare you inconvenience me? Don’t you know I’m a man of God? (laughs) I need to study the Bible. No, it’s forbearance, patience, so that is what self-control is, perseverance, meaning at the slightest little problem I don’t just throw in the towel. It must not be God’s will for me to do this, I’m experiencing some opposition. No, you persevere in the midst of storms, you are godly. The last one is love, which is agape, selfless love and right before you get to love, you get to this expression brotherly kindness. 49:44
Now, this is the very reason also applying all diligence in your faith, supply more excellence and in your more excellence knowledge and in your knowledge self control and in your self-control perseverance and in your perseverance godliness and in your godliness brotherly kindness and then in your brotherly kindness love. So Old Testament and New Testament God is into, you know, whether you’re Israel under the Suzerain Vassal Treaty or whether you’re under the Law of Christ, New Testament, apparently God is into kindness, not provoking each other, not speaking evil against each other, etc… So that’s what they weren’t doing and that’s why temple number one was destroyed. They weren’t dispensing justice, they weren’t practicing kindness, what else do we have here in verse 10? Excuse me verse 9?: …and compassion to his brother. So the New Testament says, so while we have opportunity, let’s do good to all people, especially those who are of the household of faith. Hey! Let’s be good to everybody but charity starts at home, right? We’ve got to be good to each other or there’s not going to be a lot of goodness here to spill over to the unsaved world. So they were not practicing that. 51:19
Commandments one through five taught them how to relate to God. Commandments six through ten taught them how to relate to each other. How do you relate to God? Don’t use His name in vain, don’t make graven images, keep the Sabbath. How do you relate to each other? Don’t commit adultery with your neighbor’s wife. I mean, if you’re committing adultery with your neighbor’s wife, you’re probably don’t showing a lot of love to your neighbor. Don’t covet, don’t steal, you know, don’t murder. So, you have vertical commandments and horizontal commandments. Commandments one through five basically vertical, commandments six to ten, horizontal. So they were not practicing these horizontals, that’s why judgment came. So, I guarantee it through seventy years of fasting and mourning , they weren’t thinking about any of this stuff, but they were going through the ritual. They were carrying that candle as I did as an acolyte in the Anglican church with vestments on and all that stuff, doing all the ritual but not thinking about the reality behind the ritual and cheer up, it gets worse, look at verse 10 (Zech 7:10): and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another… What else were they doing? They weren’t… not only were they not looking out for the widows and orphans but they were actually oppressing the widows and the orphans, can you imagine that? Going to people that have no parents and oppressing them? Going to widows who have no spouse? No husband? Oppressing the most vulnerable? James, 1, verse 27 (James 1:27) says: Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world… Well, we have a lot of opportunities to do this here at Sugar Land Bible Church, don’t we? We have a lady in our church that’s been here a long time, that’s having a difficult time right now because she lost her husband, she’s falling at home, she needs somebody that kind of look out for her and that’s why we sent out those emails, giving people opportunities to minister within the body, you know, at this level and the Israelis and Hebrews under the Suzerain Vassal Treaty were not only neglecting those people but they were oppressing them. They were oppressing the poor, they were oppressing the stranger, look at that word right there “stranger”. Who is the stranger? The stranger is the non-Israeli amongst them. 54:40
Now, I want to be really careful on this, because the progressive left has hijacked verses like this to promote an open borders nation. George Soros, porous borders nation. In fact, when our former president Barack Obama did what is called executive amnesty, where he issued a decree basically, an executive order and he gave a whole bunch of people who were in the country illegally, the opportunity to be here legally, when he issued executive amnesty, he quoted the Bible. He quoted Exodus, 22, somewhere in there, which has a verse in it like this, about not oppress the stranger or the alien; and this is why I have here the words of James Hoffmeier, in a very good book called “The Immigration Crisis”, because people on the left have suddenly discovered what a neat book the Bible is and it looks like there’s passages that promote what they want to do which is, you know, you can come into the country illegally and you don’t have to go by the proper vetting procedure to enter the country and you can become a citizen, even though you cut in line in front of everybody else and by the way, God’s word teaches this and you have to be very… this is why a knowledge of Hebrew is so pivotal and all of these social justice warriors quoting this passage are not graduates of Chafer Seminary, cause if they were graduates of Chafer Seminary, they would know Hebrew and they would understand that they are misusing the Bible when they use the Bible to promote executive amnesty. So James Hoffmeier says:
James Hoffmeier, The Immigration Crisis, 52.
“In the Hebrew Bible the alien (Ger) was a person who entered Israel and followed legal procedures to obtain recognized standing as a resident alien. Hence I will use the term alien or ger throughout the book to refer to legal immigrants. Clearly there was a distinction between the alien (Ger) and a foreigner (nekhar or zar) in the Old Testament, and this difference will be clear in the narratives, stories, and laws that will be reviewed in the following sections.”
In the Bible the alien (Ger)… and that’s what it is here in verse 10, it’s Ger… was a person who entered Israel and followed legal procedures to obtain recognized standing as a resident alien… An example would be Ruth, the Moabitess, who said to her mother in law Naomi on their way back into the land of Israel, your people would be my people, your God would be what? My God. So she wasn’t in the country to cause trouble, she was in there to submit to the culture. So, Hoffmeier says: In the Hebrew Bible alien (Ger) was a person who entered Israel and followed legal procedures to obtain recognized standing as a resident alien… And even though Ruth, the Moabitess was allowed to enter the country in the book of Ruth, God also said that the Moabites and the Ammonites in the book of Deuteronomy cannot enter. So God Himself recognized in the Old Testament, the distinction between being a Ger, in other words, being like Ruth and those who entered the country illegally for nefarious reasons. In the Hebrew Bible, the alien Ger was a person who entered Israel and followed legal procedures to obtain recognized standing as resident aliens. Hoffmeier says: Hence I will use the term alien or ger throughout the book to refer to legal immigrants… And by the way, America when you look at her history, has had probably in the history of mankind the most generous immigration policy ever, in terms of allowing people in. You just have to enter legally, you have to follow the rules, you have to take a cultural test, you know, to see if you really understand American civilization and American history. What America doesn’t want is people coming in illegally and building a parallel society in that culture which doesn’t respect the laws of the land. This is the difference between Ger and a completely different word that’s going to be used here. So he says: Hence I will use the term alien or ger throughout the book to refer to legal immigrants. Clearly there was a distinction between the alien Ger… like Ruth… and a foreigner… Look at this, different word… nekhar or zar in the Old Testament, and this difference will be clear in the narratives and the stories and the laws that will be reviewed in the following sections… (Close quote) And what he is saying is the word that’s used here and I double checked before I came in, to make sure I wasn’t messing things up, for stranger is Ger, it is not Nekhar and it’s not zar. 1:00:24
So when God says, be kind to the stranger, He is not saying, Hey! Open borders is great. Hey! Illegal immigration is great. Hey! Executive amnesty is great! That’s the way Obama was quoting this, but that’s not what it says. If that was what was being said here, it wouldn’t use the word Ger, it would use those other words. So He was talking about people like Ruth, who came in and submitted to the culture. He wasn’t talking about people coming in trying to build a parallel society and bring in a different legal system within the culture. Do you follow what I’m saying here? Because if you don’t understand this, you’ll be confused cause even the president of the United States quotes the Bible out of context. By the way, who else does that? I think the devil does that, by the way. Satan quotes the Bible, right? Just quotes it out of context. So when people on the progressive left use all of these passages, they probably don’t even understand the distinctions I’m drawing here. It’s just a neat passage and it supports our agenda, so let’s confuse everybody by making everybody think that illegal immigration is spiritual. That’s not what it says. If that’s what it was saying, it would use a completely different Hebrew word, and that’s what Hoffmeier points out. So, the people were oppressing people like Ruth. This is what upset God. That’s the stranger and then one other fast thing and we’ll stop here verse 10. They were oppressing the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor. So they were taking poor people and oppressing them and then it says, they were devising evil against one another in their what? What does it say there? In their heart. So Jesus in the New Testament will say things like this; If you are unjustifiably angry with your brother, you are a murderer. If you lust in your heart for a woman that you’re not married to, you’re an adulterer, because sin begins in the heart; and you read that and say, wow! Jesus had some radical teachings, but if you look at this very carefully, what Jesus was saying in the New Testament wasn’t radical at all. God already said that all the way back in the time of Zechariah, He mentions the word heart. They were turning on each other cause the evil was emanating from their heart. Proverbs, 4, 22 (Prob 4:22) says: Watch over your hearts with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life… 1:03:50
Thomas Jefferson, I think I’ll stop here, Thomas Jefferson was a student of the philosophers of the world, did you know that? And what impressed Thomas Jefferson about Jesus Christ, was the fact that Jesus Christ pushed His morals into the hearts of people.
“His moral doctrines…were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers…gathering all into one family under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others. The precepts of philosophy, and of the Hebrew code, laid hold of actions only. He pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head.”
On April 21, 1803, Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, also a signer of the Declaration
Thomas Jefferson says, I’ve read all the philosophers and none of them do this, only Jesus does this; and I realize there’s all these attacks on Jefferson and you know, people get very upset when you call him a Christian, but that’s what Thomas Jefferson called Himself. Thomas Jefferson said of himself, I am a real Christian. He didn’t like how denominations were corrupting Christianity in his opinion but he loved the peer teachings of Jesus Christ and Thomas Jefferson had some strange views about the trinity in one part of his life, but in other parts of his life he was orthodox. So I recognize there’s a lot of controversy about Thomas Jefferson, but this much I know, Thomas Jefferson respected Jesus on this basis, Jefferson says: He… that’s Jesus… pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head… Jefferson says, I’ve studied all the philosophers and none of them do this. This is unique to Jesus Christ and people like Jefferson think that Jesus was very radical in the sermon of the Mount and when you actually go back and read Zechariah, 7, verse 10 (Zech 7:10), you learn that Jesus really wasn’t that radical at all, He was just restating what the Mosaic Law says. So what caused the trouble? Oppressing widows and orphans, oppressing the poor, oppressing the lawful stranger, devising evil in their hearts, not dispensing true justice, not showing kindness to each other, not being compassionate to each other and that’s what caused the temple one to be destroyed. So, you’re all upset about the temple being destroyed but you’re not thinking about why the temple was destroyed according to the Suzerain Vassal Treaty structure. 1:06:31
I’m six minutes over, so let’s stop. If you got to take off and collect your young ones, they’re probably crawling on the walls by now. This would be a good time to do that. Any Q & A anybody wants to do?