"8 And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9 'This is what the Lord Almighty said: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ 11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. 13 "'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.'" ~ Zechariah 7:8-14
As we continue our study of Zechariah 7, we notice that in v.8-14 God presses into the heart of the people of Israel a bit more. Essentially God is telling the people of Israel to choose a personal relationship with Him rather than choosing to be religious.
In v.8-10 of today's text we read, "8 And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’"
The basic truth in the faith is that we treat one another with grace, dignity and love. Jeremiah says the same thing as Zechariah in Jeremiah 7:4-8 which reads, "4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!' 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless."
Religion is trying to behave well enough in order to presumably garner the favor of God which is a total waste of time. Since it is so plastic and phony, religion hardens our hearts. We innately know that it is not real so we deal with God and others in an unreal way. And, the plastic always gets brittle after a while.
In v.8-10 of today's text, God highlights, justice, mercy, and compassion. These three are in keeping with God's character and when our hearts join with His, we will treat one another accordingly.
James wrote, "True religion is to visit the widows and the orphans."
Christianity isn’t going through certain rituals, thinking that in doing so God will like us more than He does. Christianity is to first have a heart felt relationship with God that in turn causes us to take care of those who can not take care of themselves. Christianity is loving others expecting nothing in return. Going through any routine without heart involvement is revolting and definitely a waste of time.
At the end of v.10 in today's text we read, "Do not plot evil against each other."
The idea of plotting against others, bringing false accusations in law is the outflow of a heart that has not engaged God. We can’t worship God while we’ve got some bitterness, or some grudge, or some backbiting, or some gossip, or some lawsuit. We can’t worship God unless our hearts are right with Him. And, once our hearts are made right with Him, we can not expect that treating people badly would be pleasing to Him. God is not interested in how many feasts we keep. He is not interested in how we bow down before Him or how we bend and pray or how we read our Bibles or how we sing or how we attend services or how we recite a creed when our hearts are far from Him. What God desires is a heart that has experienced His love and is subsequently loving towards others, even after they have hurt us.
In v.11-14 of today's text we read, "11 But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. 13 When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.'"
Even though the people had been chosen of God, they had substituted ritual for reality. Even though they had a history of worshipping God, they had lost sight on the importance of their hearts being engaged with Him, thus they had become religious and ritualistic. In fact, in v.11 of today's text, there is a three-step progression toward a hardened heart.
The first step toward a hardened heart is "refusing to pay attention (to God)." God's word did not find safe haven in their hearts; it went in one ear and out of the other. Thus, it could not change their hearts.
The second step toward a hardened heart is when "stubbornly they turned their backs." This phrase describes the behavior of an ox when it will not take the yoke. The people of Israel had come to the point where they didn’t listen to God and they treated Him flippantly. And then, when God tried to place His culture within their hearts, they shrugged and they turned their hearts away from Him.
The third step toward a hardened heart is that the people of Israel "covered their ears."
Our ears function as gate-keepers. If our ears are "closed" then nothing gets to our hearts. Our refusal to listen to God is always a matter of the heart. In Matthew 11:15, the Lord Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." And, in Proverbs 8:34 we read, "Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors."
Since the people of Israel refused to hear God and listen to Him, they chose religion instead of reality. Our hearts were created to find fulfillment in a personal relationship with God. And, when we run from God, our sin traps us in so that we can not operate normally. So, when the people of Israel rejected God, they, for 70 years, went into captivity in Babylon. And, when their captivity was over, sadly, many didn't return to the promised land because they had become comfortable living in Babylon.
My friends, comfort is a huge enemy to us. But, we all want to be comfortable, we all hate pain, We all hate discomfort. And, yet it is God's megaphone with which He speaks the deepest truths into our existence.
Reality comes from hearing the word of the Lord. And, when we get real with Him, we can experience reality as He meant it to be. True intelligence is the ability to listen to God. Wisdom is not something we are born with, it is not something intrinsic to us. We must listen for it! And, we learned it from God once our hearts are engaged with Him.