Integrity

Explore the Bible Series

July 29, 2007

 

Background Passage: Zechariah 7:1-8:23

Lesson Passage: Zechariah 7:1-14

 

Introduction: This Book of Zechariah was written to encourage the Lordís people as they recommitted themselves to rebuilding the ruined city of Jerusalem.Two generations earlier the Lord had brought a severe chastening upon Judah, and, for seventy years, the Jews chafed under the oppression of the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians.Finally, God moved the heart of King Cyrus to allow a remnant of the people to return to Judah to rebuild the Temple.After a good start, the workers grew weary and afraid, and they discontinued their divinely appointed task.Sixteen years passed, and the people settled into a lethargic pattern of conduct focused on their own comforts.The Lord, in his wondrous patience, sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to stir the hearts of the people to action.Zechariahís message was filled with great encouragements and comforts, but, in Chapter Seven, he warned the people that they could not enjoy the blessings of the Lord if they returned to the sins of their fathers.

 

Too often, one hears disgraceful stories of churches plagued with moral corruption.I can speak from experience of the embarrassment and dismay that pastorís feel when they have people in their community tell them of shady business practices and serious moral lapses of church members (no doubt, those who do not serve as pastors feel the same way).These things dishonor the Lord, grieve the Holy Spirit, discredit the church, and cut the nerve of effective evangelism.

 

Zechariah recounted similar conduct among the pre-exilic Jews, and he identified some of this corruption in Chapter Seven: oppression of the poor and helpless, devising evil against one another, callous hardness of heart against the Law of the Lord, and, above all, refusing to hear the Holy Spirit as he spoke through Godís anointed prophets (See vv. 9-14).God exercised great patience toward his recalcitrant people, but, in time, his patience grew thin, and Jehovah brought a severe chastening on his people.Zechariah hoped to insure that his generation did not degenerate into the same kind of rebellion found among previous generations.Christians must be good historians, learning from the mistakes of the past and, by Godís help working to preserve the holiness of the people of God.

 

Today, Godís people must guard against the same kinds of things occurring in their churches.Though God is patient, he will not allow moral corruption to pollute his church and denigrate his holy name.In time, he will exact his judgment on those who practice such things and he will purify his church. The Prophet Zechariah understood the issues that had troubled Judah in earlier generations, and he hoped to prevent his generation from falling into the same patterns of sin. While Christians should not be crippled by heir remembrance of the past, it is healthy to acknowledge and learn from their former mistakes.

 

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Former Sins of Judah (7:1-14)

A.    An important inquiry (vv. 1-3): Two years after Zechariah received the night visions, the people who lived near Bethel sent representatives to the prophet to inquire about the Lordís direction concerning their commemoration of the destruction of the Temple.Those who returned from the exile continued a long-standing practice (nearly seventy years) of fasting and weeping during the fifth month of the Jewish year.

B.     Zechariahís answer (vv. 4-14): The prophet received an answer from the Lord, and, above all, God probed the genuineness of the peopleís worship (vv. 5-6). Like their forefathers, Judah had lapsed into inauthentic worship, just going through the motions of religious ceremony.

1.      the nature of Judahís former sins: oppression of the helpless, neglect of the poor, conspiracy against a brother, stubborn refusal to hear the Lord through his prophets, and hardheartedness.

2.      the consequences of sin: they provoked the Lordís anger, God refused to hear their prayers, he scattered them among the nations, and he left their land desolate.

 

II.                Godís Purpose of Grace (8:1-23)

A.    Godís jealousy for Zion (vv. 1-8): The prophet evoked an image of marriage as he portrays the Lord as jealous for the love and integrity of his people.The Lord pledged to return to Jerusalem and establish the holy city for the security of the Jews.Once again, elderly people and playing children would dwell safely in the city.In faithfulness and righteousness, God promised to regather his people to his holy city.

B.     An encouragement to strength (vv. 9-13): The Lord promised that he would not deal with his remnant as he had the sinful generations of the past. The previous sinful conditions had rendered the people worthless, but God would not deal with them as in the former days.They would, the prophet predicted, sow peace and reap the blessings of the Lord.This paragraph begins and ends with encouragement for Godís people to remain strong in the faithfulness to the Lord.In my judgment, these prophecies center on the redemptive work of Christ and its glorious fruits among the elect.

C.     The irresistible purposes of the Lord (vv. 14-17): In the former days, God determined to bring disaster on rebellious Judah; however, at this point, he purposed to bless his people and calm their fears.Godís decree of blessing must be, however, attended by a resolve to holy living.

D.    The grounds of joyous celebration (vv. 18-23): The Lordís blessings would transform the religious life of Judah.Previously they had wept and fasted for the sins of their fathers, but God commanded that their grief be turned to joy.Their extraordinary joy would attract the nations to seek the favor of the Lord.Many would come, from the nations of the earth, to seek the Lord of Hosts.