Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 31st - Reformation Day, An Eyewitness Account

Prayer Requests
Todd Love injuries
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Fall Festival
Marietta Square
- Al
- Group of Girls
- Spiderman
Praise for Mark's finger being better
Disciple Now

Text – Romans 1:17

Good morning, isn’t it a beautiful Wednesday October 31st, Anno Domini 1517? My name, for today, is Reverend Scherer, Augustinian Monk in Wittenburg, electorate of Saxony, Confederation of the Rhine, which is in Deutchland. Something is going to happen today, I fear, for Brother Martin has been complaining of the validity of some of the practices within the Papacy. I share some of his concerns, but he has written 95 charges against the Church and the Pope, surely this will bring great dissension and maybe even cost Brother Martin his life! I mean, a few may start a dialogue, but 95 will start a war!

Let me give you some background. The year is 1517, Anno Domini, which means 1,517 years after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, as estimated by a Scythian Monk named Dennis the Short in AD 525. Throughout this time the Lord has had a church on earth, a representative of his kingdom, an ambassador to the heathen.

This church has had such great saints in it as Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp bishop of Smyrna who remained true to Christ in such great persecution, Augustine of Hippo who wrote that great systematic theology, Nicholas bishop of Myra who stood up to that antichrist Arius who denied Christ as God, Patrick who converted Ireland, Boniface who converted our beloved Germany, Francis who preached directly out of God’s Word in the open air and called men to repent and trust in Jesus Christ, Savonarola who fought corruption within the Church, and Christopher Columbus who has just recently taken the gospel to previously undiscovered heathen lands; time would fail me to tell of all of the great men and women who stood and even died for the one true faith delivered once for all.

But alas, there is great corruption within the Church, just last year John Tetzel came to Wittenberg to sell men tickets to sin, called indulgences! Only a hundred years ago there were two Popes operating in Christendom…at the same time! It is said that there is a prostitute in Rome for every ten men, and some of them even dress as nuns! It is a sad day in the Church, surely something must be done.

I have here a Bible authorized by the Papacy, translated by that godly man Jerome of Stridonium. Beloved, I would that you could read this book, but it is in Latin, and you speak German, and most of you cannot even read that language. I could read it to you, but I am untrained in how to interpret it for you, and the true meaning seems to be veiled to my eyes; from Rome comes the message of which I will preach to you on Sunday, and even then I will deliver this message to you in Latin, a language I hold a masters degree in from Erfurt, but still find difficult to understand.

This Book is God’s Word to us, and the German language is too harsh for us to dare translate it into, lest we blaspheme our Creator. Two men whom the Church leaders hate, Jon Hus and John Wycliffe, did presume to translate this Book into the vernacular, the common language, of the people. Wycliffe into the English language, and though sentenced to death by burning escaped only by natural death, a stroke most likely. Hus into the Bohemian language, and he was burned at the stake for it. Aha, Wycliffe did not escape the fire though, for they burned his bones along with Hus’. Oh how the Church hates these men!!! But…I am not so sure they were in the wrong, for I have been reading this Book in a new light ever since I have been talking to Professor Luther.

Brother Martin asked me to read Romans 1:17, which was strange because my Bible does not have numbers in it, which won’t be added until 1558, but he asked me to read this verse. Fraulein Hannah, would you read this for us?

Romans 1:17 Iustitia enim Dei in eo revelatur ex fide in fidem sicut scriptum est iustus autem ex fide vivit.

Isn’t that beautiful! How have we missed that until now? It means things that we have not been taught by the Church, it says that our greatest fears are relieved by our amazing God, it sets my heart at ease! It attacks those who say we can buy our way into Heaven, it rejects our Prince’s relics which we look upon to hope for Heaven, and it rejects that wolf Tetzel who comes and steals from our widows and orphans by selling them a license to sin. Oh how I hate that extortioner Tetzel, who uses religious ignorance and our sinners’ heart to deprive us of us sustenance and sends the money to Rome to build that worthless Basilica of St. Peter.

Oh beloved, this verse in Romans is so beautiful; Brother Martin says when he read it a light broke forth over him! He felt that he was instantly born again, and that he entered into the kingdom of paradise through open gates! Oh the beauty of this verse, don’t you agree? What? You don’t understand it! Oh, forgive me, I forgot that you do not speak Latin.

Oh beloved, in order to translate this for you I put my own ordination at risk, I break Roman law not to preach the Word of God in the vernacular of the people! Oh, but is it wise to obey men or God? I must speak that what I have seen and heard of this Christ!

Romans 1:17 Sintemal darin offenbart wird die Gerechtigkeit, die vor Gott gilt, welche kommt aus Glauben in Glauben; wie denn geschrieben steht: "Der Gerechte wird seines Glaubens leben."

Now you must see it! Surely you see it?! No? Oh, we’re not German, we’re only pretending, let us try one more time!

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

The righteous shall live by faith! We are not saved by indulgences, or prayers, or offices, or relics, or Sabbaths, or priests, or baptisms, or Church membership, or communion, we are saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, received through faith, for, righteousness is revealed from faith for faith! Beloved, you have no idea how this puts my soul at rest, I had tried so hard to keep the laws of God, but in my body I feel that I am slave to sin, that I have no ability to choose good nor God, and that my sin had utterly separated me from Heaven! But thanks be to Jesus Christ who paid for my sins, who bore my condemnation, who indeed paid it all, and now beloved, all to him I owe.

And now Brother Martin is going to start a theological war with the Papacy, he has detailed how Rome has failed to adhere to the Bible, he has placed the Bible as his sole authority. I would like to take some credit for this, for Brother Martin was once an amazing priest of the Roman Church, a better priest could not be found. He took his ordinances seriously, he spent hours in confession boring the confessional priests with peccadillo, or petty sins, and he became exceedingly angry on that day when he heard me joke in my duties. For you see, when we Roman priests take the bread for communion and lift it in thanks, we are required to say, “Hoc Est Corpus Meum” and declare the bread to be the very body of Jesus Christ, but beloved, in my boredom and God feeling so distant, once I said, “Panis es, et panis manebis,” which is certainly the truth, that “Bread thou is, and bread thou shalt remain.” Dear Brother Martin overhead and became irate, but ever since then he has diligently studied the scriptures and has genuinely become a new man! I wish that I could take credit for his conversion, but I know that all honor and power belong to the Holy Spirit of God.

At this very moment Brother Martin is on his way to nail his list of grievances to the door of the Cathedral where all public announcements are made. Ninety-five grievances, no more, no less, all vehemently attacking the corruption of the Church. Are these Theses perfect? No, by no means, I see a great many errors even in my early reading of the Holy Scriptures, but I have no doubt that Brother Luther will grow much in the following years, that is, if he survives this war he is about to declare. I have no doubt that he will grow greatly in his understanding of the Word, especially as he has confided that he would like to translate the Bible into the German language. But as for these Theses, some are quite good and accurate, I have here a few of his theses which I would like to read,

#1 When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

#21 Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved.

#27 There is no divine authority for preaching that as soon as the coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.

#32 All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

#52 It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.

#62 The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

#82 To wit: -- "Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."

These are the statements which Brother Martin has taken to the church. I tried to stop him, asking him if his life and the unity of the Church were worth him making his statement. He replied to me that he sought peace if possible, but truth at all costs.

Today, I see that Martin Luther is birthing a veritable Reformation of the Church! I see that unless God does a mighty work in the hearts of the Papists, we must split and become two churches, one following the truth, and the other a lie. Oh that this division would not have to happen, for many of my friends are loyal to the Papist cause, and it is my fervent hope and prayer to God that they may be saved. But see that there are great distinctions which will grow out of Martin Luther’s call for truth, something which some day may be called the Solas of the Reformation.

Sola Fide – Faith Alone, we see this preached oh so clearly in Romans 1:17, that we are saved not by works plus faith, but by faith alone. We trust in Christ, and it is counted to us as righteousness.

Solo Christo – Christ Alone, that our salvation was accomplished totally by our great God and Saviour on the cross and in his resurrection, not that he opened a way or made it possible for us to be saved, but that he has forever secured for us salvation, if we trust in him. Would someone please read for us Hebrews 10:14, in English, please,

Hebrews 10:14 by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Sola Gracia – Grace Alone, of course we see now that it is not Christ plus our good deeds, but Christ alone that has saved us. Beloved, I have thought on this long and hard, and it seems that we must view grace in light of justice. For justice is when we get what we deserve, and having transgressed the laws of Heaven, what we deserve is the punishment of God. If God were to merely commute our sentence and give us mercy, we would be freed from punishment, but we would still miss Heaven. Here is grace, that what we did not deserve, entrance into the very kingdom of Heaven, God has given us as a free gift, purchased at so great a cost on Calvary’s cross.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone, no-one can or should speak for God apart from his Word, it is how he speaks, it is what he intends for us to know about him. The Archbishop of the Roman Church, known as the Pope, has claimed to be able to speak for God, but we have seen him fail time and time again, and it has become clear to those of us reading our Bibles that the Word is how God speaks to us, not through prayers, not through funny feelings, not through hunches, not through dreams, not (dare I say it) through Popes; but by the very Word of God.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria – Brother Martin has put it so well, The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God. The purpose of our salvation is not primarily for our benefit, it is to exalt our Sovereign Lord, demonstrating the extent of his justice by punishing sin so violently on the cross, and magnifying his grace by giving us the righteousness of his Son freely; truly this is a gospel worthy of all acceptation.

1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

Sola Sacerdos – One of the reasons I became an Augustinian Friar is because of the things which the Papists believe the priest, the Sacerdote, is able to do. For example, you saw earlier that it is believed that I have the power to turn bread into the very body of Christ. The priest in the confessional is able to forgive sins, it is believed, and a priest can turn your money into a pardon for sin in paper form.

The Church, and I myself, have become guilty of Sacerdotalism, of worshipping the priesthood instead of God! It is tragic, beloved, and if what Brother Martin has deduced from the Bible is true, it is just a matter of time before this separation of priests and laity fails and we become a church of Sola Sacerdos, of one priesthood, where there is no distinction in God’s eyes between male and female, slave and free, Jew and Greek, and priest and parishioner.

In a Sacerdotal religion, only priests can approach God to receive grace, but in a religion of priests, everyone can enter into the holiest of places, for Christ has made us a congregation of priests, and now we all can enter into his holiest of places.

Hebrews 10:19-22 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

This has huge implications for me beloved, for I stand before you in this priests’ frock, a manner for separating me from you and identifying myself as having more grace and favor than you. But if this Christ esteems us all the same and gives to us all of the same privileges, then this outfit means nothing.

These things, beloved, that I have said to you are radical to the Church at Rome, truly I could be defrocked just for saying them, that is ejected from their priesthood, but to reject the tradition of men and be welcomed into the priesthood of Christ is gain, for though it took so long and so much effort to earn this frock, I count it as rubbish compared to the gain I have in Christ, being found in him with a righteousness not my own, but one received through faith, knowing the power of his resurrection. This may mean that I must suffer many things for his name’s sake, but I know that I will be made like him in his death, with a full assurance of partaking in his resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-9)

Beloved, I perceive that in the future as this Reformation of the church continues, the wearing of vestments, of robes, will become a matter of greater and greater contention. Men ordained to the gospel ministry, having read their Bible, will refuse to put on a robe, and some of them will even die for it. Others will attempt to redefine the purpose of this robe, stating that it is to take the emphasis off of the pastor and put the emphasis on the Word. Those that redefine this robe will begin to refer to it as a Geneva Gown, named in honor of the Geneva Reformation which will be sparked in only a few years. Two-hundred years in the future George Whitefield will preach in a robe very similar to this one for 18,000 sermons, calling two entire nations, England and America, to repentance in the Living Christ.

But as for me, beloved, I will be reminded that this Reformation is born in Sola Fide, and it is growing in Sola Scriptura, and these two are vitally important, as are the rest, but if this Reformation survives until Christ returns, it will be sustained in Sola Sacerdos, with every believer knowing that they are a priest of the most high God, Christ our overseer of the church, and these priests will take their duties seriously, knowing the scriptures, and carrying the gospel of grace to all peoples. For beloved, there is great darkness in the world today, even in the Church, but this Reformation will preach under a banner of “Post Tenebras Lux”, that out of the darkness comes the light. This world is set to explode in light, for the Word of God has been revealed. Within fifty years, a man burned in Britain will say to his companion, “Play the man, Ridley, for we this day shall light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out.”

In just a few years a new believer, William Tyndale, will translate the Bible into English, and he will say of the Roman priesthood, “A boy behind a plow will know more scripture than you.” He will lose his life, burnt at the stake, for his belief in the priesthood of believers, but his prediction will come true. Brother Martin, starting this war, will spend years in seclusion hidden in a castle as he translates the Old and New Testaments into German, and God will mercifully spare his life and bless his efforts. The printing press, invented less than 100 years ago, will ensure that these Bibles are disseminated, and that gospel tracts containing the glorious gospel of Christ will flood throughout the continent and the British isles.

I represent any number of reformed believers, my name is lost to history, but my labor in the Lord was not in vain. I will remove this robe and preach no longer in Latin, but in the vernacular of the people, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of Christ. I will not submit to a man acting vicariously in the place of Christ, but my affections and loyalties will only be to the King of kings. Many whom I represent will be hunted and killed by the Papal Church, but this gospel of Christ will not fail before it accomplishes its purpose, that someone from every nation and tongue will praise the name of Christ for his grace and sacrificial death on the cross.

Beloved, as you hear this message, I implore you first and foremost to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ and Christ alone. Then know your Bible, for it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its content. Men have bled and died so that you can own this Book and read it in English. They have given their lives in the gospel ministry, knowing that any gain apart from Christ is utter rubbish, and that each of us has only one life, and it will soon be past, and only what is done for Christ will last.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 24th - Worthless Religion

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Hawg Happenin’
-Angry girls
-Thief boys
-Rastafarian girls
Fall Festival
Kyle feeling better
Tyler Teaching
Summit people hunting
Kosmos - Christian Cults Night
Praise - Proliferation of Good Grades

Text – Zechariah 7

As I was preparing today’s lesson, I got furiously angry at the people in Zechariah 7, cheered for God in his response, and then felt convicted because I have been in the past, and am today, one of the people in Zechariah 7. Today we are going to look at the marks of worthless religion, of traditional ritualism, and how much it makes God mad. Our audience of Zechariah 7 today are on the receiving end of even more anger because not only are they doing religion wrongly, but they are ignoring the words of prophets who had preached before the exile.

So, instead of reading Zechariah 7 first, let’s go to before the exile, to Isaiah 58. Isaiah was preaching about 150 years before Zechariah; he predicted both the exile and the return, he named Cyrus by name as the king of Persia who would save the Israelites from Babylon.

Isaiah 58:3-11 'Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?' Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

The point of this passage is that the Israelites ask God, “Why isn’t our fasting and humiliation impressing you?” God gives them the reason that their fast is marred by their bad motives and actions, they are beating their employees during the fast, they are in bitterness towards their friends during the fast, and they are fasting not for the sake of God, but for their sake. Basically, they are saying, God, I really really really really want something, so I’m going to do something for you so you’ll do it for me. There is so much wrong with this it’s tragic, because it elevates our own understanding of what we need above God’s, and turns God into our divine butler or puppet.

God tells them that what he wants is not a fast, but action done in love. He says that when these things are accomplished that the people will be greatly blessed by what he knows they need, not what they think they need. Basically this whole scripture can be summed up by what Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I love one of the illustrations that God uses here in Isaiah 58, that a people who love others will be so blessed that even when they are depressed, they will still be happier than anyone else on earth.

Hey look, a rabbit trail, let’s follow it. God is angry in Isaiah 58 and in Zechariah 7 because the only reason people are repenting is for themselves, not because it’s the right thing to do or because they love God and others. Imagine a husband and wife, how well do you think the relationship is going to go if the only time they do something nice for each other is when they want something from the other? Is that love at all? A husband should be doing nice things for his wife because he loves her, whether he gets anything out of it or not, and so should the wife do nice things because she loves her husband, not just to get him to buy her stuff.

So should be your relationship with your parents, so with your friends, so with God. Really the only reason I prepare lessons and teach you guys and care about your lives is so you’ll grow up and get really good jobs and become ridiculously rich and then hopefully send me a massive check as thanks, or mention my name so that some publisher calls me and offers me a massive book deal… Wow, that would be the worst motive ever, it would be all about me and not about you or God at all; my wrong motive would utterly wreck any benefit I may be expecting to receive, even if the teaching is good it doesn’t make God love me anymore. The true reason I teach this class is first and foremost because God said if I love him, to feed and tend his lambs; not take care of his lambs and then he’ll love me, no he loved me long before I loved him by sending his Son to die on a cross for me. The second reason I teach this class is because I love you and want to see you grow up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, proclaiming the excellencies of him who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light.

Are you seeing that God is pretty upset with people who only do things to get blessings in return? This is going to be the major point of Zechariah 7, so let’s read it; this is two years after chapter 6, a lot has happened, Jerusalem is becoming a very godly place, the temple is well on the way to completion, God is dwelling in their midst, and blessings are well on their way. But we’re going to see some punks from Bethel who are utterly missing the point,

Zechariah 7:1-14 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the LORD, saying to the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts and the prophets, "Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?" Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me: "Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? Were not these the words that the LORD proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?" And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart." But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. "As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear," says the LORD of hosts, "and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate."

So here’s what happened, Bethel is a city about a day’s walk north of Jerusalem. The people had probably gone into the exile and only recently returned, though if they hadn’t been exiled, they would have been in a great depression for the time of the exile. At this point they have been thoroughly chastened, corrected, for their wrong beliefs before the exile. They come to pray and ask a question of God, and unfortunately we’re going to see that they’ve learned nothing.

v.3 "Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?"

They are speaking of July 7th, the day of remembrance for the destruction of the temple in 586BC. For 70 years now they have been fasting every July 7th in sorrow for the destruction of the temple, but now that the temple is well on its way to being rebuilt, they want to know if they can stop weeping and fasting. God doesn’t answer this question, because really they had no command to weep and fast to start with, they had invented a religious ritual which they felt would bribe God.

v.4-6 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me: "Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?”

God asks two questions, the first is, “What were your motives in fasting, were they for me?” and the second, “When you were living your lives, were they for you or for me?” Look at it this way, it’s like if we go to church on Sunday and give lip service to God, but on Monday through Saturday, we live like there is no God, and yet we say, “God, you owe me because I went to church on Sunday.” That’s what these punks from Bethel were doing.

I want to give you the first application here, though it’s going to be reiterated in a bit, but because Christ is our righteousness and our rest (Sabbath), we honor and live for him every day, not to earn something, but because he is worthy. Let’s look at a group of people in the New Testament who were doing it wrong,

Philippians 3:18-19 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

I want to make sure you see that this problem is not just a new problem, it’s not just an old problem, but it is a long running and growing problem that has existed for millennia and will seek to sneak into your life today; the way we kill it is by recognizing the majesty of God, and by reading his Word about what God wants.

v.7 Were not these the words that the LORD proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?"

The major former prophet that God is referring to here is definitely Isaiah in chapter 58 which we read earlier, but it’s also Ezekiel, and Hosea, and Jeremiah, and Micah, let’s read the Micah verse:

Micah 6:6-8 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

This sounds a lot like the greatest commandment, doesn’t it?

Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Yet the people are radically misunderstanding God’s commandments and thinking that God needs and wants them to do weird things in order for him to give them good things, namely Heaven. This is alive and well in EVERY religion except for pure Christianity. Catholics believe that if you walk in Fatima on your knees, you earn merit, Eastern Orthodox Catholics believe by looking at old stuff that belonged to saints they are making God happy, Muslims believe by reciting a rote prayer five times a day, they are pleasing God, and Hindus believe by being nice to people, they will earn a greater state in their next life.

Impure Christianity believes that God wants you to pray a prayer and ask Jesus into your heart in order for you to go to Heaven. This is none more than ritual and it is exactly what these unrepentant people from Bethel were doing. You don’t go to Heaven by praying the sinner’s prayer, if you go to Heaven you go because Jesus Christ has paid your debt and given you his righteousness and he has received all of the glory for saving you; therefore you trust in him because it is the right thing to do. Beloved, in reality, if you place your faith in Jesus Christ and his righteousness is credited to you, then your ultimate destination is Heaven, even if you sat around and never did another thing. However, because Christ is worthy to be obeyed, and we obey him because we love him, we will go out and do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with God. Not to earn his merit, which we’ve already received through Christ, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Similarly, there are a huge number of false teachers saying that in order to get closer to Christ, you must pray and read the Bible. These are no better than Pharisees and legalists, and they have neither part nor lot in the kingdom of Christ. We who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. We now pray and read our Bibles because we are near, not to become near. We honor Christ as holy by knowing his Word and sharing our faith, but again if we just sat around, we would not lose our nearness.

Final example, a few weeks ago I was driving to church with Tyler and we passed a broken down motorcycle. Tyler said, “We should stop.” I didn’t want to, and by doing so, it didn’t improve my relationship with Christ, but because it was the right thing to do, we stopped and found out the guy was fine and his friend was coming to pick him up. Any other religion would say that by doing this, it brought me nearer to Heaven, but beloved the true reason I did it is because I’m already IN the kingdom of Heaven, you can’t be any nearer there already in it, it was earned for me 2,000 years ago on a cross and three days later through an empty tomb.

Here is God’s response to those who want to earn God’s love through doing weird things, telling them rather to love him and people instead of ritual.

v.8-10 And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart."

Every religion besides Christianity fails to do this, and so are worthless, even though some Christians fail to do this, check out what James says,

James 1:26-27 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

The law of God can be summed up in one word: love. If you love someone, you won’t lie to them, you won’t steal from them, you won’t murder them, you won’t tell them to follow something besides God, you won’t use their name as a curse word. True religion is both avoiding sin and doing right; here God tells these false believers to do right, and they don’t like it, let’s look at their response, it makes me SOOOOO mad!

v.11-12 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets.

They refused, they didn’t want God’s love unless they could earn it, they turned away, they plugged their ears, they hardened their hearts to the consistency of diamond so that they would not have to submit to God. They refused to hear the Word of God, and check this out, it says that his Spirit was the one speaking through the prophets. As angry as I am, look at God’s response,

v.13 Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. “As he called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear," says the LORD of hosts,”

Before we look at this, check this out real quick, in Zechariah we have the Trinity. We have Christ as the messenger of God, we have God the Father, and we have the Holy Spirit here speaking through the prophets. God says, “As the Spirit called...” He refers to the Spirit as a person here, it’s awesome. Come to Pneuma in November to learn more about the Person of the Holy Spirit.

God is furious, so because the people would not hear his Word, he promises not to hear their words. This is reminiscent of a man with worthless religion who died and went to Hell, turn to Luke 16, let’s read 26-31,

Luke 16:26-31 Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'

God’s Word is God’s Word to us, it is how he speaks, for in times past he spoke in many ways to the prophets, but in these last days he speaks only through his Son, the Word. Jesus says that if any has ears to hear, let him hear; so beloved, today, hear the Word of God and forsake worthless religion, don’t rely on ritual, but rely on Christ and when he makes you born again, see that faith in him is genuine because it brings forth fruit keeping with repentance. The Bible says there are two types of religious people, people who are sorry because their sin has hurt them, and those who are sorry because their sin has offended God and hurt others.

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Let your repentance be from and towards Heaven, so that you love God and love your neighbor, seeking to do things that will lead others to Christ not to earn his favor, but because you already have his favor, and you love him and wish to keep his commands. The last verse of Zechariah would cause me to rejoice in God’s justice, if it weren’t pointed at me. Beloved I have utterly sinned against Heaven, no doubt that God should punish me a hundred times worse than we are going to see in a moment, but a true repentance is one that can say, “God, for your glory sending me to Hell would be justified, I deserve it for blaspheming your name, for misrepresenting your character, for failing to love you and my neighbor, and for causing so much damage through my sin.” So as we read this last verse, I know it should be me, and beloved, it should be you too, but we have a grace from God which will be revealed more fully next week,

v.14 "and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate."

Fortunately for us, though we should be included in these people, desiring to earn God’s favor, he has transformed us from children of the darkness into sons and daughters of the day. He has taken our diamond hardened heart and replaced it with a heart that loves him,

Ezekiel 36:26-27 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The neat part is that verse 28 will be quoted in chapter 13 pointing it definitely at God’s people. So beloved, forsake worthless religion, don’t do rituals because you think God wants you to do rituals or because you think it will earn you something. Rather know why you’re doing things, do them out of love and out of a renewed heart, do them because they are the right thing to do and they glorify Christ, whether you get anything out of them at all. And beloved, the great irony is that if you do nice things not expecting to get anything out of it, then you will get a huge amount out of it.

Proverbs 11:23-25 The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath. One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

This Proverb says that as you give then you will receive, if you hide things for yourself you will lose them, but of course this has to be done in the motive that if you receive nothing in return, you won’t feel bad for rightly representing your King, for ultimately his glory should be your reward. These things will always be keeping in the will of Christ, don’t expect to give a dollar and get back ten, rather give freely and be repaid bountifully in blessings.

And finally, we started this with fasting, let’s conclude it with fasting, should we give God one day out of thirty in a fast, and eat and live for ourselves the rest of the days? Or should we give thanks to God in all circumstances and fast and eat for his glory, loving people for Christ’s name’s sake, and pointing everyone towards the goodness and mercy of God? Let’s let Paul answer this one:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

October 17th - Priest and King

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Taste of Acworth/Marietta/Swift Witnessing
Hawg-Happening Booth
Fall Festival
Cedric Gifford
Leon's Back
Jennifer's friend's spinal surgery
Jimmy Robertson
Mt. Paran in Student Who Died

Text – 6:9-15

Today we get to the end of eight visions, which were explained along the way, but here at the end it is going to tell us the major point of all of these visions. This passage we’re going to read today happened on the same night as the visions, but it’s not a vision, it’s God’s explicit word and command, and his interpretation of what we’ve read over the past seven weeks.

The book of Zechariah is hard to put in a box and tell exactly how to break it into sections. At the very least we can say chapter 1 is the introduction, chapters 1-6 are confirmation that God is working and does indeed care for his people, based largely in the past, chapter 7 is about the present, 8-12 is about the coming Messiah, and 13-14 are set in the End Times. Today we are transitioning from the past to the present for Israel. Their past is put away, they have the promise of a coming salvation, and all that stands before them now is new life.

Before we read it, let's talk a bit about Joshua. This is obviously not the same Joshua who followed Moses, this is quite a bit later. He is our High Priest of the day, and Joshua is actually a pretty common name. In Ezra it tells us that his name can also be pronounced Jeshua. In the first century, this was a hugely popular name, many children would be named Joshua, because it means "God Saves" it comes from Jehovah and Yasha, which is God and salvation. This would have been Jesus' name, through different languages we've seen it change to Isous, then to Jesus. It's not so important what you're calling Jesus as long as you're referring to the One who bled and died on a cross and was raised three days later. You can call him Immanuel, God with us, or Faithful and True, or the Way, the Truth, and the Life, or the Resurrection and the Life, or the Son of God, or the Son of man, or Isa in Arabic, or Joshua, or God manifest in the flesh, as long as you're referring to the Living and True God the Son. While we're on names, one of the neatest studies I ever did was on the names and titles of God, like Jahoshephat is "God the Judge", and Jehovah Nissi is "God our Banner", and Hallelujah is "Praise God."

We're going to see in Zechariah that Jesus Christ is prophesied by name, let's read it,

Zechariah 6:9-15 And the word of the LORD came to me: "Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And say to him, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both."' And the crown shall be in the temple of the LORD as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. "And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the LORD. And you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God."

So a little bit of context before we look at what this means; Israel has been in captivity for 70 years in Babylon. When allowed to come back, some didn’t want to come back, they had gotten too comfortable in Babylon. This can be easily allegorized to be people who are too in love with the world and sin to flee to Jesus Christ; when given the option of God or sin, they choose sin. Many Jews did not return but would die in a foreign land. When given the opportunity to come back, some did, among them were Zechariah the prophet, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest. Remember that Zerubbabel is the one who started and will complete the temple, it’s important for this prophecy.

Other Jews didn’t come back at first, but later their consciences got the better of them, as well as the allure of a new temple, and they would return to Jerusalem and ultimately to God. One of the neatest stories is Nehemiah, who had a TOTALLY sweet job in Babylon, but forsook it to come and oversee the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

So what we’ve got here is a new caravan of exiles arriving in Jerusalem who were a little late in returning, but did come. They come bearing gold and silver for the sake of rebuilding the temple, but God has other plans.

v.9-10 And the word of the LORD came to me: "Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah.”

These are the newly arriving exiles, Josiah must have been a metal smith living in Jerusalem, which is what many commentators guess, and that’s why Zechariah is to go to that house, he will take what is in verse 11.

v.11 Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown,

The silver and gold is meant for the temple, but God has bigger plans, to make one of the most amazing prophecies in the whole Old Testament for his Son. The word for crown is plural; most of our newer Bibles will only say crown, thinking the plural means two types of metal in one crown, but we’ll see in the New Testament that there are definitely plural crowns here, at least two, a silver and a gold one. Why two? I can’t say, except to probably denote two major offices of the one whose head it will be put on, or some think that gold represents the law and silver the nation; or maybe two crowns for two people? Let’s read on to see where these crowns will go.

v.11 and set them on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.

Here is where it gets crazy, not that both of these crowns are going on one man, but who that one man is. God is very clear that there is to be a high priest AND a king, but by putting the crown on the high priest, we are seeing that the high priest is the king! Twice in the Old Testament the king tried to do the duty of the priest, it didn’t turn out well for them,

2 Chronicles 26:18-19 They withstood King Uzziah and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God." Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.

Likewise, Saul the King offered a sacrifice to God instead of waiting for Samuel the priest to do so, and in so doing Saul lost his entire kingdom. It’s a big deal that God has both a priest and a king, it works for the main reason of setting up a system of checks and balances, that one bad person won’t wreck the whole nation, but ultimately it is pointing to the purpose we see here in Zechariah, that God is predicting that his Messiah will be both the perfect King, and the perfect High Priest.

v.12 And say to him, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place,

This Branch language was used a bit before:

Zechariah 3:8 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.

So what we are seeing in Joshua wearing the kingly crown is that the Branch previously spoken of will be both High Priest and King. We remember from Isaiah too that Branch is prophesying that Jesus will be called a Nazarene, which is one Hebrew word for Branch.

Joshua would understand that he was not the Messiah, and also that he wasn’t the king, but that this is highly symbolic. This is also important for the next part of verse 12,

v.12 and he shall build the temple of the LORD.

Zerubbabel, the governor of Jerusalem, was actually the one who built the temple in Zechariah’s day, so we’re seeing something farther off in the future. Ezekiel, while in the Babylonian exile, had prophesied a much more amazing temple than the one which is being here built (chapters 40-47), so this coming Messiah is going to build a much more amazing temple, and Jesus clearly identifies himself here in John 2:19,

John 2:18-21 So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?" 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.

So this is a definite prophecy for the coming Christ, that he will be both priest and king.

v.13 It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne.

God says it multiple times so that the hearers definitely get it, that there will be a High Priest as King, and King as High Priest. What is amazing here is both that the High Priest gets to sit on the King’s throne, but also that the High Priest gets to sit down at all.

Hebrews 10:11-12 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…

Of all of the things in the temple, from the lampstand to the table of showbread, to the altar of incense, to the mercy seat; the thing that was not present was a chair. The priests were always working, working, working, never able to rest because sins continued to be committed and need atonement. But Jesus Christ offered himself once for sin, then he SAT DOWN.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Now one more time for the crazyness of a priest sitting in the place of the king, God is going to assure us that this is in his plan,

v.13 And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both."'

This both here is speaking of the offices, not two people, stating that there is no contradiction between a King being High Priest, so long as both are perfect and acceptable and pleasing to God. Beloved, this just could not be in the Levitical priesthood, they were not permitted to be kings, but there is a historical precedent for a king who is also a priest,

Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)

Salem is the old name for Jerusalem, do you see the etymological link? Jeru means new, salem means peace. Jesus Christ is not a priest after the order of Levi, who couldn’t be king, but a priest after the order of Melchizadek, which means, “King of Righteousness.”

Hebrews 7:14-16 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.

So we see that our Christ is both King, and our High Priest forever, made all the more glorious that no-one could have ever taken his life from him, but that he gave it up for our sake, rebuilding the temple of his body after three days, and living forevermore to make intercession for our sins!

v.14 And the crown shall be in the temple of the LORD as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.

This prophecy is pretty wild, not so much for us because we’ve seen it fulfilled perfectly, but for Zechariah’s original readers, so he tells them to hang up these crowns as a reminder of the coming Priestly King, and according to history, that they did. These crowns were probably lost in AD70 when the temple was destroyed, though we don’t have record of where these crowns have gone; however, we do know that they are fulfilled. Remember this point, we’ll come back to it in just a moment, first let’s make sure this prophecy is genuine.

v.15 "And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the LORD. And you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God."

Here we have a temporal check to see if Zechariah is genuinely being talked to by God or if he’s making it up, or if he had some bad pizza the night before. This last check will be for the people of Jerusalem to see if Zechariah is truly a prophet. If you want to find out if he really is, read Chapter 7 before next week, and that’s what we’ll look at. For our sake in the future though, we see that many peoples who are far off will come to our High Priest King, not just Jews, but someone from every tribe and nation.

So now, how do we know that this passage is talking about Jesus Christ? The New Testament tells us that it is, let’s read Christ’s Second Advent:

Revelation 19:11-13 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

Christ is wearing these crowns, diadems, many of them, representing his royalty, omnipotence, and his exalted state. The first time he came he wore a crown of thorns, representing shame, sin, impotence, and rejection, but because of his submission to his Father, he has received honor upon honor, and is crowned as the supreme King of the universe; read the next part,

Revelation 19:15-16 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

I really want to read two Psalms, I hope we have time. The first is a coronation Psalm which would be sung as the king of Israel is brought to power. Old Testament kings are given such grace as to be called sons of God, but we see that this beautiful Psalm is actually speaking of the true Son, the true King, so let’s read Psalm 2,

Psalm 2 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel." Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The second Psalm is Psalm 85, it speaks of Christ being the Branch, and him reconciling us to God through his work. For you see, we have a righteous God, and those who are unrighteousness cannot stand in his presence. But our God is also a merciful God, and he does not delight in the destruction of the wicked, and he has grace upon grace upon grace. But these two descriptions are utterly contradictory, a judge who lets a criminal go is not a good judge, and a father who crushes his children for their sins is not a loving person. So we have a conundrum; since we have sin, either God is a good judge, or a loving Father, but beloved, he cannot be both…unless something radical happens.

Psalm 85 LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

Here is where the two reconcile, Faithfulness springs up from the ground, even we may say, as a BRANCH, this is Christ, born of a woman, growing in stature and knowledge before God and man. Righteousness looks down from Heaven, this is the Father seeing his Son on a cross, one whom he has declared to be, “My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Only now, beloved, God has made Christ to be sin for us, Christ bears our sin in his body, and God looking down does not see his beloved Son, but he sees the object of all of his wrath and anger; he sees the sewage of sin, the disgustingness of transgression; every lie, every covetous and lustfilled glance, every bit of malice, every curse word, every idle word, every bit of glory stolen, and beloved, the Father lets loose with his fury. It pleases him beyond measure to utterly crush his Son there on the cross, pouring out his full wrath against sin on the only Person who never deserved it, but who stood as a Faithful propitiation for those who trust in him, loving us long before we would ever love him, and us only loving him because he first loved us.

Faithfulness on the ground, Righteousness in Heaven, and beloved, there on that cross, justice and mercy met, righteousness and peace kissed each other. The contradictory ideas of God’s judgment and love came together in Jesus Christ, the wrath of God against Sin absorbed by the God of Love, so that he is now both the Just and the Justifier of those who believe.

For though that Temple of Christ’s body was destroyed, in three days it was rebuilt, and our great High Priest, having offered himself once for sin, SAT down at the right hand of his Father, waiting for a day in which to return when he will wear many crowns, and receive all of the glory, as every knee bows and every tongue confesses him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all. – Edward Peronnet

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 10th - Apocalyptic Horsemen

Prayer Requests
Scheduled Revival
Canyon Preaching Middle School
KSU Preaching Monday
Judgment Journey
Pollock Puppies
Young Preacher's Society
Swift Cantrell Witnessing
Kyle Homecoming Witnessing
Ced Gifford

Text – Zechariah 6:1-8

Today we look at Zechariah’s eighth and final vision. This is God in action against his enemies and we see a nice little circle in the way these visions wrap up, that what started the visions also finishes them.

What was Zechariah’s first vision? It was of a man on a red horse standing among myrtle trees along with several other horses. What did his red horse represent? War, Christ had just defeated Babylon through his servant Cyrus. Let’s read a verse to see why now God is about to send these horses out again,

Zechariah 1:15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.

So explain to me why God is angry at the nations, specifically what is left of Babylon? Because they greatly mistreated his people, they went above and beyond in their persecution of the Jews. Today we are going to see God’s vengeance.

Before we get there, if someone does something evil to you, should you avenge yourself? Can God avenge himself and you? Let’s let the Bible answer:

Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

Peter calls us exiles in Babylon, even though we’re not in physical Babylon, we as Christians are away from our true home in Heaven, and Babylon represents the world because of its great sin and persecution of God’s people. Peter tells us what we ought to do when someone does evil to us,

1 Peter 2:11-12 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

So we leave all vengeance up to God, we repay evil with good, and in so doing we trust that God’s judgment or mercy is just. We desire all to be saved, but equally we desire for evil to cease, so our efforts are to show all that Jesus Christ will put an end to sin one day, when he perfects his saints and crushes his enemies.

Zechariah 6:1-8 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze. The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong. Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" And the angel answered and said to me, "These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the LORD of all the earth. The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country, the white ones go after them, and the dappled ones go toward the south country." When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, "Go, patrol the earth." So they patrolled the earth. Then he cried to me, "Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country."

This passage has an amazing message with a ton of symbolism and detail. It requires a basic understanding of the geography of Israel, some knowledge of metallurgy, and in order to thoroughly understand this passage we are blessed to have a New Testament which reveals to us many of the details.

v.1 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out…

This is Zechariah’s eighth and final vision, the end of chapter 6 next week is going to tell us the major purpose of all of these visions. Zechariah sees four horse-drawn chariots coming out of Heaven (This detail is given in verse 5). The first thing we learn is that whatever we’re about to see is ordained and sent by God, just as it was God’s will to send the curse of the law, and his plan to let wickedness reign for a time in this world.

v.1 from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze.

These mountains represent the perimeter of Heaven. Heaven is impregnable, immovable, and veiled to outside eyes. We can’t see over the mountains, nor can we dig under the mountains. But, there is a path leading in and out, if there were only one mountain then we would be severed from Heaven forever, but there is a narrow road that leads to life. The only thing we can see is what is revealed to us.

Some have tried to specifically place these mountains in Israel or Cilicia (Turkey) or Arabia, but they make the major mistake of missing what these mountains are made of. They take it literally looking for a place where metal is mined, but bronze is an alloy, it is not found naturally; which two metals make bronze? Tin and Copper. It may even be that the Hebrew word doesn’t refer to the alloy, but something made of a bronze, like an adjective, which fits perfectly that God creates things both out of nothing, and out of other things.

Here is a weird little detail that may be related to these mountains, or it may not be. When Solomon built the temple, they carefully weighed the gold and silver, but they said that they had so much bronze that it would take too long to weigh, so they didn’t. When the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and burned the temple, Jeremiah tells us they took ALL of the bronze to Babylon. This new temple was going to be sufficient in gold and silver which was being imported, but deficient in bronze. I don’t really know if this is an important detail, but if we see that Heaven is represented here by mountains of bronze, we realize that anything we lose here on earth, either to sin or enemies of God, will be repaid a hundredfold in Heaven.

We can’t see past these mountains to see what God has prepared on the other side. Consider this also as God’s will; we only see what is revealed, though he has revealed much.

Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

So finally, let’s get to these horses!

v.2-3 The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong.

Red horses represent war and bloodshed, black represent famine and disease, white horses represent conquering armies (with or without bloodshed), and then the dappled horses I have no definitive answer. It may be that a better translation isn’t dappled, which means speckled, but that these are several horses all different colors. Or, and I think this is probably the right answer, that the word for dappled horses is the same word for hail, so these horses could very well represent natural disaster. I’m not sure, but just like we saw bay/sorrel horses in chapter 1, here we see that God is doing things that we don’t know about and don’t understand.

The word for brown and strong in Hebrew is exceedingly similar, the difference between amets and awmets, some have thought that the last chariot also had our brown horses drawing it, while others say that the dappled horses are especially strong. I believe that obviously if these are God’s horses, they are perfect, and so the awmets means they are all strong. And all that to say, they aren’t really horses, but they represent God’s ministers, let’s see why we know that.

v.4 Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?"

This is Zechariah’s last question. I hope it has been thoroughly impressed into you that if you don’t know the answer, you should ask. Even if you think you should know the answer, like Zechariah should have a few times, it’s better to ask then not to know. Zechariah’s question is a good question because if we didn’t have the book of Revelation to interpret this passage for us, we wouldn’t know either.

v.5 And the angel answered and said to me, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the LORD of all the earth.”

We’ll go over this quickly because we already know these are ministers of God’s will throughout the earth, we learned that detail in chapter 1. These are the same spirits, angels, from Job who presented themselves before God when Satan came with them and identified himself even as one of these, though we don’t know which. Probably one not here identified which we’ll see in Revelation 6.

Here’s a weird and interesting detail: the word for wind is neat in Hebrew, it is ruwachhhhh. Everybody say, ruwachhhhhhh. The word means what it sounds like, this is the sound they heard on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to all saints, and it’s also the word in the Old Testament for spirit. What’s the word in the Greek New Testament for spirit? Pneuma, everybody come to D-Now to learn much more about the Holy Spirit! That was a shameless plug, but seriously, come to D-Now.

These chariots have presented themselves before God for inspection and orders, and now they are ready to go on their missions.

v.6 “The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country, the white ones go after them, and the dappled ones go toward the south country.”

The way that Israel is geographically situated, really the only two directions to go are North and South. To the West you’ve obviously got the Mediterranean Sea, and Israel has no natural ports, to the East you’ve got the northern end of the Arabian Desert, as well as a massive mountain to climb from the Jordan River to the top of Mount Zion, a 4,000 ft elevation change.

The chariots could go East, but it’s more expedient even if you want to go East to go North first. The black horses, representing famine and pestilence, go North, definitely to weaken and afflict what is left of the Babylonians. Following those black horses are our white horses, representing a conquering army, and these will turn the weakened Babylonians over to the Persians.

What do the Dappled ones do in the South and in which country? Only God knows, but we know that God is working even if we don’t know what exactly he’s doing. A fantastic book to read on this is Esther, which is a young Hebrew girl in the Babylonian captivity who stands up for her people and faith, and though we never even see the name of God or even the word God mentioned in that book, we see him working in all sorts of miraculous ways.

Do we know that God is doing something good for his name? Absolutely, that’s what he does, it may be that he is afflicting these people so they will turn to him, or it may be that his patience has utterly run out and he is punishing them with a view of sending them to Hell. One way he’ll receive glory for his great mercy, the other way he’ll receive glory for his great judgment. It was only on the cross where he receives glory for his mercy for us and his judgment against sin imputed to his Son. Wrath and grace kissed each other on the cross. (Psalm 85)

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Some have tried to allegorize these horses partly as God’s word, but we see in Revelation, which we’ll read in a moment, that these horses are representing physical events. However, they do act similarly to God’s law in their expediency and purpose especially since we saw the law represented as a curse that goes out over the earth. These horses can definitely be a curse on those they go to, and we’ll see a final horseman who is a great blessing on those who are his friends.

Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

These horses are also living and energetic, which is what the Greek in Hebrews 4 literally says.

v.7 When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, "Go, patrol the earth." So they patrolled the earth.

They want to go! They are chomping at the bit, straining against the reigns. But God is literally reigning, holding back his judgment until his appointed time.

Amos 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?

He lets them go and do what they are appointed to do. Think back to the Word of God for a moment. Charles Spurgeon asked, “Defend the Bible? Would you defend a lion? Loose him, and let him go!”

And let’s see if these loosed horses accomplish God’s purposes:

v.8 Then he cried to me, "Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country."

Remember in chapter 1 that God was exceedingly angry with these nations? He felt indignation towards them, but now that he has sent punishment upon them, his Spirit is at rest. Nations don’t have souls, they can't be tormented in Hell, so God punishes them here on earth, and he has two ways of doing so, he can do it internally by putting boys as leaders, thieves as treasurers, and idiots as experts, or he can do it externally through disaster, war, famine, and pestilence.

So let’s look at the last time these horses will be sent out, turn to Revelation 6. This is during the tribulation, God is furious and he is sending his horsemen out to wreak absolute vengeance on the nations.

Revelation 6:2-8 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!" When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hell followed with him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

The antichrist rides the white horse, a false christ deceiving many, he conquers the world without firing a shot. Indeed, he has a bow but no arrows. A time of peace exists on earth, but it is short lived. The second horse is red, for war, and great conflicts arise throughout the whole earth, and many are killed. The third horse is black, he is famine, and because of his work just enough food to feed a single family costs about $100. People will work all day just to be able to eat for the day. Luxuries like flavor will be abandoned.

The fourth horse is one we haven’t seen before, he is pale, not beige, but a light green like decaying flesh (chlorine has the same root word), and he represents death, and he does not come alone, but with comes an army of Hell. Through the work of these horsemen, a quarter of the earth will perish. We’re talking at least two billion people, probably more.

And after these things are accomplished, then Revelation 19 will occur,

Revelation 19:11-16 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Our King is a conquering king, he will come against his enemies with such fury that Isaiah 63 tells us he will be covered head to toe in the blood of his enemies. The rest of this chapter tells us that as a result of his wrath the carrion birds will eat until they are gorged on the flesh of everyone from princes to paupers.

So beloved, your application is that God is working in the world, nothing can happen lest he causes or allows it. He will avenge his people, so we need not worry about that, rather we repay good for evil, we love our enemies through action and proclamation that lest they repent, they will meet the Faithful and True Christ not as a friend, but as an enemy. We, Christians, who are still alive on that day will be called up to meet Christ in the air, those of us who have died will be amongst that warring army.

Know that God is working all things for good to those who love him and are called according to his name. And know that if you will not bow to Christ now, then you must prepare to war against him, for he will come as a conqueror, and beloved, this King does not lose wars. Let’s conclude with Hebrews 9:27-28:

Hebrews 9:27-28 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October 3rd - The Pleasures of Sin

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Scheduled Revival
Covington Fair
North Cobb Witnessing
Judgment Journey
Kyle Preaching at FCA
Boy Scouts fund raiser

Text – Zechariah 5:5-11, Proverbs 9

Today we approach Zechariah’s seventh vision, one of the more difficult ones to tell you what the exact details mean, but one where the greater point shines forth. We’re going to look at the attractiveness of sin, the world’s efforts to elevate it, and God’s ability to suppress it.

Let’s do just a bit of review, there isn’t much coming forward in this vision from the last ones, but I didn’t clarify a major point last week that I really apologize for missing because it’s an important point.

The last two visions talked about the Word of God, if we are in God’s New Covenant, in the church, symbolically depicted as a lampstand, then how does the Word of God relate to us? It is as a blessing. But if we have broken God’s everlasting covenant and are outside of the church, then how does the Word of God relate to us? As a curse.

How did God redeem us from the curse of the law? By hanging his blessed Son on a tree, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Was Jesus hanged on a sycamore or oak tree? He was hung on a cross; what is the cross made of? A tree. Is it a living tree? No, it is a dead tree; I think we could call it a tree of death. Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us, he has given us his blessings, he died on a tree of death to grant us access to the tree of life; for whosoever believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life.

What part did God play in the sending of the curse and in cursing his Son? Did they surprise him? No, he accomplished both by his own power. The only real tie-in that I see between the sixth and seventh visions is that both are being sent by God’s will. The wickedness we see today is not outside of God’s plan, indeed it comes from the same place as the curse, it may be that this vision is the curse in manifestation. So let’s read this seventh vision.

Zechariah 5:5-11 Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, "Lift your eyes and see what this is that is going out." And I said, "What is it?" He said, "This is the basket that is going out." And he said, "This is their iniquity in all the land." And behold, the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the basket! And he said, "This is Wickedness." And he thrust her back into the basket, and thrust down the leaden weight on its opening. Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. Then I said to the angel who talked with me, "Where are they taking the basket?" He said to me, "To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it. And when this is prepared, they will set the basket down there on its base."

I’m going to do my best today to teach this like it should be taught. That’s what I always do, but today it could be tempting to try to take some of the offense out of this message, but I want you to see just how God sees the world and that outward beauty is not everything, I’m going to teach this along with Proverbs 9, because the two are closely tied together. If you’re not offended by the end of this lesson, then I’ve done something wrong.

v.5 Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, "Lift your eyes and see what this is that is going out."

Visions six, seven, and eight all proceed out of Heaven, God sending forth either his law, or his plan, or his ministers. Zechariah is going to see a measuring basket, he’d know it was a measuring basket because these were really common in Israel, they hold about 7 gallons of whatever you want them to hold. When he asks what it is, he knows it’s a measuring basket, he wants to know what it’s measuring.

v.6 And I said, "What is it?" He said, "This is the basket that is going out." And he said, "This is their iniquity in all the land."

This verse is translated to interpret the passage for us. I’m not sure if I like that, though if you were reading the Bible in a year and only spent four days on Zechariah, I think I would like this interpretation, though this verse says something different in the Hebrew than what it says here, though they did a good job capturing the meaning of the passage without capturing the wording. What Jesus actually says here is that this is the resemblance of the world, or this is what God sees the world as, the original doesn’t have any meaning of sin, the translators are interpreting rightly what they read in verse 8. So what this measuring basket holds is what God sees the world as. So let’s see what this basket holds.

v.7 And behold, the leaden cover was lifted,

Wait, let’s stop there. The first thing we see is that whatever this basket is holding is protected by a big heavy weight. God is keeping what is inside inside…we see something odd here for a measuring basket, you wouldn’t put a heavy weight over seven gallons of grain. What do you think a weight would be used for? Whatever is inside is living and wants to escape!

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Second Thessalonians tells us that God is also restraining the spirit of antichrist:

2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.

Let’s then look at what’s inside:

v. 7-8 and there was a woman sitting in the basket! And he said, "This is Wickedness."

Strange. I don’t know where to start, there are several exceedingly great points here. Let’s start with the fact that the woman is called Wickedness, because I think that’s important. This isn’t the part that’s meant to offend you, but if I taught this wrongly, then it could.

Do you think the woman represents wickedness because all women are irredeemably wicked or wickeder than men? No, of course not, we know that the Bible says ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Zechariah just said this is the appearance of ALL land. I believe, and we’ll look at the verses that make me believe this, that this woman must be pretty cute and attractive and she represents the allure of sin as well as the actual sin.

Some sin is ugly and nasty and only certain people enjoy it, but most sin has a pleasure that comes with it. Sin can be really fun, if it wasn’t people wouldn’t do it…though some people sin and are miserable for it.

Hebrews 11:24-25 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

The attractiveness of the female form is an amazing representative of this, John calls it the lust of the flesh and eyes.

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Before you think God hates women, let’s read Proverbs 9 where both wisdom and wickedness are represented by women:

Proverbs 9:1-6,13-18 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" To him who lacks sense she says, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight."

The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" And to him who lacks sense she says, "Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Hell.

So let me give you the practicality of this, and it’s pretty much the same for both the ladies and gentlemen in this class: not all that is beautiful is good and not all that is frugal is bad. Guys, the girls that show off the most are the ones you want the least, because everything they are is on display; while the modestly dressed and reserved ones are a depth of beauty that goes far beyond their appearance.

Ladies, there is a reason that sin is compared to a woman, because just by wearing immodest clothing you can ignite a fire in a man’s heart that cannot be put out. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, you do us a huge favor when you dress modestly. The true danger of seeking the fleeting pleasures of sin is that it is insatiable, it will burn every last bit of fuel you give it and still want more. Lust cannot be satisfied just once or through one inappropriate look, and so you only have two choices, to feed your sinful desires indefinitely, or to kill your sin immediately. John Owen put it better than I ever could, he said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”

Guys, Job said we should make a covenant with our eyes to avoid looking at the fleeting lust of the eyes. And ladies, besides the opportunity to cause someone to lust, you have to also worry about pride, having an obsession with guys finding you attractive. I’m not lying when I say that each and every one of you is beautiful beyond words, and I hope you realize when I say that it is also considering your inward person. You have a tremendous responsibility to practice discretion in what you wear and how much you show to the world. You have one chance to preserve a gift you will someday give to your future husband when he is privileged to something the rest of the world has never seen.

I hope this at least makes you think, and even a little uncomfortable. This is a sin area that we avoid discussing way too often in the church and one that, if we get it right in this class, will bless you and me and hopefully the whole church for the whole next generation. The only part of teaching middle school that I don’t like is the never ending cycle of seeing young ladies flaunt themselves and young men follow their eyes wherever they take them. By me saying this now hopefully I’ll never have to smack one of you guys in the back of the head when I catch you looking at something or someone you shouldn’t, and I’ll never have to ask you ladies to remove a picture off of facebook or put on a sweater in the middle of summer to cover yourself up, things I’ve had to do in the past.

Let’s conclude this thought with a bit of humor, but also great depth, through a Proverb and then move on with Zechariah:

Proverbs 11:2 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

There are vast and reaching reasons why God symbolizes wickedness with a beautiful woman, because the fa├žade can and does hide all manners of uncouthness and evilness; a little honey can hide the taste of poison. God sees to the inward person; describing that sin makes everything ugly and that even if there is a bit of external beauty, it’s like a gold ring in the nose of a pig.

Back to the basket: there is a measuring basket full of wickedness. What do you think this means? That our sins aren’t just a pinch or a little bit, but are filling up the fullness of what God allows us to do. Imagine God’s patience as the payment for this measure, that when sin is filled God’s patience runs out. We see this in reality in the destruction of the Amorites as God waited for them to sin to the full measure before he destroyed them.

Genesis 15:16 In the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

We see a measure for nations and also a measure for the human heart,

Acts 8:22-23 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.

Acts 13:10 You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?

Let’s look at this from the standpoint of modesty, let me use the guys as an example. Just thinking someone is pretty is not a sin, but if you fail to kill the possibility of sin, of becoming obsessed with that person and having no intention of marrying them then you are sinning against five people: her, you, her future husband, your future wife, and above all you sin against God.

James 1:15 Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

We’ll see the gospel in just a bit, but let’s look at what happens next:

v.8 And he thrust her back into the basket, and thrust down the leaden weight on its opening.

We see that God is more than capable of restraining sin, yet he lets sin happen every day. This was alluded to when we read earlier that God is restraining the spirit of antichrist in what Paul calls the Mystery of Iniquity, God showing us why righteousness is good and evil is bad, showing why he is God and we are not, that he is able to use everything for good, even evil, as demonstrated most amazingly when he took the most wicked execution tool ever, the cross, and used it to save his people. We see though that as he thrusts Wickedness down, there is no love between God and evil.

God has many ways of restraining sin, one of which is our conscience, telling us what is right and wrong, second is the Bible, explicitly telling us what is right and wrong, and another is shame, making us feel bad when we sin; the Christian also has the Holy Spirit who leads us and is grieved, saddened, when we sin. I believe God’s major tool for loosing sin is when he removes shame, I want to read you a passage in a bit from Ezekiel where God is furious at Israel’s sin, I’m going to read it because of the choice words God uses, first though let’s read verse 9.

v.9 Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven.

This is the ONLY place in the whole Bible that remotely says that angels can be female, though because it’s a vision I don’t think we should make that jump. It sounds like angels are only male and Jesus explicitly said that angels never marry, so it'd be weird if there were boy and girl angels. What we should see these women as is sin elevating sin, think of them again as embodying wickedness, and we see that through a sort of strange way: they have wings like storks. The stork in the Bible is representative of uncleanliness, it is a carnivore and scavenger that will eat anything; these women, whether fallen angels or just symbolic of more evil, are definitely meant to convey that evil is elevating evil, and the wind in their wings means they are able to move swiftly, accomplishing evil things very quickly.

Deciding the best order to teach this in is difficult, there is so much to say, so let’s read Ezekiel 16 so I can get to where I want to get to.

Ezekiel 16:15,23-25,28-29,30,31 You trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your renown and lavished your sexual favors on any passerby; your beauty became his. And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! declares the Lord GOD), you built yourself a vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place in every square. At the head of every street you built your lofty place and made your beauty an abomination, offering yourself to any passerby and multiplying your harlotries. You played the harlot also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the harlot with them, and still you were not satisfied. You multiplied your iniquities also with the trading land of Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied. How sick is your heart, declares the Lord GOD, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment.

Do you get the point that God hates it when sin is elevated and made the ultimate goal of everything? Let’s see what those winged women are going to do with this basket of wickedness.

v.10 Then I said to the angel who talked with me, "Where are they taking the basket?" He said to me, "To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it. And when this is prepared, they will set the basket down there on its base."

I really wish Zechariah would have asked, “What are these two winged women?” But he doesn’t, and so this is one of the details I can’t tell you exactly what they mean, though I think we’ve seen it pretty closely that they represent more sin. They are taking the basket to the land of Shinar, which is in Babylon. This is played out exceedingly in the New Testament that the world is referred to as Babylon and Christians are the exiles from our home in Heaven.

The word for house is more than just a plain building, but it’s less than a temple. It’s like a really nice house, even a palace. The two winged women are building a palace for wickedness, I don’t think it would be wrong to allegorize that they are making sin comfortable, even to the point of worshipping their sin.

We run into problems as Christians with displaying the 10 Commandments in public, or reading the Bible in school. Do you know why the world hates these things? I mean, what is to hate about any of the Commandments morally? If everyone kept them we’d have a nice society. The problem is that the Law and Word of God make people uncomfortable in their sin, they don’t want to hear of a judgment to come, they want to eat and drink and be merry and at the end of the road die and not face judgment. But comfortable sin is living in a lie, we need to know that apart from Christ’s saving work, we are set to be judged, and that in Christ’s saving work we are changed to hate sin and seek not to make it comfortable, but to kill it.

Romans 8:13-14 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Finally, are you and I counted in this appearance of all the world? Are we full of sin? Absolutely, I bet you we’ve all broken every one of the 10 Commandments in spirit if not in flesh, and the measure of our sin is draining God’s patience. But let’s look at some verses to conclude why we do not despair and why we turn from making our sin comfortable to striving for holiness through Jesus Christ.

Let’s look first at my all time favorite Bible verse:

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Psalm 86:15 You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Psalm 116:5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

While we were filling up the full measure of our sin, Christ filled up the full measure of righteousness, and in his fullness he humbled himself to become nothing, pouring out his life on cross so that we who are poor in spirit may be rich in spirit in Christ. He has canceled our sin and made us abound in his grace.

Therefore, let us put sin to death in our lives, not pampering it, not worshipping it, and certainly not living with it. Else we see that our God is also full of wrath towards his enemies, and will make a complete end to them, even pursuing them into the darkness.