Sermon #33 Zechariah Series
Title: Two Sharp Arrows
Text: Zechariah 7:4-6
Subject: Serving Self or Worshipping Christ
If I wanted to hide from God, if I wanted to avoid having to face my sin and guilt, if I had made up my mind that I wanted to never be bothered again with a tormenting conscience, with thoughts about death, judgment, and eternity, let me tell you what I would do. I would find an acceptable church with lots of religious activity and join it. I would regularly practice the ordinances, sacraments, and ceremonies of the church, attend as often as possible, and become zealous and active in all its programs. There is no better place in the world for a sinner to hide from God than in religion. The greatest evil of this day is religion! Everybody I know is religious. But their religion is their refuge from God, not a refuge that is God, a refuge of lies that will soon be swept away (Isa. 28:14-18).
(Isaiah 28:14-18) “Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. (15) Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: (16) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (17) Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (18) And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.”
I pray that God the Holy Spirit will, this day, sweep away your refuge of lies in his great grace and sweetly force you to flee to Christ for refuge. If God the Holy Spirit does not sweep away your refuge of lies in this day of his grace, he will sweep it away to the everlasting torment of your soul in the day of his wrath!
Therefore, I am going to lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet. I have two sharp arrows shot from the bow of God into my own heart this week. I cannot tell you how deeply they are lodged there, or how very much I pray that the Lord will graciously leave them there to strike again and again. I am taking careful aim at your heart with those same two sharp arrows. Oh, may God the Holy Spirit cause them to hit the mark. Here they are…
1. Did I come here today for the glory of God, to seek the Lord, to hear from and worship the Lord Jesus Christ? — Or —
2. Did I come here today to gratify my own pleasure, to serve myself, and to please my flesh?
I ask you to honestly answer those two questions for yourself. You may think, “Bro. Pastor, How can you ask us such questions? How can you speak like that to people you love?” I speak as I do to you, precisely because of my love and concern for your soul. I raise these two, specific questions because I am specifically commanded of God to raise them in my text. — Zechariah 7:4-6.
(Zechariah 7:4-6) “Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying, (5) Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? (6) And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?”
While in their Babylonian captivity the children of Israel devised certain fasts which they meticulously kept, convincing themselves that they were worshipping and serving the Lord God. But they were, all the while, only pampering and gratifying their own sinful flesh, and hardening their hearts against God and his Word. They strictly adhered to external religious formalities and ceremonies, drawing nigh unto God with their lips; but their hearts were far from him.
They multiplied ceremonies to themselves, without the slightest warrant from God’s Word. They kept fasts that God never taught them to keep, and feasts of which Moses had said nothing. When they returned to Jerusalem, they sent a delegation to the temple to ask God’s priests and prophets whether they should continue to observe those things they devised for themselves in Babylon (v. 3).
(Zechariah 7:1-3) “And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu; (2) When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD, (3) And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?”
It seems to me that their question was really an attempt to get Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi, God’s prophets, to put their stamp of approval upon their religious traditions and beloved customs. I say that for two reasons, these men asked both the priests who had been with them in Babylon, leading them in their religious services, it appears to me, hoping to pressure the prophets into approving them. And God’s answer seems to indicate it that heir desire was the prophets’ approval. He said, “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?” It is as though the Lord said to them exactly what he said, many years later, concerning the Pharisees who succeeded them. — “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).
But let me call your attention to a fact that you might otherwise miss. These men obtained no answer to their question. Instead, the Lord commanded his prophet to deal with something far more vital than the outward form of religion.
Proposition: They were informed by the questions asked of them, that all true religion, and all acts of worship, has the honor and glory of God for its singular object.
If our object, the goal and ambition of our hearts in this place today is not the honor and glory of God our Savior, this gathering is but the gratifying of our sinful flesh, dishonoring to him, and utterly abhorrent in his sight. Therefore, he commands me to put these two questions to you. — “When ye fasted did ye fast unto me? or when you feasted on your solemn feast-days did ye not eat to yourselves and drink to yourselves?” — Did I come here today for the glory of God, to seek the Lord, to hear from and worship the Lord Jesus Christ? — or — Did I come here today to gratify my own pleasure, to serve myself, and to please my flesh?
Our Own Worship
We must examine ourselves and our own worship by these two questions. — Did I come here today for the glory of God, to seek the Lord, to hear from and worship the Lord Jesus Christ? — or — Did I come here today to gratify my own pleasure, to serve myself, and to please my flesh? The Holy Spirit gives us pointed instruction about worshipping in the Spirit as well as with understanding (1 Cor. 14:14-15).
(1 Corinthians 14:14-15) “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. (15) What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”
We must regulate our practices by a God-given understanding of that which he teaches us in his Word. Yet, our worship must be “of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter” (Rom. 2:29). “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16), being renewed in the Spirit (Eph. 4:23), and praying in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18). Oh, that we might be “carried away in the Spirit” before the throne of God our Savior, as John was on the Isle of Patmos!
God is the Spirit just and wise,
He knows our inmost mind;
In vain to Him they raise their cries
Who leave their hearts behind.
Nothing but truth before His throne,
Accepted will appear,
To Him all hypocrites are known
Though the mask they wear.
Their lifted eyes salute the skies,
Their bending knees the ground;
But God abhors the sacrifice
Where not the heart is found.
Lord, search my thoughts, and try my ways,
And make my soul sincere;
Then shall I stand before Your face,
And find acceptance there.
A Matter Faith
First, and foremost, let me show you that all true worship is and must be a matter of faith in Christ. These Jews who stood before Zechariah had observed fasts and feasts for seventy years in Babylon, but they did not fast unto the Lord, and they did not feast unto the Lord, but unto themselves, because their fasts and their feasts were not acts of faith, but simply acts of religion. They maintained a form of godliness for seventy years, all the while denying the power of God, the gospel of Christ. They pretended to worship God, and convinced themselves that they were worshipping God, but their worship was all outward, without heart and without faith in Christ. They worshipped according to the whims of their own minds, glorying in that which should have been their shame, without a sacrifice, without an altar, and without a mercy-seat. — Without Christ!
All such worship is but the worship of ourselves. It is what Paul calls “will worship.” It is fasting to yourself and feasting to yourself. And it is an abomination to God. If we would worship God we must worship him by faith in Christ, and that faith involves the heart (Rom. 10:9-10; Phil. 3:3; Matt. 18:20; Rom. 2:28-29).
(Romans 10:9-10) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
(Philippians 3:3) “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
(Matthew 18:20) “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
(Romans 2:28-29) “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Do you understand Paul’s words? — “He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” — Those are strong words! A man might be a son of Abraham according to the flesh, — a member of one of the twelve tribes, — circumcised the eighth day, — one who keeps of all the feasts, — regularly worships, — prays three times a day, — pays a tithe on everything he possesses, — and yet not be a Jew! Let me translate that for you. You may profess faith in Christ, — you may be baptized, — a church member in good standing, — one who prays, reads the Bible, and holds a sound creed, — and yet not know Christ at all.
Read Isaiah 1:10-15.
(Isaiah 1:10-15) “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. (11) To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (12) When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? (13) Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. (15) And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
The sacrifices here declared to be useless were appointed by God himself! The feasts and ordinances God says he “hates,” had been prescribed by him! God himself pronounced his own ordinances of worship to be utterly useless and an abomination to him, when they were practiced without faith in Christ they typified! Religion without faith in Christ is worthless in God’s sight.
Our Lord Jesus Christ denounced nothing in this world like he did religion (Matt. 15:8-9; Luke 16:15).
(Matthew 15:8-9) “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
(Luke 16:15) “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”
Eight times in one chapter (Matthew 23) he said to them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” calling them a “generation of snakes and vipers!” For the vilest of sinners, our Master always had a word of kindness, and held out to them an open door of mercy. But for Pharisees, self-righteous religionists, he had nothing but contempt. And he has not changed.
As we dread and avoid the most abominable sin, we ought to dread religion without Christ! Religion takes your hand with a smile, and looks like a friend, but it is a deadly enemy. If you love life, beware of religion! Nothing is so dangerous to your soul as religion without Christ!
If we would worship God, we must worship him by faith in Christ. There is no coming to God but by Christ (John 10:1, 7, 9; 14:6; Heb. 7:25; 11:6).
(John 10:1) “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”
(John 10:7) “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.”
(John 10:9) “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
(John 14:6) “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
(Hebrews 7:25) “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
(Hebrews 11:6) “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
A Heart Work
All true worship is a work of faith; and all true worship is a heart work. We have come here today to worship God; but if we left our hearts at home (or in the business, or on the lake, or in the world), we will not and cannot worship him. Christ says, “Give me thine heart.” Men look upon the outward appearance, but “the Lord looketh on the heart!” — “Circumcision is of the heart!”
John Owen once said, “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” The heart is the test of everything. It is not what I say or what do that reveals what I am. My heart is my true character. Men say and do things that are right, from false motives, from a wicked heart. The heart is the man, — “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Pro. 23:7).
Salvation, grace, faith in Christ, all true religion, all true worship takes place in the heart (Ezek. 36:26; Ps. 51:17; Luke 8:15; Acts 16:14; Rom. 10:10)
(Psalms 51:17) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
Such a heart is God’s gift in the new birth. Job asked, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4), not even God! In the new birth he does not make the old heart clean. He puts a new, clean heart in the unclean thing, called man!
(Ezekiel 36:26) “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
(Luke 8:15) “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
(Acts 16:14) “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”
(Romans 10:10) “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
(Galatians 5:6) “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
(Galatians 6:15) “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
(Psalms 109:22) “For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.”
(Acts 2:37) “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
(Acts 2:26) “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope.”
(Psalms 86:11-12) “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. (12) I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.”
(Psalms 94:15) “But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.”
(Psalms 102:4) “My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.”
(Psalms 105:3) “Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.”
(Psalms 108:1) “A Song or Psalm of David. O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.”
(Psalms 112:7) “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.”
(Psalms 119:2) “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.”
(Psalms 119:7) “I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.”
(Psalms 119:10-11) “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. (11) Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
(Psalms 119:32) “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.”
(Psalms 119:58) “I entreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.”
(Psalms 119:80) “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.”
(Psalms 119:111) “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.”
(Psalms 139:23) “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.”
“When ye fasted and mourned, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?” I know this — When the heart is wrong, all is wrong.
The ark was the most sacred thing in the tabernacle. On top of it was the mercy-seat. Inside it were the tablets of the law, written by God’s own finger. The High Priest alone was allowed to go into the place where it was kept, within the veil, and that only once every year, and then only with the blood of the paschal lamb. The presence of the ark within the camp was thought to bring a special blessing. And yet the ark itself was as useless as a litter box, when the Jews made it an idol. One on occasion they brought it into the camp, saying, — “Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies…And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again” (1 Sam. 4:3-5). But it was all in vain. They were slaughtered by the Philistines, and the ark of God was captured. Why? Their religion was a mere form of godliness. They honored the ark, but not the Christ the ark represented.
(1 Timothy 3:14-16) “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: (15) But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (16) And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
Now, be sure you hear this, too. — There is no such thing as worshipping God, if we do not worship him according to the rule of his Word. If we incorporate anything into the worship of God that is not specifically prescribed by him in this Book, we are only fasting and feasting to ourselves, our acts of pretended worship are nothing but the gratification of the lusts of our own flesh and an abomination to him!
Illustration: “We sought him not after the due order” (1 Chr. 15:3).
You will search the Book of God in vain to find anything prescribed by God for our assemblies, for our gatherings to worship him in his house, except…
· The Preaching of the Gospel.
· The Reading of His Word.
· The Singing of His Praise.
· Believers’ Baptism.
· The Lord’s Supper.
Everything else is only fasting and feasting to ourselves! Everything else is wood, hay, and stubble that must soon be burned. — Do you want me to name specifics?
· Specialized Ministries and Programs
· Business Meetings
· Political Issues
· Religious Dialogue
· The Observance of Days
All that is done in our public worship must be according to the Word of God. We must omit nothing which the Word of God requires; and we must add nothing which the Word of God does not require. Our ordinances must arise from the Word of God and be observed according to the Word of God. One innovation leads inevitably to another. One compromise will bring another compromise.
Yet, even when the order is right and the doctrine is pure, when the Spirit of God is absent, even these things are nothing more than fasting and feasting to ourselves.
· If you are baptized, but are not immersed in Christ, you are only taking a bath without soap.
· If we eat the bread and wine of the Lord’s Table, but do not commune with Christ, we are but feasting to ourselves — (The Corinthians).
· If we sing, but do not sing God’s praise in the Spirit, we are only making noise.
· If we pray, but do not pray in the Spirit, we are only reciting words.
· If we hear, but do not hear in the Spirit, we are only filling space.
· If I preach, but do not preach in the Spirit, my words are nothing but sounding brass and clanging symbols.
· When religious duties are used to pacify the conscience, and taken as a spiritual opiate, we are only fasting and feasting to ourselves.
· If that which we do in this place is done for any purpose, other than to honor God our Savior (Anything Done to Please Men — To Build the Church — To Promote a Denomination — To Promote a Cause — To Honor the Flesh) it is only fasting and feasting to ourselves (1 Cor. 10:31).
(1 Corinthians 10:31) “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
God save us from empty, meaningless, Christless religion! O Spirit of God, let us come to Christ, the sum and substance of all! Our only Ark and our only Altar is Christ himself. Let us come to him!
(Hebrews 13:10) “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.”
(Hebrews 9:11-12) “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; (12) Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
One word to you who are yet in unbelief - You must come to God in the way he has appointed, or you will never be accepted before him. You must come to God by faith in Christ. “No man cometh unto the Father but by me!”
If you would fast unto God, you must fast the fast of repentance. There is no other holy fast.
(Matthew 5:3-5) “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (4) Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (5) Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
If you would feast unto the Lord, you must feast upon Christ by faith. There is no other holy feast.
(Matthew 5:6) “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
(John 6:53-58) “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (54) Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (55) For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (56) He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. (57) As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (58) This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”
 Date: Sunday Morning — May 28, 2006
Grace Bible Church, San Leandro, CA — (SAT – 06/02/06)
Tape # Zechariah #33
Reading: Matthew 23:1-28