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Lowell Brueckner

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Are We Really on God’s Side?


The sign of genuine love is found in the constant desire to seek the happiness of the beloved. God looks for love from Israel and that that, which would be good for their God, would be the most important thing in their lives, far beyond what they want for themselves. The heart of Israel had become more and more hardened and calloused, because they had been resisting His word constantly. As a result, the wrath of God had to fall! I don’t know why we find it difficult to speak of the wrath of God. We have been ashamed of one of the attributes of the Lord, in whom we claim to believe. As Francis Chan wrote in his book, Erasing Hell: “Refusing to teach a passage of Scripture is just as wrong as abusing it. I really believe it’s time for some of us to stop apologizing for God and start apologizing to Him for being embarrassed by the ways He has chosen to reveal Himself.”

I want to remind you again to keep your Bible open and at your side in order to look at each verse, as it is quoted. That’s the way a Bible study works…

“When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted? When you eat and drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves?                                           Zechariah 7:5-6

An expository study of Zechariah, chapter 7

Are we looking for God’s happiness or ours in the things we do?

The second part of the book of Zechariah (v.1) begins in chapter 7 and it is divided by time from the first part. This part occurs two years later, in the 4th year of Darius, in the 9th month, which is Chislev, on the 4th day. To us that would be December of 518 B.C. (compare this with 1:1). The book also could be divided according to the ways that Zechariah received the revelations; the first part was given by visions and the second by the spoken word, which begins, actually, in 6:9-15.

It is interesting to read how a contemporary of Zechariah wrote about his ministry in Ezra 6:14-15: The elders of the Jews were successful in building through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.” Adar was the last month on the Jewish calendar, which would be March to us. During this time, of two years and three months, Zechariah prophesied, while the people built.

As always, a true prophet speaks only when the word of God comes to him. It is not a ministry directed by his own criteria. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways…” (Heb.1:1). Of all the words that the prophet had spoken during those years, the Holy Spirit has separated, in a special way, the six chapters that we have left to study. God spoke and revealed to Zechariah and to all his readers His Word, wherever and whenever they may be. He chose these revelations to be written and remain to this century. Therefore, they were more than words of encouragement for the Jews, until they finished building their temple. We can be very sure in our hearts that, that which we have before our eyes just now, is a word from God to us, and that we need it in order to know that, which is happening in our times.

Bethel was a place that had a lot to do with Jacob and it was repopulated by people that had returned from Babylon. In Ezra, chapter 2, there is a list of all those that returned and of the towns, from which they originated. It says that 223 were from Bethel and Ai. Collectively, the town sent representatives to Jerusalem, so that they would seek God’s blessing (v.2). They wanted to be in good standing before Him and to be sure that He would act in their favor. However, it seems to be a religious intent with little spiritual sensitivity. They thought that God’s favor towards them would be determined by their religious acts.

They came for counsel from the priests and prophets (v.3), concerning a rite that they had been practicing throughout the 70 years of captivity. They fasted officially four times a year (8:19), but their question only concerns one of the fasts. It sounds something like this: “He have been liberated from the captivity and have returned to our land. Should we continue, as always, the custom of weeping and fasting in the fifth month, now that the captivity has ended?” In this question, the religiosity is easily discerned. The religious always have limits. How long do I have to separate myself and fulfill my responsibilities? Have I done my part? The sincere and true person doesn’t ask those kind of questions, but enters into a life and relationship with the Lord of Hosts that never ends.

It doesn’t take long for God to reply (v.4) and the answer was directed towards the entire nation, and not only those of Bethel. He answered with another question, as Jesus tended to do in the Gospels. The question was not about the practice, but about the motivation behind it. Doing is not as important to the Lord, as the motive, the reason why.

They asked about one fast, that of the fifth month, and God mentioned another… that of the seventh month. God wants to know, if how He feels and what His will is in this matter, is really important to them. “Was it actually for Me that you fasted?” (v.5). Did you do it for Me? The answer, although they didn’t actually express it, was “no”. No, they fasted because they were worried about their own condition and well-being. Do you think that God had them in captivity for their well-being? Of course He did! He had determined the time that would be necessary to transform their character, so that they would not again fall into rebellion. God did not want them to suffer on day longer than was absolutely necessary. Everything was ordained for their good. For this reason and for another more important reason, they should have fasted. The other reason was because He longed for their love and that, far above their own personal desires, they would desire the best for their God. The sign of genuine love is in seeking always the happiness of the beloved.

The next question penetrates more deeply into the heart of the people. It goes beyond their special efforts in special times of the year. It concerns their daily life: “When you eat and drink… for whom do you do it? (v.6). As much in the Old Testament as in the New, to belong to God means that He possesses totally the heart of His people. Paul espresses it in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether, then, you eat of drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We can call ourselves true Christians only if we live for His glory and by means of His attributes. Paul said, “Not I, but Christ in me”. We live according to His principles and by His will.  

Do you feel what God feels? That is what God has desired from the beginning, when He created man for Himself (v.7). It is what he declared to His people by means of the prophets, when they were living in peace. That word was extended, just like the gospel extended, beginning in Jerusalem, covering the neighboring cities and reaching to the south (Negev) and unto the foothills. For this reason, more than any other, because they failed to do this, they were abandoned in captivity. God demands the same today… to live for Him and nothing less! Zechariah was an Old Testament prophet, but he preached this message better than many preachers in New Testament times. The word of God is the word of God anytime and it carries infinite authority.

Do we honor and stand behind all His attributes?

Another spoken and audible revelation follows (v.8). The Lord of Hosts demands the administration of righteousness in society, in the streets, in businesses and in government houses (v.9). The apostle declared that the Kingdom of God is righteousness (Ro.14:17) and, in this sense, nothing changes in passing from the Old to the New Testament. God expresses His preferences to Zechariah exactly as He expressed them to Isaiah earlier, when the kingdom of Judah was still intact (Is.58:3-7). If the fast is not accompanied by a desire to “loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke”, share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into the house, cover the naked, and not to hide from the needs of your brother, then your fast is selfish.  

God wants true righteousness that is not only preoccupied with the law and the consequences of breaking it, but He wants it to be full of compassion and mercy. He desires that His nation be exemplary, as one of love. Where have we ever seen it on this earth? How is it possible? It can only happen when God becomes sovereign over His people… He is the loving, merciful and compassionate Lord of Hosts! Go with me just a moment to chapter 8 (v.8): “I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness”.

Here we see the clauses and articles of the constitution of the Kingdom of God… Thy kingdom come! They are laws and the laws have to do with the well-being of its citizens. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”. The most civilized and refined governments are those that best protect the weak. Evolution is cruel, supporting the strong, ignoring and even persecuting the weak. I saw that when I went to visit a home for the elderly, shortly after communism fell in East Germany. The residents had been poorly treated. They told me that when the two countries were reunited, everything changed and they came to know what it meant to be treated with compassion and respect, in the hands of people who really cared for them. Nazism under Hitler persecuted the unfortunate, and Hinduism justifies its indifference to the poor, as it sanctifies dirty animals. “Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor”, says the word of God (v.10).

“Do not devise evil in your hearts…” “Consider yourselves dead to sin”. If Paul is teaching that to be dead to sin is a fact for every true believer, then we ought to live it. We need to say ‘no’ to everything that attempts to enter our lives to satisfy the old man. Temptation comes like a telephone call, asking for someone, who lived previously in the house, but has moved out. We answer, “No, there is no Adam living here; Christ lives here now” … and we hang up! It doesn’t matter what the offer is; temptation has nothing to offer or to tell us.

We can define evil as a rebellion against normality and nature constituted by God. Sometimes, I compare it to holding a rubber or plastic ball under water. You have to maintain it there by force, because, if you do not, it will come to the surface by itself. This is what we learn from verse 11… you put your hands over your ears turned your back away, instead of confronting the truth! Fallen man is a perverse being that is at continual odds with his Maker.

In this way, the heart of Israel has become more and more hardened and calloused, because they have been resisting His word constantly. In other passages of the Bible, the hard heart is compared with a stone, but in this case it is compared to a diamond, the hardest of all rocks (v.12). The One whom they are resisting is the Spirit of God and they persecute the people, who have received an anointing in order to correct them, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, before Zechariah. As a result, the wrath of God had to fall.

I don’t know why we find it difficult to speak of the wrath of God. In the first place, it is a reality and one of His attributes. Secondly, it is a good thing that works justice and leaves the situation in better condition. The Lord moved His army in order to demonstrate His wrath. As Francis Chan wrote in his book, Erasing Hell: “Refusing to teach a passage of Scripture is just as wrong as abusing it. I really believe it’s time for some of us to stop apologizing for God and start apologizing to Him for being embarrassed by the ways He has chosen to reveal Himself.” We have been ashamed to speak to society of God’s anger and once more, by doing so, we have demonstrated the rebellion of fallen man. The shame comes from our adherence to humanism. We have been ashamed of one of the attributes of the Lord, in whom we claim to believe.

The punishment of the nation was also a work of God’s righteousness (v.13). He warned them and called to them, but they would not listen to Him. Afterwards, when they were under severe conditions for 70 years, the Lord would not listen to them. It was totally right. The truth of the matter was that God actually worked with His armies against them, closed His ears to their prayers, and maintained their captivity until their hearts were softened.  

Here, in verse 14, we have a description of how the Lord worked: He blew against them with a storm so that they would be scattered into foreign lands. Their own country went unattended. Speaking of that land, Mark Twain said after he visited Palestine, before the State of Israel was reestablished, “I don’t know why anyone would want to fight to obtain this territory. It’s a complete desert.” By this 21st Century, this desert has been transformed into a prosperous nation, as God carries out His purposes in these last days. 


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