Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29th - God is Working

Prayer Requests
Walk through the Old Testament
Celebrate Freedom Witnessing (Sept 4)
Shelby's Friend's Play
Pollock's Grandparents
Two students from the North Cobb area killed in car accidents
James in the Orchestra
Kari's Sister's visit

Text – Zechariah 1:7-21, Psalm 137

Last week we did an overview of the Babylonian captivity of the people of Judah which took place between 605 and ~535 BC. If you don't fully understand what was going on there it is fine, it is a lot of history and since we're so far removed, it's hard to really grasp the details. Today we're going to look at some of the details and hopefully you'll understand the faithfulness of God even if you don't understand 70 years of history in the 6th century BC.

Does anyone remember the name of the king of Persia who Isaiah prophesied by name over 100 years before he was even born? Cyrus. Here is a huge rabbit trail, but one that I think is important that we follow for a lot of reasons. Sometimes the way my brain works is strange, like the way I catalogue Bible verses or names sometimes takes me a little while to sort through, but it ends up that I have memorized more verses and names than anyone I know. As I was thinking about Cyrus, I wondered, "How would you possibly spell that in Hebrew?" Because Hebrew doesn't have a soft-C sound or even an S-sound that is close to Cyrus, so I looked it up, and it turns out that his name wasn't Cyrus, but Koresh. Cyrus is our Anglicization of the name Koresh, just like Jesus is the Anglicization of Joshua. Remember the name Joshua for the Messiah, it's gonna be hugely important in upcoming weeks.

Does anyone know why the name Koresh might pique my interest? It's because when I was growing up there was a famous cult leader named Vernon Howell, more popularly known as David Koresh. As I researched the name Koresh I found that David Koresh changed his name in order to claim he was the Messiah and the deliverer of God's people. He gained a small following as the second coming of Christ and convinced his people that Armageddon was taking place at their complex in Waco, Texas. As I researched him I remembered something important that isn't keeping with our lesson today but is important enough to share and I don't know when Zechariah would give me another chance to say this.

One of Koresh's biggest sins in a long list of big sins was his sexual sin, he married basically every woman and girl in his cult. The youngest was 12. I want to remind you that the most consistent mark of a cult is sexual sin, and it's amazing what someone can convince someone of in the name of religion. This is prevalent in Koresh's little cult, in the Mormon cult, and in Islam and Catholicism which most people think are too big to be cults, but they share every major distinction of cult-activity. Your body belongs to you and nobody should ever inappropriately touch you, especially in the name of Christ. Sexual purity is of utmost importance to him and your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, with the gift of an intimate relationship confined within the marriage covenant.

I wanted to share that because Koresh is being seen as more and more as a nice, misunderstood guy, when in reality he was a really wicked man.

So, to Zechariah,

Zechariah 1:7-21 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, "I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Then I said, 'What are these, my lord?' The angel who talked with me said to me, 'I will show you what they are.' So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, 'These are they whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.' And they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, 'We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.' Then the angel of the LORD said, 'O LORD of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?' And the LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. So the angel who talked with me said to me, 'Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. Therefore, thus says the LORD, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the LORD of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Cry out again, Thus says the LORD of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.'"

And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns! And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these?" And he said to me, "These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem." Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen. And I said, "What are these coming to do?" He said, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it."

v.7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, "I saw in the night..."

This prophecy is two months after the first one, and is considerably longer than the first, it spans 8 visions and 6 chapters. All of these visions happened in one night, it was a busy night for Zechariah. Each of these builds on the next, so when we get to the end we'll read them all in order.

There are a few important things to see in this verse, first we remember our Zechariah, the son of a priest and a priest himself, has previously called Judah to continue repenting and to listen to the word of the Lord, for it will outlast both its hearers and the preachers who are proclaiming it.

The second important thing is the "Shebat" which is the name of a month. This month is in the spring when nature is waking up again and flowers are blooming and there is new birth happening all around. It is highly symbolic of Israel being saved out of a season of despair, and we'll see a flowering tree in a minute.

v.8 behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.

We're going to get a really good picture of these horses in chapter 6, but for right now there is a different lesson than the horses being taught. A red horse though, for this lesson, is symbolic of war; we'll see in a bit that this man on the horse is none other than Jesus Christ himself. Notice that there are other horses, these are representative of angels, and the different colors represent different duties; white for peace, red for war, black for death, and sorrel, which is light brown, the Bible never tells us what it represents.

The myrtle tree represents Israel, and at this time of year, it would be flowering with beautiful red and white flowers. A neat thing about the myrtle tree is that when you crush its leaves, it smells really nice; symbolic of the suffering of the believer bringing a pleasant outcome. The Hebrew for myrtle tree is Hadassah, do you know anyone else with that name? Esther's Hebrew name was Hadassah.

v.9 Then I said, 'What are these, my lord?' The angel who talked with me said to me, 'I will show you what they are.'

Zechariah doesn't understand, so we get a great lesson: ask.

v.10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, 'These are they whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.'

These are God's ministering spirits, his messengers and soldiers to accomplish all of his purposes. Some are to do good, others are to do evil to punish sin. You remember that God told Cyrus that there weren't two gods, one who is good and one who is bad, but that there is one God and he makes good and creates evil. Some of these angels are not nice at all:

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, "From where have you come?" Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it."

In 1 Kings 22 God asks for a volunteer to bring a wicked king to a specific place so that he can kill him there, and some angels speak up, but nothing definitive, and then Satan stands up and says, "Let me go lie to him." and God lets him go; even guaranteeing Satan's success.

So know that God is working from the beginning, and is working today. He has ministering spirits acting constantly in the world. The report of these angels comes next,

v.11 And they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, 'We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.'

This was an amazing time in the history of the world where there were no wars. Remember this is because of the work that God did through Cyrus, and completed through Darius, bringing most of the known world at this time under the control of the Persians. One of the only times in history where there was world peace, and this is not at all pleasing to God, as we'll see in a bit.

v.12 Then the angel of the LORD said, 'O LORD of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?'

The angel of the Lord is Jesus Christ, here we see him beautifully interceding for his people, asking God how long their punishment shall last. There are a lot of terms for angels in the Bible, everything from sons of God to Seraphim (on fire ones), to the word here, Mal'ak, which comes from Melech, which means king. The angel here is not a pretty wingy thingy, but a messenger of the King.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...

Apart from God accepting mediation and having mercy on these people whose sins wouldn't be paid for for another 500 years, both these Jews and we would be utterly without hope. God's response is beautiful:

v.13 And the LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.

It may be that what is said next are these words, but I think there were some other words spoken in here which are not revealed to us. It is very dangerous to speak where God has not spoken, so I wouldn't presume to try to say what was said in here, but a great Puritan, John Flavel, did consider what might have been said and he did it very well, and I do not think that God would object to this discourse.

Father: My son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls?

Son: O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shalt thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.

Father: But, my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare thee.

Son: Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, yet I am content to undertake it.

We have an intercessor because the Son of God willingly took our sins on himself and paid for them in his own life's blood. Apart from him there is no hope of reconciliation or mercy, but in him there is grace upon grace upon grace. Following these gracious and comforting words, Christ commands Zechariah to speak,

v.14-17 So the angel who talked with me said to me, 'Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. Therefore, thus says the LORD, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the LORD of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Cry out again, Thus says the LORD of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.'"

For sake of time I think this passage basically speaks for itself, that God is done being angry with Israel and is bringing them back to prosper, and prosper they did from this point on for quite a while. One of the evidences of this is that the temple was being rebuilt at this exact moment.

In the first prophetic outcry we see that God was very angry with the fathers of Judah; in this passage God compares his anger towards Babylon to the anger he felt towards Judah as only a little, and the anger he feels towards Babylon to be great. Remember that they were not righteous people, they had no relationship with God, they sinned exceedingly and did terrible things to all sorts of people, including the Jews.

One place we see this played out exceedingly clearly is with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When they refused to abandon the God of Israel, Babylon tried to execute them with lions and fire, but God was with them and saved them. Besides that the Jews in Babylon were horrendously treated.

In the second passage God is sending destroyers to Babylon for their attrocities.

v.18 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns!

A horn is a symbol of power and violence, like the horn of a bull or elephant or rhinoceros. Zechariah didn't know what they were, so what'd should he do? Ask.

v.19 And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these?" And he said to me, "These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem."

We don't know precisely who or what these horns represent, it could be kings or governments. We know that at least one, and maybe all, represent Babylon. Knowing what they represent isn't as important as seeing what God is doing to them.

v.20 Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen.

Craftsman is anyone who knows what they are doing in building, but specifically here the Hebrew means they are carpenters. Zechariah can see that, but he wants to know their purpose, so he asks, (I love this theme)

v.21 And I said, "What are these coming to do?" He said, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it."

God is sending specific people or angels or whoever to destroy these powers as punishment for their treatment of his people. Jews before Christ believed at least one of these was the Messiah. Some Jews believed in two Messiahs, one to die and one to reign as king, one Jewish commentator even called one Messiah the "Son of David" and the other the "Son of Ephraim."

Psalm 137 was written to describe the destruction of Babylon:

1By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"

4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land?
5If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
6Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!

7Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, "Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!"
8O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
9Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

This Psalm recounts how painful the exile was, and how the Babylonians scorned them and burned Jerusalem and the temple, how they were prisoners and mistreated. the middle section is wonderful because it reminds us that we need to only work for God and speak truths about God, and if we're not going to speak truth, it'd be better if our tongue didn't work.

Finally is the imprecation at the end, Edomites is a way of saying the people whom God has created for the sole purpose of showing his power on by destroying. They aren't just the Babylonians, but in this passage they are just the Babylonians.

God is so angry and his wrath is so just and his judgment so complete that he will destroy Babylon down to the very smallest of her babies.

So our major application in this is that God is still working, he is not slack concerning his promises, but patient, and he will repay every atrocity done to his beloved.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22nd - Intro to Zechariah

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron and Summit
Three kids at Pigs and Peaches
Grant in Montgomery
Kari's friend's kidney
Jennifer - Brother
James - Grandma
Roberts/Clark - Grandma
KSU and Southern Poly Starting
Celebrate Freedom Witnessing (Sept. 4)
Chaplain Application
Praise - Denise Johnson

Text – Zechariah 1:1-6, Isaiah 45:1-7

We're starting our journey through Zechariah today, this will take us approximately 18 weeks and it should be a great study. Zechariah is one of my favorite prophets because he speaks so often about the Messiah to come, some 500 years after he would write this book. It is said that only Isaiah has more prophecies for the Messiah.

In order to fully understand this book we need to know some history. When we read Zechariah we need to realize, and we'll probably spend a good deal of time in, that three other books are happening at basically the same time: Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai. Does anyone remember what Haggai's main message was? It was prophesying Christ as the Temple, and calling the people to rebuild a temple so that they could have God in their midst.

Zechariah's prophecy happened in 520 BC, this is important because Judah has just returned to Jerusalem after being in exile to Babylon. This exile to Babylon started in 605 BC when God sold them into slavery for their sins, and they started returning in 538 BC. Remember in BC we count downwards.

A hugely important event for understanding Zechariah's letter is the way that Judah came home, so let's read Isaiah 45:1-6 which deals with the return from exile.

Isaiah 45:1-7 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: "I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Do you know when Isaiah was prophesying? 739-686BC. The prophecy he is making is over 100 years early of a man named Cyrus. Let's take it apart piece by piece.

v.1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped,

The word for anointed is Messiah, though he is not speaking of Cyrus being the ultimate Messiah, but a type for the Messiah, a conquering king. Many kings of Israel are called anointed, and so are you and I:

1 John 2:20 you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.

This is neat because we had become worthless, but Christ has restored all sorts of great things to us. For example, we were not a people, but now we are God's people, we are priests offering praise, we are evangelists declaring the good news, we are apostles sent by God, we are prophets delivering the Word of God, and we are Christians anointed by God.

This king was specially chosen and equipped by God to do something, and we see that God has grasped his right hand, which means he has become puppetmaster guiding Cyrus for these purposes:

v.1-3 to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: "I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places,

When Cyrus conquered much of the known world, it was customary for cities to thrust open wide their gates in surrender and strip their kings of honor in order to give it to Cyrus. This began in 559 BC and concluded with the fall of Babylon in 539 BC. This was accomplished for a very specific purpose:

v.3-4 that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name,

Remember that Isaiah is writing this at least 100 years before Cyrus was even born, yet God calls him by name. The purpose is so that Cyrus and Israel and later the whole world would know that God is God and is in charge of the beginning to the end. He has a definite preordained plan which cannot be thwarted by men.

Ephesians 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will...

v.4 I name you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God...

Cyrus was a Zoroastrian, a follower of a duel-godhead which one, Ahura Mazda, was good and the other, Angra Mainyu, was evil. The truly neat thing here is that God is both saving the nation of Israel, and the man Cyrus. He is concerned both with the populous and the individual. He knew us before we were, he has a plan for us to walk, check out Jeremiah's introduction,

Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

This is your first application, that God has a plan for you that absolutely cannot fail. Check out Ephesians 2:10, this is my favorite verse;

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Does that take the fear out of it? If God is for us, who then can stand against us? Paul said it another place just as well:

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

This Cyrus, after conquering Babylon in 539 BC, asked the Jews what they were doing in Babylon and then sent them home. Someone took to him a copy of Isaiah's prophecy and Cyrus read it and saw that his life had progressed exactly how God said it would, and he fell on his face and declared God to be Lord, and Lord God of Heaven, and the Lord God of Israel. This threefold declaration shows the fullness of his repentance.

v.5-6 I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

The sun rises in the East and sets in the West, this prophecy was only partly fulfilled in Cyrus; though he conquered a huge amount of land, this prophecy wouldn't be fully fulfilled until Christ, who is anointed beyond that of all others who are anointed. Literally the sun never sets on the kingdom of Christ. Right now it is dark somewhere in the world, but we are proclaiming his name to all peoples; when it is dark here someone in the light will be singing his praises.

v.7 I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

This is one of my favorite verses, it has a two-fold purpose. First it is a direct polemic against the gods of Zoroastrianism, one whom is supposed to be good and the other evil, and also to remind the Jews that they were sent into exile by God and redeemed by God. God is more than capable of working evil to punish sins. Amos says that disaster cannot come without God sending it.

So that finally brings us to Zechariah 1, Israel had been warned of exile, sent into exile, and redeemed from exile, and Zechariah 1 is going to remind them that God is in total control. First we get to meet Zechariah.

Zechariah 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying,

Zechariah is a really popular name in the Old Testament, there are 29 of them in the Bible. His name means "The Lord Remembers" and it points to the faithfulness of God. According to a list of priests in Nehemiah, Zechariah was one, which places him in the tribe of Levi. Zechariah's fathers name was Berechiah, which is another popular name which means "Blessed of the Lord". A Zechariah son of Berechiah was murdered in the temple in the first century, but it is almost certainly coincidence that they have the same name.

Zechariah's grandfather Iddo was also a priest, so Zechariah comes from a lineage of priests. He begins his prophetic work in October of 520 BC, which is important because two months earlier Haggai had called for the temple to be rebuilt which is now underway and the people are beginning to repent, and Zechariah is going to push them to live a life of repentance and not just a short lived change of mind. The reason Darius is in charge is a soap-opera in itself. Cyrus died in 528 and had two sons, one of the sons killed the other son secretly so he could be in charge, but an imposter claimed to be the elder brother and took the throne. Much war ensued sort of taking the pressure off of Jerusalem, and as the younger brother was dying, he confessed to his brother's murder, and an army officer named Darius went to the imposter and killed him and took the throne, and after a brief bout of fighting, was in charge of the Persian empire, which included Judea.

So all this happened the way it happened for a reason, which Zechariah is now going to tell us,

Zechariah 1:2-4 "The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.' But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD.

Zechariah's message is for the people to return to God and not be like those who rebelled. There was no lack of prophets who called the pre-exilic Jews to repent: Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Ezekiel, yet the people would not listen, so verse two says that "God was VERY angry with your fathers." We need to remember that God is totally justified in getting and staying angry, let's read one of the greatest descriptions of his anger:

Psalm 7:11-13 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

Zechariah continues with a very stern threat to these people who have seen God's Word come true and are now offered a fresh chance to repent.

Zechariah 1:5-6 Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?

God is making a point that his Word is eternal, and that our lives are brief. He has promised to preserve his Word even when all things pass away.

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Here in Zechariah God is making the point that his decree is unchanging and will come to fruition. Many times God's decree is conditional, that if a person won't repent, he will sharpen his sword against them. The converse is that if they do repent, the sword won't be used on them. The pre-exilic Jews wouldn't repent so they went into exile to Babylon, even though many of them fought it, as it says in Jeremiah 29, where the ones who refused to go were killed.

One of their fathers and prophets was Daniel, he totally embodies verse 6,

Zechariah 1:6 So they repented and said, As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.

Check out his prayer for mercy after 70 years in exile; it is full of repentance for sins, and acknowledgement that God is in fact God and is right to punish for sin;

Daniel 9:3-19 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. "O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name."
Here's the neat part is that what God is calling for the people of Zechariah's day is what Daniel did, which ultimately was the event God was orchestrating to end the exile. All of this would be fresh in the minds of the Israelites.

So that is our introduction to Zechariah. He was one of the last prophets before God ceased revelation in 400 BC, and his book is going to show us that God has been working since the beginning and is working now, that he has a plan, that the Messiah was expected before he came, and fulfilled impossibly precise expectations.

Our application is that we see God is working for a very specific purpose, to call his people to repentance and see them walk in the works which he has prepared for us before time began. We see that God is able to use both believers and unbelievers to accomplish his purposes. Christ said if believers don't praise God that the rocks would then cry out. Similarly the high priest when Christ was crucified was still prophesying truth even though he was totally an enemy of God. We see that God's Word is eternal and it will come true, so it is in our best interest to submit to it now.

John 11:49-52 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Just as Cyrus was a type for Messiah and many kingdoms surrendered to him, so must we surrender to the Messiah Jesus. Just as Cyrus bowed to God and confessed him as Lord, so must we now. We will bow willingly, or we will bow forcefully on the final day, because every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 15th - Being a Good Person

Prayer Requests
New School Year
Survey of World Religion
Alyssa's friend's infection
There was another prayer request which I can't remember...

Text – Acts 11:24, Romans 15:14-17

One of my favorite things to do is brag on this church and especially our youth and especially this class. The Apostle Paul did likewise with his church at Thessalonica saying that they were his crown of boasting and his joy because they had so thoroughly evangelized Macedonia and stayed firm in the faith and loved one another.

In the past six months or so I’ve bragged about Ian getting into Magnet, Devin preaching a message on Friday night, Kyle being on fire for sharing the gospel, Mycala being such an awesome VBS helper, and Matthew saying one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard from anybody, even adults, when he said basically, and I can’t remember the exact quote, “Christ died on a tree of death to give us access to the tree of life.” There are many others, and if I tried to name them all I’m sure I’d leave someone out.

I wrote our whole lesson plan on a Tuesday morning, on Wednesday I was telling someone about an awesome song I’d heard sung by one of our teenagers on Sunday. I’ll brag on the person I was telling this too as well, his name is Patrick and he is always excited to hear what’s going on at our church and tell me what is going on at his church, I really look forward to talking to him, because he stirs me up for good works. He asked about the song and it led to me telling him how good Hannah’s singing is getting and how sweet and pretty and just an awesome person she is. Afterwards it got me thinking about a passage in scripture that I’ve read several times but never spent too much time on, the reason I started thinking about it was because I didn’t have the faintest urge to tell Patrick, “She’s an absolutely horrible person, but she sure can sing and play the piano.” No, when I brag on you guys it’s always on your love and faith and amazing things you do in the name of Christ. So I changed the lesson plan to look at an amazing verse in the Bible, maybe my favorite.

Let’s read that verse:

Acts 11:24 [Barnabas] was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

Does this seem backwards from what we talked about last week? Let’s read some other verses that say what we learned last week,

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Romans 3:12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

Luke 18:17 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

So if that’s true that no-one is good, how then can Barnabas be good? Is he God? No, because in Galatians 2 we see that he at one point was a great sinner. Does he have God in him? Aha, there is our answer, he was full of the Holy Spirit.

What are the fruits of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Aha! If we are being sanctified, then we should be able to be labeled a good person. What is the definition of sanctification? Being conformed (changed) closer and closer to an image of Jesus Christ, loving what he loves and hating what he hates and reacting and interacting with the world the same way he would.

Let’s look at another scripture that supports the idea that the Christian has been redeemed from being a bad person to being a good person:

Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Now, we have to make sure we’re making a distinction between being good and being filled with goodness, with having an innate goodness and having, as Dr. John MacArthur calls it, an alien goodness. Left to ourselves, we are not good, our goodness comes from above. There is no verse that says explicitly we’re good because Christ was good, but there are many scriptures which say basically that,

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 1:15 As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

We are good not because of anything in ourselves, but because Christ has given us his Spirit who is goodness and righteousness.

Romans 8:7-10 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

How do we receive the goodness of Christ? Through faith. What else was Barnabas filled with? Faith. Check out this verse,

Hebrews 11:5 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Now, let’s look at how this goodness plays out. What is the definition of goodness? Is it always being nice and not offending someone or always being upbeat and happy? No, we’ll look at Paul’s example in just a minute, but before we do I want to show you sometimes being nice or happy or positive isn’t the right response,

Proverbs 25:20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.

Goodness is reacting rightly to all situations; virtue. Sometimes being nice is not the right response to a situation, check out what Paul kept saying,

Romans 15:14-15 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder,

Sometimes being good requires a direct rebuke, a correction, abrasiveness to smooth out a problem by bringing a person to the truth. In Proverbs it says that an enemy will tell you you’re wonderful when you’re not, but a friend will tell you the truth, James says we may save a person’s soul by confronting them in their sin, namely pride. There was a massive movement in the 20th century, which I’m sure isn’t dead yet, to convince people that they should have massive amounts of self-esteem and consider themselves to be the best person on the planet just waiting to find a place to express themselves. It led to several completely wrecked generations; in fact many teachers have found that the students with the highest self esteem have no interest in learning anything or improving in any way, because they think they’re already perfect.

So let me give you some advice. Ian, you’ve made it into Magnet, which is awesome, but you’re not as smart as you someday will be, Kyle, you’re an awesome evangelist but if you’re at the same level you are now in ten years, I’d be embarrassed, Matthew, you made a totally awesome statement about the Bible, but our effort isn’t finding little jewels of theology but having a firm foundation and a complete knowledge able to instruct others. Hannah, for 13 you are an amazing singer and there were a few times during your song I think you actually sounded better than Christy Nockels, but you’re not there yet and you still need to practice hard to master the gift God has given you.

Christ and his Spirit should be doing the same thing in our lives, because Christ who is full of goodness is always working our sanctification:

Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

If God is not exposing and killing sin in your life and driving you towards good, then you ought to wonder if you’re in his grace, and if not then you must make sure you’re trusting in his goodness and not your own, because we bring no goodness to this equation.

Paul then says he is a priest of God preaching the gospel, bringing people (Gentiles) to Christ, the way he concludes the thought is AMAZING.

Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.

What an amazing privilege we have entered into in this covenant. Not only has Jesus saved us from Hell and sin and death and ultimately from himself, but he has also saved us from unfruitful and wasted lives, giving us reason to boast. How did he do that? By dying in our place and defeating death, Paul gives one of the most awesome doxologies in the Bible concerning this in

1 Corinthians 15:54-58 "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

So then, who are we proud of? Ourselves or the work that God is doing through us? John the Baptist, who Jesus called the greatest man ever to live, knew that he wasn’t actually the one who would get the glory, here is his response,

John 3:27-30 John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease."

So we see that we were once great sinners, but Christ has redeemed us and has given us his Spirit and through that Spirit we can be called good, not us in ourselves, but the Holy Spirit living in us. Now, are you good all the time? Do you sin as a Christian?

The Apostle Paul ran into this same problem, and he writes one of the most amazingly awesome passages in scripture, these are my favorite verses,

Romans 7:13-8:2 Did [the law] which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

So in conclusion, are there any good people apart from Christ? No. But will people think they are good apart from Christ? Proverbs 20:6 says that almost all people will proclaim their own goodness, their own awesomeness, but then it asks, “Where can we find such a person?” Apart from Christ this person doesn’t exist, they are either so self-centered as to make their deceitfulness transparent, or they are doing nice things for people apart from God and pointing them away from Heaven. For example, there are plenty of non-Christian organizations feeding starving people in Africa and India, and they've found that just by feeding people they see a resurgence in births which leads to more mouths to feed and greater infant mortality rates and so many of these organizations stop feeding people all together. Other organizations provide free medical and dental care, which is awesome but it's only a temporal fix, and what they are doing by helping people apart from Christ is telling them to put their trust in men and not in God, which is utterly the most wicked thing they could be doing. I just finished a hugely vitriolic book on Mother Teresa and that woman believed everyone goes to Heaven provided they believe in a god or gods and so she made no effort to introduce people to Jesus. There are no lack of organizations making this world a nice place to go to Hell from.

Apart from the Holy Spirit we are unable to do good for someone’s eternity, but in Christ we are washed, sanctified, and justified, given a holy calling accomplished by Christ working in us. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; so we see a war working in ourselves, desiring to serve Christ with our minds, but locked into sin in our bodies, knowing that ultimately we will have full victory in Heaven, we live a life worthy to be called good by all outsiders so that they will see our deeds in the name of Christ and glorify him on the final day. Let’s conclude with two of my favorite verses,

Galatians 2:19-20 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 8th - Defiled and Cleansed

Prayer Requests
New School Year
Survey of World Religion
Shelby's Braces
Costello's Grandmother's continued recovery
Alyssa's teachers' pregnancies
Kia's Family
Kari's friend's family

Text – Mark 7:14-23, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Welcome to class.
Class Archive Website:

About me; my name is Canyon Shearer, I’m 28 years old. I am in the Air Force, and I work on F-22’s. I am Summit’s volunteer pastor of evangelism.

You can call me Mister, Sergeant, Pastor, Sir, or just plain Canyon. One of the reasons I don’t require you to use a title is because I would rather think of you as young adults than children, and I will give you my utmost respect and hope you will do the same.

I can be reached at 928-606-6906 or I work in a classified area, so can’t have my phone at work, so e-mail or facebook is the best way to get in touch with me.

My teaching style is somewhat different than a lot of middle-school teachers, I’m not big on games or goofiness, but rather I like to spend most of the class in the Bible, letting it speak for itself. God esteems his Word higher than we can possibly imagine, so I request and require reverence towards the Bible. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. There is an answer to every question, so please don’t hold back.

Today I want to look at Mark chapter 7, the reason being is that it will lay a foundation for every other part of Christianity. This is as important today for us as it was for the original audience because we have the same problem they had.

First let me give you some context. The religious people of Jesus’ day were called the Pharisees, they thought they were somebody special and extra good dudes. One of the reasons they thought they were so good is because they made up all sorts of rules that they would keep instead of the rules that God gave them.

For example, let’s look at

Mark 7:9-13 And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, "Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban"' (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."

The 5th Commandment is to honor your father and mother…but that’s pretty difficult, so the Pharisees changed the law so that if anyone would promise their inheritance to them, then they were absolved of taking care of their parents. Because of their new law they rejected God’s law, but still felt pretty good about themselves.

The problem is that they thought they were inwardly pretty good people, and they felt that way because they were keeping a lot of rules. The rule which we are going to look at today that they made up was a requirement to wash your hands before you eat. The Pharisees thought they were keeping themselves from being defiled, or made unclean or unfit for Heaven, and when Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands the Pharisees were greatly offended. I want to show you today that we have an infinitely bigger problem than unwashed hands.

Mark 7:14-23 And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

In the Old Testament God gave quite a few laws concerning what a person could and couldn't eat. These were for a spiritual purpose and not a natural purpose, for example, shellfish are scavengers and will eat basically anything and so in order to set his people apart from eating something that ate all sorts of garbage, God forbid the eating of shellfish. Similarly, pigs are gross animals who love to roll around in mud and muck which is made up largely of their own leavings, and God forbid the eating of them to keep his people spiritually removed from rolling around in grossness. But the Pharisees took these laws and rejected the spiritual purpose and only believed that something magical in these animals could keep them out of Heaven, so they were very careful in what they ate and touched and that they would wash their hands before they ate clean things just in case they touched something unclean.

In essence they were missing the point COMPLETELY. Jesus comes along to straighten them out and return them to the original meaning of the law, which was and is to point to God's holiness and separateness from sin.

Jesus asks, "Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart, but his stomach and is expelled?"

What do you think the heart is here that we're talking about? Is it literally the 10 ounce spongy pump in our chest that pumps 74 gallons of blood through it every hour? That's not what Christ is talking about, he's talking about the core of a person and who they are and what they desire. It's strange from a non-spiritual standpoint to consider that we feel emotions in different parts of our bodies, for example, we get nervous and get butterflies in our stomachs, or we are worried and feel like our belly is tied up in knots, and even though our brain is actually the center of our intellect, we feel like our person is in the center of our body. I'm sure God did this on purpose for a lot of reasons, making us realize we're more than a machine and showing naturalists that they can't describe us just as a collection of parts. We're not a body with a soul, we're a soul with a body. When this body wears out and dies, we will continue on, eventually (and we don't have time to talk about this now, but will in the future) receive a new body, one that will never die.

The Bible says amazingly direct and harsh things about our heart:

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."

And in that, we have a problem, because many places in the Bible, like Psalm 24, quoted in Matthew 5, says that causes a problem between us and God,

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

If we don't have a pure heart, what then is the extension? We won't see God.

Check out what Jesus continued to say in Mark 7, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

Let's look at some of these things that defile us, how about theft? Earlier we looked at the 5th Commandment, this is another Commandment, does anyone know which one theft is breaking? The 8th. Have you ever stolen anything? Does that make you a theif?

How about murder? That's the 6th Commandment, and here Jesus says it starts in the heart. That is a running theme in the Bible that our sins aren't sins once they are committed, they are sins in the seedling form. What is murder an expression of? Hatred, and its seed is hating someone.

Matthew 5:21-22 You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.

Wow, have you ever hated someone or called them a fool or a curse word? Speaking of curse words, in another place Jesus was preaching on a very similar topic, but there he added a very specific judgment of our hearts,

Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.

What we say has a direct representation of what our heart looks like, so if we say curse words, what does that say about our heart? It's cursed. We're going to be talking a lot more about that when we get to Zechariah in a few weeks.

The next one is adultery, and we can lump in with it sexual immorality. What is adultery? It's when you sleep with someone who isn't your spouse. Being as none of you have spouses, you may think it's impossible to break this one, but look at what Jesus said,

Matthew 5:27-28 You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I hope you're seeing that our hearts are in pretty bad shape, add to these things that defile our heart, coveting, desiring something that doesn't belong you, wickedness, forsaking good and doing something bad, deceit, stealing something through words not just through action, sensuality, doing something just because you want to and not because you've thought it through, envy, wishing you were someone other than who God created you as, slander, speaking evil against someone else, pride, thinking you're someone great when we see here that we're all sinners, and foolishness, or not wanting to learn, basically as we can see in many other places in the Bible, rejecting knowledge of God.

So do we agree that we don't have pure hearts? What then is the consequence? We won't see God, is the big one. Besides that, we see amazing promises from God, let's look briefly at the 5th Commandment,

Proverbs 20:20 If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.

How about the 10th Commandment on coveting and 7th on adultery,

Ephesians 5:5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Finally, one that isn't named here, but the 9th Commandment says thou shalt not lie. How many lies do you have to tell to be called a liar? Just one. How many lies have you told? Revelation 21:8 says that all liars will have their place in the Lake which burns with sulfur and brimstone, which is the second death.

God isn't playing around with the necessity of a pure heart, and yet we don't have one, so are we without hope? Left alone to our own efforts of cleaning our heart by washing our hands we would be without hope, but thanks be to God that he sent us a Saviour able to give us a new heart and wash us spiritually.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We've got some big concepts here, so let's look at them. First of all we need to know how this happened. Jesus Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, God the Son, stepped out of Heaven and put on flesh. He was tempted in every way we've been tempted, yet without sin, his heart was perfectly pure and he proved it by facing every opportunity to sin and doing right every time. But, because we would die without hope if something major didn't happen, Jesus Christ willingly took our sin on and in himself and bore it to the cross where his Father poured out the full consequence of sin on our sinless Saviour, Jesus Christ bore the hatred we deserved. Then three days later he defeated death and is able to save us from every sin we've committed, from the consequences of those sins, from having an evil and wicked heart (we'll talk much more about this next week), and from being separated from God. What he commands to have all that done is that we place our full trust in him and him alone that his character and payment was sufficient to redeem us from sin. This faith will bring with it repentance, a turning from sin and a hatred of evil, seeking to do right and love God above ourselves.

Ephesians 2:12-13 Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Then we can say such were we, great sinners, but that's who we were. Now we are washed, which is obviously not talking about our hands, but our whole person. When Jesus was washing his disciples feet Peter didn't want to partake because he felt it was demeaning to Jesus, but Jesus said unless I wash you, you will have no part in my kingdom! Peter was quick to say, "Not then just my feet, but my hands and head!" We see that Jesus washes our whole person.

Now we are sanctified, that is continually being changed to be more like Jesus Christ, knowing good from evil and choosing the good. This word sounds a lot like "saint", doesn't it? That's because they share the same root word. Everyone who is a Christian is a saint, being sanctified. If you're not being changed, then you sincerely ought to doubt if you are a saint, and you must make your salvation sure.

Finally, we've got this cool word, "Justified", which is a legal word to say that we are innocent. Are we really innocent of sin? No, we were and are great sinners, of whom I am chief, but Jesus Christ became guilty in our place, so we receive his innocence. We look forward in Heaven to our glorification when we will be unable to ever sin again.

Finally we see how this happened, in the name, or character, of Jesus Christ, and accomplished by the Spirit of our God.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1st - Jesus, Called Nazarene

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron traveling
Jud, Leon, and Lee preaching
Survey of World Religion (Friday nights)
Jenny's Mom's surgery
James' knee
Mall Witnessing

Text – Isaiah 3-4,11

Here ends another wonderful year of Bible study, I hope you’ve enjoyed being taught as much as I’ve enjoyed teaching. Next year we will go through Zechariah, I was so blessed just in preparing the calendar, and I’m sure you’ll be blessed by us going through it. What started out as an intimidating book has already started to come alive for me, and I’m sure it will soon to be your favorite book in the Bible.

Today, since we’re still waiting for our new 6th graders we get to look at something off-topic, but which is totally applicable in your lives because it deals with a huge sin which the whole nation is guilty of, and which Georgia is especially guilty of, which is nation-worship. As we went through First Peter I hope you saw explicitly that we are not citizens of the World or of the United States or of Georgia, but we are citizens of Heaven and are merely guests here under this government. I want to show you yet another reason why the Bible is relevant today and that we must know it.

Last week we looked at Manasseh; who was Manasseh’s prophet? Isaiah. What’d he do to Isaiah when Isaiah confronted him with his sin? Cut him in half. So that’s my transition…not a particularly good one. We’re going to be in Isaiah today, Isaiah 3 and 4. Do you think this book was written before or after Isaiah was murdered? This seems like a dumb question, but there are some people who think there were more than one author of Isaiah…but this book has such awesome continuity that I’m sure there is no way that could happen; Isaiah wrote this whole letter.

In chapter 1 Isaiah goes through the sins of Judah and why God is angry, chapter 2 describes eternal judgment. Both of those are awesome chapters, but I think if we only went through those you wouldn’t learn as much because you already know a lot about those topics. So we’re going to be in chapter 3 because this is God’s judgment on a living nation.

2v22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?

This transitional verse is after God shows the end of the wicked and is now telling the people to listen to him instead of the many false-prophets who were operating in Israel. Today we have hundreds of popular people who are saying we don’t need to be afraid of God or worry about our sins because there is no judgment to come. God is saying otherwise, he’s going to give proof through a temporal judgment so that if his people will repent and turn back to him, they will be saved.

Imagine a little boy whose father tells him to stay with him, but then the boy runs towards a busy street and his dad catches him and spanks him for putting his life in danger and disobeying. This is a temporary consequence, but if the boy still refuses to repent and runs into the street, he will face a permanent consequence. So chapter 3 is all about temporary punishment; it could be called a very stern warning.

3v1 For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water;

The first thing I really want you to see is that this is to Israel specifically and not to America. America is not God’s chosen people, the people Israel were in the Old Covenant and the church has become Israel in the New Covenant. One of God’s judgments on Israel was famine and drought; I want t show you that we have an infinitely harsher punishment,

Amos 8:11 “Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.

We don’t really have time to look at it, but this is exactly how Laodicea was described, not lacking anything physically, but hugely lacking in spiritual things. I sincerely hope you see how blessed you are to have had Dave as a youth pastor and myself as someone whom God has put in my heart to desire to teach you the Word and to spend so much time in preparation. Beloved, I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said this lesson took me more than ten hours to prepare. Honestly, Summit is an island of grace in a sea of apostasy. Please, please, please don’t take this for granted.

3v2-3 …the Lord God of hosts is taking away…the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms.

These are all specialists, people who take their careers seriously and know what they are doing. Our school system has done a fantastic job of turning our country into a people who know a huge number of useless facts and are utterly unable to be productive. This will be exacerbated in your generation as we gain people who can’t research because Google has destroyed their discipline, who can’t communicate because Twitter has killed their attention span, who can’t devote themselves to one spouse because television has glamorized fornication, who can’t read a map because GPS has washed their brains. And look, it ranges from noble professions like judges and preachers, to even people God hates, magicians and charmers. In a God abandoned society nobody does their job well.

This is what my sermon is going to be on when Pastor Aaron gives me the opportunity to preach it, and so I exhort you now to do whatever you do with all your might, as though Christ was your boss, because we are called to excellence.

3v4 And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them.

When Isaiah was writing this, we can take it literally, because Manasseh would take the throne at 12 years old. But, see this as also figuratively that people in charge really never grew up. I considered not making this point, but it has to be made, that our president is the epitome of this verse. He acts like Justin Bieber on television, he’s totally in love with himself and takes every opportunity to exalt himself. Recently he showed his total lack of forethought when he was smoking on television on the beach in Louisiana and flings the cigarette right down onto the sand. The main point is that the leaders of the country will be uneducated, immature, and incompetent. Facebook keeps me in touch with high school and Air Force friends and they are all still 12 with no sign of maturing.

3v5 And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable.

This exists in America, I’m sure you see it, but I want to jump the pond real quick. When I lived in England I was not a Christian, but my analysis of the country was that everyone was out to steal from everyone else. The farmer sold his food for too much and felt he was getting one over on the store owner. The store sold the food for too much to customers and felt he was benefiting. The mechanics sold parts and labor for way too much. The police were totally corrupt and lazy, the taxes were through the roof, and nobody had any desire to help anyone else. It was a never ending cycle of no one being able to trust anyone or ever getting a fair deal or feeling right about how they treated people. I remember even as a non-Christian feeling that that nation was abandoned by God.

In the youth you could see an utter disregard for life, property, or authority. In the United States if your car is stolen is probably gets pieced out and the thieves make a decent amount of money…it’s still totally wrong, but at least they have a purpose. There is a pandemic in England of car theft, but most of the cars end up burned or driven into lakes or crashed, for no monetary purpose but just because. It is a MISERABLE way to live and the culture there reflects it in skyrocketing alcoholism, suicide, and depression.

The United States isn’t too far behind. Isaiah doesn’t mention financial collapse by name, but we see in the next verse that it is implied.

3v6 For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying:"You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule";

With the lack of trained leaders, we see the people desperate for any leadership, the credentials become someone who hasn’t lost their jacket. We see this in our last election where we were forced to choose between the lesser of two evils (which we failed to do), and the problem with choosing between two evils is that you’ll always end up with evil.

The upcoming response is tragic, he says, “I have lost my jacket…I can’t be in charge.”

3v7-8 in that day he will speak out, saying:"I will not be a healer; in my house there is neither bread nor cloak; you shall not make me leader of the people." For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence.

These people are not victims, they have willfully run into these situations by exalting themselves and ignoring and disobeying God. This next verse was true for Judah, but beloved when we compare America to them, we make Judah look like angels.

3v9 For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.

What was Sodom’s sin? Homosexuality. I think it is amazingly prophetic that Isaiah chooses the word “parade” to describe their sin. Part of God’s grace is shame, ironically, because it lets us know we are sinning and drives us away from sin, but when it is removed the people dive into sin, and from here we see the “Woe to them” which is a funeral lament, expressing that these people are counted dead. I don’t want you to think this only refers to homosexuals, but that you remember that we were ALL dead in sin before Christ raised us from the dead. But I also don’t want you to overlook that this is a sign of God’s judgment.

Paul was undoubtedly considering this verse when he wrote Romans 1:24-25, which we won’t read now for time’s sake, but it says exactly what Isaiah just said.

3v10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.

Shall we all die and face the consequences? No, here we see that if we have received righteousness from Christ, we will be spared. Judah would have read this both temporally and spiritually, and so I hope you’ll also realize that our reward, won for us and provided to us on the cross, is in Heaven. What amazing grace it is that God would address his saints and reassure us even in the midst of him giving such harsh words to the reprobate.

3v11-12 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. My people— infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.

Isaiah speaks of the oppressors being infants. I don’t think this is spiritual or figurative at all, but he’s literally saying that kids are in charge. The reason I believe this is because I see this in our country, that children are in charge of the household and the parents live to serve them. It’s exactly opposite how it should be; it is a sign of judgment.

Another sign is that women are in charge. Here it is vitally important that our theology is right, that we see that God isn’t against women, but that he created them with the major purpose of them representing the church and men representing Christ. The church should never feel they are in a position to tell Christ what to do, and likewise it’s not that women are incapable of being in charge or are intellectually inferior, because there are plenty of verses that say exactly the opposite, that women and men are equal intellectually and spiritually. What we see here is a rejection of theology, of women striving (as it says in Genesis) to be over men.

And then we see that those who are in charge aren’t doing a good job, but are misleading the people and driving them to ruin. It’s all quite depressing. Look who God blames:

3v13-15 The LORD has taken his place to contend; he stands to judge peoples. The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: "It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?" declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

This is a continuing theme in the Bible that the people who represent God and are supposed to be teachers are found to be at fault for failing to teach the whole counsel of God. If we had more time we could spend a huge amount of time on this, but our major application here is to preach the Bible verse by verse and not skip things that are offensive or our hearers don’t want to hear. We might make more money and friends by preaching what unbelievers want to hear, but ultimately we’re lying to them and bringing destruction on them and dishonoring God. The vineyard idea is really expounded on in Isaiah 5, you might consider going home and reading it tonight.

We’re coming to the end of judgment, but look at something that I hope really convicts both the young men and ladies in this class to look to the inner person instead of the outer person for beauty.

3v16-24 The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, flirting along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.

Ultimately I think it speaks for itself, that God is concerned with the inner person and not the outer adorning. Finally we see a major judgment which a cult in Kansas has made a whole ministry out of,

3v25-26 Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground.

America loses far less soldiers in battle than most countries, but we’ve still been mired in impossible and unfruitful wars for decades now. Don’t think these have been outside of the scope or control of God. We see that America hasn’t reaped the full harvest of this judgment yet, as Judah had, as chapter 4 verse one attributes,

4v1 And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, "We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach."

Judah lost so many men in battle that there were seven women to every living man, and they were desperate to be married and forget that the population disparity was a punishment for their sin.

So with all of that sin and judgment are we hopeless? No, we still have a hope, one which was prophesied 600 years before it happened here in Isaiah’s gospel,

4v2 In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.

Here is one of the strangest titles for Jesus in the Bible, he’s called a branch, or in Hebrew (Isaiah 11:1), a Nazar (or Netser).

Matthew 2:23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

With the little time we have left I want to read what Isaiah is introducing here in chapter 4, he really says it better in chapter 11, which is what he was intending to do from this introduction:

11v1-10 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

So, your application is that nations apart from Christ are doomed, but that he came into the very people whom hated him and he died for their sins, defeating death so that he will restore all things. Put your trust in him and not in a nation. When you see the judgment of God fall on a nation do not just point it out, but point people to the signal of hope, the Nazarene who was dead but is yet alive, who is mighty to save and abounding in grace and righteousness for all those who will come to him, but will defeat his enemies with a Word.