Week of October 1

Does Your Worship Drip with Truth?

Read: Zechariah 7-9; Luke 13
“They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts.”
Zechariah 7:12, NASB


Sadly, unlike the Tin Man, who only wanted a heart in the classic movie the Wizard of Oz, many worshipers are quite fond of the metal box inside where their hearts should be. This had been the case in ancient Judah, where the people prior to and following the exile simply went through the motions of their faith. God challenged them from His jealous love and called them to true holiness! He does the same for you and me today.

The Meaning of the Text

Discovering the heart of worship
We sing a chorus in church where a phrase is “getting back to the heart of worship.” If I may, this passage throws cold water, as we sometimes say, on the false notion that we worship from pure hearts. Israel had made heartless worship into an art form, so to speak. We often do the same. How so?
A steady course away from God
God challenges our wrong belief. The prophet confronts the people with God’s word: “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?” (7:5-6). I will take up some New Testament examples later in this devotional, but for our current context, God was exposing the deepest motivations for their religious activities. Their worship was external and not heartfelt.
Signs that outward actions are motivated by devotion to God. The “70-year” Babylonian exile had ended, and God expected His people to have learned that He accepts sacrifices offered from a worshipful heart (1 Samuel 15:22-23; Isaiah 1:11-7; Hosea 6:6; cf. Romans 12:1-2). The point was that a religious observance like fasting was fine to observe, but it must be accompanied by righteousness and justice, or it brings no pleasure to the Lord (Isaiah 1:10-17; 58:1-7).
The prophet makes it clear that we are to do the right thing (justice) and embody the same (just-ness/integrity). 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.” (7:8-10). In other words, we cannot claim to love God and not love the neighbor He fashioned in His image.
God chisels away at our hard hearts. Zechariah 7:12-13 says, “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.” Their forerunners had hard hearts and God warned the current generation to take heed of their spiritual condition. These people were settling into the same routine their ancestors had embraced.
Generational stubbornness
Characteristics of generational stubbornness. Notice that the same was characteristic of the attitudes in Jesus’ day. Jesus had healed a woman who had been ill for 18 years, “But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day’” (Luke 18:13). A similar attitude was evident among Gentile Christians, too! (cf. also 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 and abuses).
Warning signs that our hearts are stony are: “turning our backs” on the Lord and His word, “stopping up our ears,” and “hearts of flint.” All of these are signs of nations and individuals who rebel against God’s authority.
God calls us to repentance. “‘Thus’, says the Lord of hosts: ‘I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.’” (8:2). God responds to the threat of judgment by giving emphatic assurances of certain future blessings. Chapters 7 and 8 provide us with a balanced theology between poles of judgment and promise (NAC).
There also is an ongoing tension between sin and blessing in the entire Old Testament. The high note is that God demonstrates unchanging faithfulness to His covenant and to Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14). The confirmation of God’s message of hope and peace is wrapped up in the promised Messiah. Hallelujah!
He will bring peace and will be a man of peace unlike the kings in Zechariah’s day (Luke 2:14). The Messiah would soon emerge and would be worthy of worship because he would: be “righteous,” “have salvation,” “be humble,” and will enter Zion “riding on a donkey.” The latter meant that he would not enter as a conquering military ruler on a horse, but as a king of peace who would issue in a kingdom of peace (9:9-10; Matthew 5:9).

The Message for Our Lives

It's our United States presidential election season again and candidates are espousing their themes. Campaign slogans must be catchy and are aimed toward drawing attention to a candidate's ideas. Recent memorable ones include “Are you better off than you were four years ago,” “Yes we can,” and “Let’s make America great again.” Jesus’ campaign was to bring God’s peace to hearts and transform lives. Sadly, the frothiness of campaigns too often tastes flat. Truly, all political rulers come and go, but Jesus’ kingdom continues to this day and will grow until the end of the age.
What about our use of worship slogans?? “No Jesus / No Peace.” “Cross Training.” “Eternal Advisory: Jesus Lives.” “My Game. His Glory.” There is truth in these catchphrases, but we need to make sure that the truth soaks into our hearts too. Does your worship drip with truth?
Here is the spiritual point! We must make sure that we are standing firmly on Christ’s “spiritual campaign platform” in commitment to Him. Right belief and soft and obedient hearts that seek to do His will are key characteristics of those whom He counts as citizens in His kingdom.

For Thought and Action

1. Take a moment to reread Zechariah 7. Ask yourself if you have been focused on external worship (e.g., fasting) to the neglect of caring for the helpless. Begin to practice holistic worship.
2. The prophet Zechariah provides us with three simple steps to true worship. Ask God to correct wrong belief, to soften your heart, and then answer His call to repentance. Celebrate His mercy and praise Him for it.
3. For Families: Our children might like to participate in an experiment this weekend. Gather your children and ask them to help you. Tell them you want to conduct an investigation to find porous vs non-porous materials in the house. Explain that something that is porous has the ability to retain fluid in itself, and that non-porous materials do not let fluid to pass through or absorb.

Now turn your children loose and ask them to think, and then bring their best examples of something porous, and something non-porous, and meet back up at the kitchen table in 15 minutes. When the kids arrive, have ready a large bowl, some water in a pitcher, and your own choices of porous and non-porous containers (a cookie sheet and glass measuring cup are non-porous, while a sponge and a paper towel, can be porous).

When your kids arrive with their materials, explore whether each is porous or non-porous by pouring water over or soaking the object in water. Encourage your children's thoughtful selections. Now show what you chose, and ask your children to correctly identify your materials.

Then share that God is looking for porous hearts in His people. He wants our hearts to drip with honest worship, not to be so hard that His love and mercy and grace just roll off, like water on marbles! He wants hearts that soak up His beautiful gifts to us! Pray together that God will help your whole family to have soft, porous heart!

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock