Archive for November, 2011

Simple Instructions

These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:  And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.

Zechariah 8:16-17

I like simple instructions.  I like it when I am told exactly what to do.  I like it when there is nothing left to interpretation.  I like “the cookies on the bottom shelf.”  And these are nice, simple instructions.  Now, saying that I like simple instructions doesn’t always mean that I always obey the simple instructions.  It sometimes seems like the simplest things are the hardest ones to get right.  But at least there is no doubt about what is expected.  These verses give us a few things that the Lord expects us to be doing: “There are the things that ye shall do…”

“Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour…”  We are supposed to tell the truth.  That is simple.  But how often do we fail in that most simple instruction?  How often are we guilty of stretching the truth or being purposely vague in our dealings?  Just a simple dose of truthfulness would work wonders for us.

“…execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates.”  Truth is again mentioned, highlighting it’s importance.  And we are told to execute the judgment of peace in our gates.  We are not supposed be fighting with everybody.  The New Testament sums it up like this: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness…”  (Hebrews 12:14)  We are supposed to be at peace with people.  We are not supposed to be going around starting arguments and fighting with everyone.

“…let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor.”  We are obviously not supposed to be doing evil to our neighbors, but we are not even supposed to be thinking evil toward or about others.

Those are simple instructions.  Are we following them?

Results of Ignoring God

… they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.  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.  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.

Zechariah 7:11-13

In this passage, the Israelites had rejected and ignored God.  They had turn a cold shoulder to Him, stopped their ears when He tried to speak to them, and hardened their hearts so that they would not follow His commandments.  And, as would be expected, they were about to come under His judgment.  But there is one more result of ignoring God that might be even worse than coming under judgment:

“…as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts.”

God had spoken to them and they had not listened.  Now, He tells them that, even if they decided to speak to Him, He was not going to hear them.  Having God tell you that He is not going to listen to you would be a fearful thing.  But that is exactly where these people found themselves.  What a fearful thing.

God is very, very merciful and longsuffering.  But turning a dear ear to Him over and over and over again will result in His turning a deaf ear to us.  We need the Lord.  We desperately need Him to hear us and answer our prayers.  What could be worse than the Lord ignoring us?  It is, however, easily avoidable.  When He speaks to us, we need to listen.  Ignoring God is a terrible thing!

Cold Shoulders and Hard Hearts

Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: 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.  But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.  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.

Zechariah 7:9-12

God sent the prophet Zechariah to tell His people that they had done wrong.  He also sent him to tell the people how they could get right.  They needed to “execute true judgment and shew mercy.”  But the people responded in a way in which many people today respond to the Lord, and a way in which we have probably responded to the Lord at one point or another.  The Bible tells us that they did three things, each of which is a common thing that we can all understand.

1. They “pulled away the shoulder.”
– We are all familiar with this imagery.  We usually call it “giving someone a cold shoulder.”  When we don’t want to hear someone or when we want to purposely ignore them, we turn our shoulder away from them.  It is a deliberate movement designed to ignore someone.

2. They “stopped their ears.”
– This one is usually found in children, but we are guilty of it ourselves.  When we really don’t want to hear something, we just plug our ears.  That is what God’s people did to Him.  They didn’t want to hear what He had to say and so they “stopped their ears.”

3. They “made their hearts as an adamant stone.”
– We would refer to this as having a “hard heart.”  I find it interesting that they didn’t just have hard hearts, they “made their hearts” like that.  We do the same thing.  When God tried to speak to us and we refuse Him or ignore Him, we are hardening our hearts.  Every time we reject Him, our hearts get a little harder.

Sadly, these reactions to the Lord and to His Word are still common today.  And, sadly, these reactions will still bring the same wrath and judgment today that they did in the book of Zechariah.

Judgment and Mercy

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: 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.

Zechariah 7:8-10

These are great verses showing us what God wants us to be doing.  You will find all of the things mentioned in these verses throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Apparently, they are things that God takes seriously.  In verse 10, we are told to not “oppress the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor…”  We are supposed to look out for those among us who need help.  We are not to oppress them further, as each of them already has at least one major problem with which to deal.  But verse 9 says something that I found very interesting:

“…Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother.”  At first glance, those would seem to be two contradictory statements.  We would think that executing judgment would be the opposite of showing mercy and compassion.  I thought maybe that meant to execute judgment on the evildoers, but show mercy to the upright.  But that’s not what it says.  It says that we are to show mercy and compassion to “every man his brother.”  We are supposed to be merciful and compassionate to everyone.  How does that fit in with executing judgment?

To be honest, I don’t fully understand it.  But I do know that this is exactly what the Lord has done for me.  He has shown great mercy and compassion to me in sending His Son to die for my sins.  And He executes true judgment when He forgives me and shows me mercy, again because of what Jesus has done.  The second part of I John 1:9 tells us that He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins…”

I may not fully understand everything, but I can understand the fact that I need to show mercy and compassion to those around me.

He Looked Beyond My Fault (Hymn)

He Looked Beyond My Fault
Dottie Rambo

Amazing Grace, shall always be my song of praise.
For it was grace that brought me liberty,
I do not know, just why He came to love me so.
He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.

I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary,
To view the cross, where Jesus died for me
How marvelous, His grace that caught my falling soul
He Looked beyond my fault and saw my need.

This is a short and simple song, but what a powerful truth it conveys.  I know that I have many, many faults.  I am thankful that He looked beyond them and saw my need.  It is marvelous to look to the cross.  And it was amazing grace that saved my soul.

Despising the Day of Small Things

For who hath despised the day of small things?  for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

Zechariah 4:10

I like the question that begins this verse: “For who hath despised the day of small things?”  It’s easy to despise the day of small things.  It’s easy to despise small things.  Often, we get wrapped up in the “big things.”  We want to do the big things.  We want to think about the big things.  We want to remember the big things that we did yesterday or last week or last year.  While the “big things” are great, the small things are just as important, if not more important for one simple reason:

When you think about it, the big things are made up of small things.  And the small things are made up of even smaller things.  For example: a good and common Christian New Year’s resolution is to read the entire Bible through, from cover to cover.  That is a good and noble “big thing.”  But, unless you are a speed reader with a large pot of coffee, you are probably not going to just sit down and read the entire thing at once.  You are going to have to read a couple of chapters today and couple more chapters tomorrow.  Those are the “small things.”  It might seem insignificant to just read one or two chapters, but if you continually neglect those “small things,” you will never finish the “big thing” of reading the entire Bible.

That is the nature of most things.  Most grand undertakings are actually just a compilation of many minor undertakings.  Building a house is a big project, but it is a big project that is made up of hundreds of small projects.  It is the same in life.  If we will take of the every day, small things, the big things will usually take care of themselves.  Let us be careful to not despise the day of small things!

“A Change of Raiment.”

Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.  And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him.  And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

Zechariah 3:3-4

I do not profess to completely understand all of Zechariah’s visions in this book.  Some of them seem fairly clear and others are hard to understand.  I do not understand everything about this particular vision, but I can understand the symbolism of being clothed with “filthy garments” and being given a “change of raiment.”  I can especially understand these things when the change of raiment is coupled with God causing “thine iniquity to pass from thee.”  What a glorious picture of salvation!

These verses bring to mind a couple of other verses:

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”  – Isaiah 64:6

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:”  – Romans 3:21-22

The Bible tells us that our righteousnesses are “as filthy rags,” just like the “filthy garments” spoken of in these verses.  That is the best that we can do.  Humanly speaking, our best is like a filthy rag.

The Bible also tells us that the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is available to all that believe on Him.  I like the wording of Romans 3:22, “unto all and upon all them that believe.”  “Upon all” sounds a lot like a garment, doesn’t it?  We were wearing the filthy rags of our sin (and even our righteousness), but trusting in Jesus Christ gave us a clothing of His perfect righteousness.  What a wonderful salvation!

Sing and Rejoice

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.

Zechariah 2:10

I have noticed several verses in the books of the prophets that speak of the Lord “dwelling in the midst of His people” or “being in the midst of His people.”  All of these verses are connected with singing and rejoicing.  And I have to second that emotion.  What better thing to sing and rejoice about than the fact that the Lord is in the midst of His people?

The “daughters of Zion” here are singing and rejoicing because “lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee.”  This verse could be our motto.  We should be singing and rejoicing because God has come and is dwelling in the midst of us.  He lives in our hearts!  He came to us and died for us on the cross.  He rose from the dead for us.  He came to us when He convicted us of our sin and of our need for Him.  He is in the midst of us every day: helping us, encouraging us, sometimes chastening us, fellowshipping with us.  He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  He is ever in our midst.  He is literally coming again, and it may be soon.  Then He will literally and physically be in the midst of us.  What a thought!  What a great reason to sing and rejoice!

How often do we rejoice in these things?  How often do we sing praises to Him because our hearts are so full of love and gratitude?  How thankful are we?  I think we would all do well to meditate on all that He has done for us.  That will most certainly bring about some “singing and rejoicing!”

God’s Word and Statutes = Forever

Your fathers, where are they?  and the prophets, do they live for ever?  But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers?  and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.

Zechariah 1:5-6

Once again, we are reminded of the shortness and frailty of human life and of the everlasting power and truth of God’s Word.  The answers to both questions in verse five (Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?) and both obvious.  Their fathers are gone, as are their father’s fathers and their fathers before them.  Even the great and mighty prophets do not live for ever.  As great of men as many of these prophets were, they still didn’t live forever.  Life is short and fragile, as many other scriptures would tell us.  However, the fact that their fathers were gone and the prophets were gone is contrasted with the things found in verse six: “But my words, and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets…”  Those are things that will last forever.

Think about that the next time you read your Bible.  There are not many eternal things on this earth.  In fact, even the earth itself is not eternal.  Like everything else, it will have an end.  Our bodies wear down; they are not eternal.  But those Words of God that we can hold in our hands are eternal.  They do not die with men.  They do not become weaker over the years.  These verses are still as powerful today as they were when they were penned over 2,000 years ago.  What a great thought!  What a marvelous Book we have and what a marvelous privilege it is to be able to read it.

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”  (Isaiah 40:8)

God First

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.  Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.  Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why?  saith the LORD of hosts.  Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Haggai 1:7-9

It these verses (and the ones preceding them), we get the idea that these people are working for things that are not satisfying them.  They are earning wages just to be put “into a bag with holes” (1:6).  They “looked for much, and, lo, it came to little.”  And what little they did bring home, the Lord says that “I did blow upon it.”  They are doing everything they can do for themselves.  They are working for wages.  They are eating and drinking.  They are trying desperately to satisfy themselves.  But they found no satisfaction.  The reason for this is given in verses 8 and 9.

“…build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.”  “Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.”

Apparently, in all of their work for themselves, they forgot God.  They all ran to their own houses, and did everything they could to build them and take care of them while God’s house “is waste.”  These people make the terrible mistake of putting themselves before the Lord.  God should always come first.  That is an easy thing to say, but not always an easy thing by which to live.  How much of our lives are spend pursuing things for ourselves?  And how much of our lives are spent for the Lord?  Does He get the “firstfruits” or does He get the “leftovers” of our lives?

The Israelites faced judgment because they did not put the Lord first.  We will face the same if we make the same mistake.