Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26 - The Curse of the Law

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron - Matt 28
Covington Witnessing, esp Charles and New Age Lady
Preaching at KSU
Students still traveling - Back to School
North Cobb Homecoming Ministry
Shelby's Detention

Text – Zechariah 5:1-4

Last week we looked at a really complicated lighting system, what was it made up of? It was a seven pronged lampstand with tubes running from a big golden bowl and the bowl was connected to two olive trees. What was the main point of this lighting system? That it was automated, and apart from God we can do nothing. The verse the sums it all up is,

Zechariah 4:6 Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts."

Who are the two olive trees representative of? First the King and the High Priest, and more permanently Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. One thing that I forgot to mention completely was the oil and what it represents. What sort of oil was this? Olive oil. What was its purpose? Fuel to the lamps so they would stay lit.

Looking at the New Testament, what does the lampstand represent? The church, and individual churches. How are churches fueled by God? Through the Word of Christ:

John 17:17-19 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

So the oil here represents God's Word to his people, under the Old Covenant this was delivered in sundry and amazing ways, but today it is delivered through God's Son, as revealed through the Bible. You remember that I said that the Hebrew is vague on exactly how the oil gets from the bowl to the lampstand, it's either 7 tubes or 49 tubes or maybe and probably 7 tubes from the bowl and 7 tubes connecting the lamps together. This way the lights are all connected and this reminds us to constantly be edifying the saints, and fellowship of individual churches, and sharing Bible verses and encouraging one another to shine forth in the world.

Ephesians 5:14 "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Last week it could be said that the Word is a blessing, an anointing that fuels us and allows us to do great works. Our lesson today is going to look at the Word of God not as a blessing but as a curse. Before we read Zechariah I want to show you that just because we now walk in the light does not guarantee we will always be in the light, a church can lose its way and become mired in either doctrine or love, failing to love righteousness, and be both hearers and doers of God's Word.

Revelation 2:4-5 I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

So let's read Zechariah 5:1-4 and see the Word turned towards those who are neither hearers nor doers and see that it is a curse to many.

Zechariah 5:1-4 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! And he said to me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits." Then he said to me, "This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side. I will send it out, declares the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones."

Picture this scroll for our intents and purposes as a flying Bible, that is how Zechariah would have understood it, the very Word of God in action.

v.1-2 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! And he said to me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits."

The first time we see this scroll it is airborne, but not moving, the Hebrew means it is hovering. This scroll is MASSIVE, it's the size of a room, specifically the Holy Place of the Temple. A cubit is the length of your arm from elbow to finger-tip. It's not particularly strange that it's so big, there are several large scrolls of ancient antiquity. This would have been a parchment scroll, animal skin, and we see that it is going without the help of men, just as we saw earlier that the lamps stay lit without the help of men.

First we just see it hovering, but soon we'll see it moving:

v.3 Then he said to me, "This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land."

It goes out, not just over Israel, but over the whole world. This curse is the law of God, which is not a sin itself, but reveals sin in our lives and shows what sin is, and so such it becomes a curse to all sinners:

Romans 7:7-10 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.

Read verse 10 again, The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.

That started long ago in the Garden of Eden, but it continues today in our own sin:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

How can we say that the law of God is a curse to the whole world if the whole world hasn't read God's law? It's not for lack of effort that they don't have the law, missionaries have been sending the Bible out for thousands of years, but many reject it and outlaw it and burn it and think that they have found another way to be justified, but this law doesn't need to be in written form to stand against sinners, indeed, just hearing the law doesn't set those who have the Bible above those who don't.

Romans 2:12-16 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

There are no lack of verses that back this up, do you get the point though, that the Bible can be both a blessing and a curse? It reveals the words of eternal life, but if we don't heed them we will be cursed by the Bible. Alternately we don't trust in just reading the Bible and sort of keeping it, though many people in the past did, and many people today still do. Christ was very harsh towards them:

John 5:45-47 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?

Let's look at a short sample of the sort of curses Moses gave, this is Deuteronomy 27:

"'Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the LORD, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.' And all the people shall answer and say, 'Amen.'

"'Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

"'Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor’s landmark.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

"'Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

"'Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner (traveler), the fatherless, and the widow.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

I'm going to summarize verse 20-23 for the sake of you getting the point, go back and read this later with your parents, but there is a greater point here than the individual sins that are being committed. Somebody read 1 Thessalonians 4:3 for us before we go any farther:

1 Thessalonians 4:3 This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality...

"'Cursed be anyone who performs sexual immorality, for they sin against God, themselves, and other people.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

"'Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

"'Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

"'Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

This is just a taste of how the law of Moses can curse, there are many other ways. Let's go back to Zechariah and see how it will curse according to his vision:

v.3 For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side.

These are commandments, right? Stealing is the eighth, lying is the ninth. These are the two that I find people have the least problem with, but here God is saying that these are fit to be cursed and eradicated by his law. His perfection requires perfection, he cannot tolerate even the smallest of sins.

Revelation 21:8 ...all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

Yesterday we witnessed to a young man named Charles who said he would get into Heaven because he knew God and loved his world and the people in the world. I asked him he ever lied to anyone, he said he had, I said he had failed to love that person. I asked if he had ever stolen from someone, he said he had, I told him that he wasn't loving that person. I asked about hating someone and looking with lust, and Charles realized quite quickly that he wasn't loving people, but that the curse of the law would be his downfall. This is why people curse: cursed words are an indication of the condition of our heart, for out of our heart our mouth professes:

Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Is this law just incidentally a curse, and God is sad and surprised that it brings death? No, not at all, in verse 4 we see that God is the one using his law a curse:

v.4 I will send it out, declares the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones.

This curse will find the sinner where they live, there is no hiding or amnesty or statute of limitations.

Numbers 32:23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.

God is making an allusion in verse 4 to the law causing those who break it to be similar to lepers. (Leviticus 14:43-45) Leprosy defiles a person and prevents them from standing in God's presence, and they are required to tear down their house and take it out of the city. The law will put a person out of God's presence and city forever. It is very tempting to say that this is another reason why Jesus Christ went out of the city, that they destroyed the temple of his body and took it outside of the city and this was God symbolically taking all sin outside of the city in Christ's body. However, the New Testament doesn't affirm this so we'll have to wait 'till we get to Heaven to be sure this was a direct fulfillment. I'm fairly sure it's right though.

But there is a direct fulfillment about this curse in the New Testament and so let me show you that while we were all condemned under the law, cursed by our failure to affirm and do everything there-in written. Let's look at one that we haven't personally been cursed by:

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 If a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

None of us has been cursed by being hanged on a tree, but do you know anyone who has?

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree."

So there is hope for the cursed, there is an anointing from the Anointed One whom was cursed for us, he stood in our place, consumed by his Father's wrath for our transgressions. We must repent towards God, we must trust wholly in his saving work, we must apologize for our sins and seek forgiveness from the God who justifies.

If we won't, this curse will lead to our damnation, not because the law is sin, but because that very commandment which meant life has become death to us when we transgressed it.

Those who will not repent are storing up wrath to be revealed on the day of wrath, as Isaiah says so well,

Isaiah 24:4-6 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left.

Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt...Beloved, I implore you, in the name of Christ, do not put your trust in this law which we cannot keep, rather put your trust in the Law Giver and Keeper, Christ himself, who though he was perfect in every way, gave himself up to deliver us from this present evil age according to the will of our great God and Father:

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19th - The Light of the World

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron’s Sermon Series - Matthew 28
Preaching KSU Tomorrow
Witnessing Coventry on Saturday
Students traveling this week (Balfours, McGullions, Geils, Westbrooks, Pollocks, Ratcliffes, etc)
Success in school
Jennifer's friend moving
Ministry Burnouts

Text – Zechariah 4

Beloved, during the summer I was preparing the curriculum for this year and Zechariah appeared to be the perfect book for us because it’s so much fun and has so much awesome symbolism and teaches so much, but when I came to chapter four I almost scrapped that idea all together. This is a HARD chapter to explain and understand and so I’m going to start out teaching a little differently today than I normally do so that you get the major point and not the exact details.

Before we go too far in, let’s just look at verse 1 of chapter 4, then we’ll talk about context.

v.1-2 And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, "What do you see?"

We find Zechariah in deep thought; why is he that way? What just happened in Zechariah 3? In Zechariah 3 we see God covering and cleansing the sin of Israel, stating that in a single day he will put their sin away. This was a huge event for Zechariah and he is contemplating what exactly it means and how God might do it.

What was wrong with Joshua when he stood before God? He was filthy. What did that filth represent? The sin of Israel. Could Joshua stand in the presence of God in that state? Absolutely not. So what did God do? He changes Joshua’s clothing with brand new ones.

It is amazing that God takes what is so disgusting, our sin and sinful nature, and radically transforms us to be pleasing to him. A verse that beautifully shows that we’ve put off our old nature and have inherited a new nature is:

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

Zechariah is concentrating so hard on how amazing it is that God is putting off the sin of Israel in a single day that he misses that there is a new vision to see. The angel gets his attention, and instead of Zechariah asking a question, the angel asks him, “What do you see?”

I imagine that this is a little like Paul and John in Heaven, that they couldn’t describe what they saw. Zechariah sees something amazing, and it’s so amazing that describing it is difficult. So if you don’t understand exactly what we’re looking at, know that the ambiguity is probably intended, and that we’re only supposed to understand a very complicated contraption with a very definitive purpose.

v.2 I said, "I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it,

This part is straightforward enough, he sees a menorah like lampstand, with seven candles. This is a fixture in the temple which lights the holy place. Daily the priests had to refill the oil wells in order that they wouldn’t be in the dark. What is different about this lampstand from the temple is that this one has a bowl on top,

v.2 with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.

Here’s where it gets confusing. The Hebrew here is not at all clear as to exactly how these lamps are fed from the bowl. Every translation says something a bit different that radically changes how we see this lampstand. It has at least seven tubes which bring oil from the bowl to the lamps, and as many as forty-nine. I think the best way to understand it is that there are seven tubes from the bowl, and also seven connecting tubes between the candle reservoirs. However, there could be tubes running every which way.

This is significantly different from the lampstand in the temple which needed each reservoir to be filled individually by a priest. These are self filling as long as there is oil in the bowl. Let’s jump forward a few verses to see who refills this bowl:

v.3,12 “And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” “the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out…”

There are two olive trees on either side of the lamp. Do you know off-hand what kind of oil these lamps burned? Olive oil. So the people would take the olives, and through very specific processes make oil out of them, then take them to the priests, and they would put it in the lamps, and then they would have light. The work involved was incredibly tedious and time consuming. This represents the Old Covenant.

But here we see the New Covenant, a completely automated light system, the candles are fed directly from a bowl of oil, and the bowl of oil is fed directly from olive trees. There is no human involvement at all. Confused yet? You’re not alone, let’s go back to verse 4,

v.4-5 And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord."

Zechariah asks a question, and for the first time he doesn’t get a straight answer, instead Jesus is pretty sharp with him, basically asking the question in admonition wondering that Zechariah doesn’t know what he’s looking at. Obviously this is the lampstand from the temple. Zechariah is honest and says he still doesn’t understand. Jesus goes on a tangent which seems unimportant until we realize that this lampstand is fully automated.

v.6-7 Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'"

Zerubbabel, for context and reminder, is the governor of Jerusalem. He is a descendant of David and a great-great grandfather of Jesus Christ. He is actually in the place of the king, though because Judah has been conquered by so many nations they are not allowed to have a king.

Zerubbabel has accomplished and is going to accomplish some amazing things, he brought many exiles back to Judah, he built an altar to offer sacrifices to God, he commissioned the rebuilding of the temple, Haggai announced that God recognized Zerubbabel as king of Jerusalem, and here we see that he will be the one who places the final stone on the temple to complete it. Based on his influence Nehemiah would then be able to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.

Zerubbabel did some outright amazing things, but God is quick to point out that it’s not because of Zerubbabel’s might or power that these things got done, but because of God’s power and might. God is saying he can take the greatest problem and make it a non-issue for his people. God makes molehills out of mountains. Let’s read three verses that support this idea from elsewhere in the Bible:

John 3:27 John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Psalm 127:1-2 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

The rejoicing that would ensue at the completion of the temple would be very tempting for Zerubbabel to become prideful, but this is a call here for him to remain humble and realize that God is the one who equipped him and gave him the strength to do what he has done. We must give the glory to God, so that others see it and give the glory to God.

v.8-9 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.

This is a little veracity check in the middle of Zechariah’s book for the people he is directly preaching to. It doesn’t much apply to us now because we look back and see that Zerubbabel did commission and finish the temple. But at the time of the writing of this the temple was not yet finished. The people must have been asking, “How do we know God is actually talking to Zechariah and that it’s not the devil, or maybe Zechariah just ate some bad olives or bad pizza and is having nightmares?” Well here we have a check for them, that God not only guaranteed that the temple would be completed, but that the topstone would be put in place by Zerubbabel. When they saw this happen they would know that Zechariah was a true prophet. We have an infinitely better check because Zechariah is so perfectly describing the Messiah whom we can compare and see a perfect fulfillment in many places.

v.10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

I LOVE this verse, it’s the greatest verse ever. I also heard some outright TERRIBLE sermons on this verse because people aren’t looking at the context. At the beginning of this temple some people were excited, but those who had seen Solomon’s old beautiful temple were sad because this temple was not nearly as glorious, and they were also hoping for the huge extravagant temple that Ezekiel describes in chapters 40-48. It could be said that they DESPISED the small temple because it wasn’t what they were hoping for.

One of the silliest verses in the Bible, if it wasn’t so tragic (but then redeemed here in verse 10) is,

Ezra 3:12-13 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

But we see that those who despised the small temple would rejoice because they’ve seen that God had returned to their midst, that he had reappointed his king in Zerubbabel, that he’s cleansed his priest in Joshua, that he has welcomed Judah back into fellowship, and that there is a continued promise for a coming Messiah. Here we have an incidental prophecy for the King of Glory who would be born into such a poor family as to be born in a manger.

Mark 7:2-3 On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.

Just as the Israelites in Zechariah’s day were disgusted with a small temple when they were expecting a great temple, so were the people in Jesus’ day disgusted with a carpenter when they were expecting a warrior. But when we see Christ risen from the dead, we rejoice, we see that Christ is vindicated by the Spirit as perfect, that though we expected something different, we see that what we expected was incorrect because Christ is perfect and what we needed all along. Zerubbabel would finish the temple, drop the plum line from the top to check the perfection of the temple, and then Haggai tells us that God would fill the whole temple with his glory. This is worth rejoicing over, especially since we’ve seen the glory as of the only Son from the Father.

God answers a question now which Zechariah didn’t even ask from chapter 3, because Zechariah was so caught up in the amazingness of God forgiving sins. This is what the seven eyes on the cornerstone represent:

v.10 "These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth."

For time’s sake let me just remind you that this represents the omniscient (all knowing) Jesus as ultimately being the temple of God, not this building that Zerubbabel is overseeing work on. Christ is the cornerstone and the capstone of God, and that everything here said about the temple is ultimately prophecy for his body as the temple. Let’s just read one verse so you see that I’m not making this up:

John 2:19-21 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

v.11-13 Then I said to him, "What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?" And a second time I answered and said to him, "What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?" He said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord."

Zechariah really wants to know what these are, so he’s asked now three times, and again Jesus says he should already know, but fortunately for us God answers us in our persistence.

v.14 Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth."

These two olive trees represent two things, one temporal, and one eternal. We know this through many references to anointing in the Bible. First of all, Zechariah would instantly recognize this language as referring to the High Priest and the King, they were anointed and authorized to stand with God. These two were the conduits by which God was blessing his people.

However, when we read Revelation we see that this lampstand represents the church, which was established after Christ’s sacrifice on that one day at Calvary, and we know that Christ and the Holy Spirit are the ones who anoint/bless/strengthen the church. Consider this really, quick: there is one church, but there are many church buildings. There was only one Israel and only one temple. In Zechariah’s day there was only one lampstand here, only one light source, but under the church we have many lampstands described in the New Testament. Read Revelation 1-3 to see that, I wish I had time to show it to you.

We see that the church is sustained not by the works of men, but by the free grace of God. Again, many verses say this, but I really want to get to Christ’s further exposition on this topic. Have you ever heard of the two witnesses of Revelation? These are two preachers in Jerusalem during the tribulation who are given supernatural powers. Have you ever heard who some people think they are? Elijah and Enoch. Do you know why? It’s because those two never died, and if it’s appointed for a man once to die, some people think they have an appointment to keep. But that doesn’t make sense because Paul says there are many who won’t die but will see Christ return. I know who these two witnesses are, at least I’m pretty sure.

Let me set this up for you, in Second Thessalonians it says that Christ won’t return until the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist, sets himself as God in the temple. In order for Jerusalem to have a temple, they will need to build one, and then they will appoint a High Priest. I believe that these two witnesses will be the converted High Priest and the leader of Jerusalem, will we call him a King or Governor or Mayor? I don’t know, but these two witnesses will be recent Jewish converts to Christianity, the king and high priest of Jerusalem.

Revelation 11:2-13 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here!" And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

So your application is that Zechariah was under an Old Covenant, one which required works to maintain; in order to have light, the people and priests needed to refill the lampstand. But under our New Covenant we do not maintain our faith, Christ maintains us, and his light will shine forth. Let’s read two last verses to draw this all to conclusion,

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Philippians 2:14-16 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

And beloved, in all of this, remember that it is not by your power or your might that you do these things, but by the Spirit of God, so that people may see it and give glory to the God of Heaven.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12th - God our Saviour

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron - Ephesians 2
Taste of Kennesaw Witnessing
Hannah's Parents - Safe Travel
Kyle's first lecross game
James' camping with scouts
PB&J Results
David's car
Alex's homecoming

Text – Zechariah 3

Imagine yesterday we went to the zoo and they had a big sign that said, "Free Elephant to a Good Home!" And we went and looked at it was a big giant one and we said we wanted it and they asked if we had a place to keep it. We told them we had a big barn with several acres of field and forest and a pond, and a whole new soccer field for him to eat, so they let us have him. It took us all day to ride him back to Summit and when we got here the gate to the barn was locked so we put him in the sanctuary and intended to come first thing in the morning and move him to the barn.

Well, we slept in and got here right when everyone else was getting here...and we sort of forgot to ask permission if we could keep an elephant at Summit. So we sat down and looked at this big giant elephant sitting in the corner by the piano. For some reason people aren't talking about him, but we all know he's there. So we start the service and sing, and pray, and Pastor Aaron stands up to give the sermon and preaches for a while on his selected text...then pauses and says, "Can someone tell me what is the deal with this elephant?"

It's there, it's gotta be talked about, it's a huge subject and one we can't ignore. That is what we're dealing with in Zechariah 3. In Zechariah 1 we see that God has brought the Jews back from their Babylonian captivity and has utterly crushed Babylon. Then in chapter 2 we saw that God is jealous for his people and is not only being extremely gracious to his people, but that he is going to be gracious to the entire world.

Up to this point what has Zechariah been famous for when he doesn't understand something? Asking questions. This whole time I think he has had a question running through his mind, it's bigger than an elephant in the room, it is massive, and when God answers it he doesn't ask a question but knows exactly what is happening. So now we come to the fourth of eight visions.

Zechariah 3:1-10 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?" Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree."

Our elephant in the room is Israel's sins. They were sold by God into exile for their absolute wickedness. When we see them brought back we see in Zechariah 1 it is because they have repented, but I'm sure that Zechariah was wondering, "Did our exile pay for our sins?" I talked to a girl once who thought she would go to Heaven because her sister died of cancer and it was really hard on the girl to watch her sister suffer. Our suffering is a result of sin, the world is wearing out because of sin, we can't pay for our sin with the result of our sin. So now we dive headlong into what God is going to do with Israel's sins.

v.1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest

This Joshua is a literal person, he came back from the exile with Zerubbabel the governor. The High Priest is the representative of the people before God, he is the one that is able to enter the presence of God and make atonement for their sins. He did this once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and he did it in the Holy of Holies in the temple, and he would wear bells on his robe so that if he sinned in God's presence or didn't adequately cleanse himself and he died, then the priests outside would hear the bells stop tinkling and realize that their sins were not paid for. At this point the temple is nearing completion and so the High Priest will be entering into the presence of God soon, and because of his sins and the sins of the people, I don't think there would ever be a more terrifying event for a High Priest, save for Christ going to the cross to offer his own blood as sacrifice. In Chapter 6 we are going to see another Joshua, the Messiah, our King and High Priest.

Isaiah 33:14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?"

In the rest of the verse we see that this is a court setting:

v.1 standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

The vision doesn't see fit to describe the courtroom, but Revelation 20:12 does:

Revelation 20:11-12 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

And we see who the prosecutor is, none other than Satan himself. The word for prosecutor or accuser in Hebrew is satan; Zechariah wants us to understand that this isn't just some lawyer, so he calls this, "The Satan", the one and only, the most magnificent thing ever created, the one whom sought to seat himself above God, the one who is called the Father of Lies, the one dressed in an outfit of gold, emeralds, and diamonds, a demon masquerading as an angel of light.

As the prosecutor I am sure that Satan is prepared, he probably has a dossier filled with every sin ever committed in Jerusalem and he is prepared to present it to God, and Joshua the High Priest will not be able to deny any of them. I imagine Zechariah held his breath at this point in preparation to hear Satan's attack. But he never gets to make it:

v.2 And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?"

God doesn't even let Satan speak, God has chosen his people and he will not let any one separate us from him, let alone even bring a charge against us in his courts,

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

This language for "brand plucked from the fire" is amazingly beautiful. Imagine a big raging fire and you throw a stick into it, how long is it going to last? Not long, it is going to be fully consumed. But God, to great pain to himself, reached into the fire and snatched that stick out before it could be burnt. This is now what we do when we evangelize, the whole world is kindling ready to be consumed, but we have this command:

Jude 1:22-23 And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

So we see that God is not going to let Satan accuse Joshua or Israel, but that still doesn't take care of their massive list of sins. But this is the last we'll hear from Satan on this matter.

Jude talked about people whose garments are stained by their sin, this is the same with Joshua.

v.3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.

These represent his sins. These garments aren't just sweaty or wrinkled, the Hebrew word for filthy symbolizes that Joshua put this robe on and went and rolled in the pig sty. He is literally FILTHY, and standing in the Holy of Holies in this state would have meant his instant death. But God is gracious.

v.4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you,

Our sin is taken away, but we can't stand naked in front of God either! Joshua is still in trouble!

2 Corinthians 5:2-3 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.

I witnessed to a little old lady once who was one of the most prideful people I've ever talked to and was sure her good-deeds would impress God and that she had earned her way into Heaven; at the end I asked her if she was really ready to stand naked in her sins before the Throne of God, and that really got to her. Hopefully she got saved and we'll see her dressed in the righteousness of Christ in Heaven.

v.4 and I will clothe you with pure vestments."

My favorite verse in the whole Bible is

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Symbolically our clean clothes represent a covering of shame, an external covering, and these point to Jesus Christ. In the Bible there is a sort of weird command which is REALLY important:

Deuteronomy 22:11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.

Why would God care if you wear a cotton/polyester blend? This command really didn't make sense until we see it referring to the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that if you've got 70% Jesus and 30% your own pride, then you're as good as naked before God. You must wear 100% Jesus in order to be counted righteous in the sight of God:

Romans 13:14 Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

We don't have time to look at it now, but check out the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 and check out that the Father puts a robe on the son when he returns. This is a major theme throughout the Bible.

As Zechariah is standing there knowing EXACTLY what is going on, he doesn't need to ask questions, but he can't hold in any longer he's so excited to see that Israel's sins are put off, they were red like scarlet but they've been made white as snow, and he notices that Joshua has lost his Mitre, his hat when God removed it from the head of the High Priest in Ezekiel 21:26, and he calls out!

v.5 And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

The angel of the Lord is who? Jesus Christ. He is standing by watching this priest be sanctified because of work that Jesus would do as the final High Priest 500 years in the future.

Hebrews 7:26-28 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

But at the time that Zechariah is seeing this vision, Christ has not yet died, he has not yet risen, so they do not yet have assurance of a full forgiveness of sins, they are still under a conditional covenant. This point is really going to be made well in chapter 5, but until we get there, check out

v.6-7 And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.

They will never make it on their own, which is why it is so important that we look to Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who did keep God's commands perfectly and is now in charge of the kingdom. We're not spending too much time on this topic because it is really the main point of chapter 5.

At this point I imagine both Zechariah and Joshua's countenance fell, they knew they couldn't keep the law, not even a little. But again we get a promise of this coming High Priest:

v.8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.

The word for Branch here is not Nazar, like it is in Isaiah, that Christ would be called a Nazarene. A Nazar is a branch on a tree, this word is Tsemach which is a sprout of a tree. It represents hope, and new life, and new growth. It is very Messianic and again this topic will be covered later in Zechariah. This is just the taste of something great to come.

v.9 For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts

This stone refers to the freshly laid cornerstone of the temple. The reason it has eyes has been largely lost to us, the original audience would have understood, but I think it means that this stone is not literally the rock but is speaking of a living and seeing and knowing stone. God is not going to build his kingdom on a piece of granite, but on a Person. The engraved description refers to the engraving on the mitre of the High Priest, stating that this stone would also be a High Priest, and the engraving would say, "Holiness Belongs to the Lord"

v.9 and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.

What day was this? The day Christ poured out his blood for the forgiveness of sins of many on Calvary's cross. And finally in this chapter is something that Zechariah would have understood a bit, but I don't think he would have understood it as well as we can now understand it,

v.10 In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree."

This is reminiscent of when Israel was ridiculously rich and well fed and well protected (1 Kings 4:25); it was a great time in Israel's history. Now we know that Christ has secured our place in Heaven, were all of these things will be eternal; Zechariah would have understood it as the coming of a new king and new age of prosperity, which happened a bit under the Maccabees, but we see it perfected in our Messiah and King, Jesus Christ, when we get to Heaven.

So, your application is that Christ is your great High Priest, we could not stand in the presence of God for our sinfulness. In our current state we would have less chance of survival in the presense of God than an ice cube on the surface of the sun, but Christ entered once, not having to cleanse himself because he was perfect, but he offered his sacrifice, himself, for our sins, which God readily accepted. So now we know because Christ kept the commandments perfectly, we are clothed in his righteousness, if indeed we have put on Christ, making no provision for the flesh to satisfy its desires.