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The Purpose of Worship. Zechariah 7

04/07/2019

The Purpose of Worship is to please God, not to appeal to us!

 Text.  Zechariah 7 (Please also read 2 Kings 25)

Zecahariah has written about his eight visions – and now his book moves to a second section, a more directly didactic section, in which he teaches the people through a series of incident and sermons.  The first issue that Zechariah confronts is that of worship!  Although we think of ‘worship wars’ as being a modern church phenomenon, Zechariah was tackling issues about worship in his day too.  In chapter 7, Zechariah establishes some sound biblical principles about how we worship God.

 

1. Obligation and Worship.  “Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?”

Some people had travelled to Jerusalem from Bethel to enquire about a ritual fast, traditionally held in the month of Ab (August), the fifth month of the Jewish year.  Worship at Bethel was always corrupt during the days of the divided kingdom, cf Amos and now, after the return from exile, worship at the shrine of Bethel had recommenced.  There were four annual feasts there.  Zech 8:19.  None of these feasts were Biblical – but national days of remembrance and mourning – a bit like ‘remembrance Sunday’ or 12th July!  Compare Zech 8:19 with 2nd Kings 25 to see the purpose of these commemorations:-

  • The Fourth Month Fast. The breach of the city walls by Nebuchadnezzar.  2 Kings 25:3
  • The Fifth Month Fast. The destruction of Solomon’s Temple. 2 Kings 25:8
  • The Seventh Month Fast. The death of the governor of Jerusalem.  2 Kings 25:25
  • The Tenth Month Fast. The start f the siege of Jerusalem. 2 Kings 25:1

These commemorations of great sorrow had been practiced throughout the exile, and had now become national institutions – had become OBLIGATIONS.  (Like 4th July in USA), and as so often happens in these events, the focus of the worship shifted, from the sovereignty of God in history, to the acts and intentions and sacrifices of MANKIND.  But now the temple is being rebuilt, the people were asking, shall we continue to mourn its destruction?  A delegation was sent to ask Zechariah…

 

2. Omniscience and Worship.  5 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me? 6 When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves?

One of the interesting things about worship is that the Person you claim to be worshipping actually knows whether you really are worshipping Him, or just pretending!  These enquirers seemed to be:

  • Outwardly Sincere.  They had come to Jerusalem to pray.  They were concerned about their ritual prayers. It is quite possible to be sincerely religious and still be sincerely lost!
  • With Self-centred Objectives.  They needed more than religious information at Jerusalem, they needed a spiritual awakening.  When they were doing their fasting and weeping during those fasts, were they really doing it for God?
  • And Inward Artificiality.  There was plenty of weeping and mourning, lots of tears, lots of outward worship, but no actual repentance of sin.  Outward worship without repentance is not acceptable to God.  Read Job 35:13, Psalm 66:18,  Isaiah 59:2, 14:12, Micah 3:4.

So this is the great question about worship.  WHY do we worship?  Is it to approach God with thanksgiving and praise and honour – or is it because of some tradition, or to pleas our own egos, or amuse us, or tickle our ears with silly stories?    God is challenging the people of Zechariah’s day – when you come to worship is it FOR ME?  REALLY?

 

3. Obedience and Worship.  9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone  to his brother. 10  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’

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There is a direct relationship between obedience to God’s word and God’s acceptance of our worship.  Zechariah tells the Bethelites that the root cause of their incorrect worship is refusal to obey God’s word.  Zechariah 7:7, 11-13.  

  • They have ‘stopped their ears’ so that they would not hear!  How many modern Christians have just simply said, ‘I know what God has said in his word, but I’m not doing that.’  
  • When God speaks clearly in His word and we refuse to listen and obey there are consequences.   To hear and to obey is sin, and sin always results in sanctions.  Zechariah 7:14.  Let us be careful, lest our failure to listen and obey when God’s word is clear, causes us to be scattered and our witness left desolate.  

When we understand that worship is not primarily about me, or what pleases me, but about what pleases God, it totally changes the whole way we approach ‘church.’  We will seek to include in worship only that which is sanctioned by God in the word, and only what pleases him.  The focus of worship in the church needs to shift from  man-centred worship to Bible sanctioned worship.  We call this “The Regulative Principle of Worship.”  

© BobMcEvoy July 2019

 

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