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2/4/23 Integrity

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Summary: Christians need a return to integrity so that motives will be in keeping with God's design and desire for a nation of righteousness. Zechariah identifies restraining hindrances and offers realistic solutions.

From Zephaniah, we learned HUMILITY. We honor God when we humble ourselves before God lest we become comfortable and complacent.
From Haggai, we learned COMMITMENT. We honor God when we do whatever needs to be done in His Name, whenever it needs to be done, for as long as it needs to be done. Keep your promises to God!
From Zechariah, we learned REPENTANCE. We honor God, and we do ourselves a favor, when we repent of our sins and trust God to forgive us and to lead us in the way He would have us go in life.
Another lesson we learned from Zechariah is DEPENDENCE. Unless we depend on the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us, nothing of lasting value will be accomplished.
Yet another lesson we learn from Zechariah is INTEGRITY.
The Hebrew word translated “integrity” means “completeness” – in the sense of being in harmony with the Word of God taught by the prophets and the Word that became flesh and dwelled among us.
In worship, for example, a man or woman of integrity will try as best they can to synchronize the desires of their hearts, the words of their lips, as well as their actions, into one act of praise to God. Their worship will be sincere - no impure motives, no hypocrisy, and no ill will toward anyone.
God questioned the MOTIVES of the people of Israel --- Zech. 7:1-7 . . .
Would you like to have your motives questioned?
Especially if you had walked 12 miles to ask a question having to do with whether you should continue doing something you thought was a good thing to do!
A delegation of folks from Bethel (12 miles north of Jerusalem) came to town to inquire of the priests and the prophets if they should continue the practice of observing fasting rituals they had begun in Babylonian exile.
Notice that the two leaders of the Bethel delegation had foreign names which suggests that they were born in Babylon; the ritual they had in mind was one they had instituted and observed for 70 years on an annual basis to remember the day they were taken into captivity.
They came to Jerusalem “to plead for the LORD’S favor” – “to seek God’s Will in a matter.”
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Quite frankly, I don’t think they trusted the priests (who oftentimes resorted to some kind of “throwing of the dice” to settle disagreements.
These folks wanted a straight answer! Don’t decide the issue with some kind of “coin toss” (to use today’s terminology). Shall we or shall we not continue the fasts which we instituted while in bondage?
What does the LORD say?
Well, the LORD answered their question with a question! You know, I hate that when I ask somebody a question. Just answer the question. I did not come here to be asked a question; I came here to ask a question.
What’s going on here? Would you agree that what the LORD was after was for THEM to answer their OWN question; so He asked them about their MOTIVES for observing the fasts which they instituted in Babylon.
Now, make no mistake about it, a “fast” was a good thing – IF the fast represented the right motive – if the fast was for the purpose of helping a person have a deeper experience with God – if the fast was used as a time of confessing sin and drawing nearer to God – if the fast was for demonstrating to God that those fasting needed the help of God; they felt powerless apart from their dependence upon God to supply their needs; or to minister to someone else in need, they had to have God’s help!
The LORD was trying to get them to see that the fast itself was not the important thing to Him. It’s not the ritual that matters to God; it’s the heart of the person performing the ritual that matters most! HOW you worship the LORD is not the issue here. It’s WHO you worship and WHY! HOW you serve the LORD is not the issue here. It’s WHO you serve and WHY!
What is the REASON for the ritual? If it’s just a recitation of words that have little or no meaning; or if it’s just a way of getting rid of pent-up feelings; or if it’s just another way to call attention to oneself, it’s of little or no importance to God.
Of course, God knows our hearts; He knows our motives; He knows our innermost thoughts. We cannot fool God; so why try? When it comes to worshipping God and serving Him, if what we do, and the way we do it, is solely for our own benefit, God knows it; however, if what we do and how we do it is motivated by our love for God, He knows that too.
So, what was God’s answer? Zechariah 7:8-10 . . . Who is it that is speaking here to Zechariah? Notice it says the LORD of hosts – the Lord of everybody and everything, in heaven and in earth, whether his lordship is acknowledged or not. He is LORD!
What do you see in this answer from God to His people via the “prophet Zechariah? Do you see the uppermost thoughts in the mind of God; do you see the innermost desires of the heart of God?
Do we see a God of true justice who demands that we render true justice . . . a God of compassionate love who desires that we show the same kind of love to one another . . . a God whose idea of a godly society is one in which the needs of all people are met . . . a God who is against any manner of evil whether inward or outward?
What we see here is God’s desire and demand for, God’s definition of what we in our society call “honesty and integrity” – desired, demanded, and defined in terms of words AND deeds.
Would you agree that, in our world today, we are not there yet? We have a lot of work to do?
In what places in our society do you feel that we need to do a better job of practicing integrity as desired, demanded, and defined by God?
As we read the final section of this chapter, identify the problem(s) that they needed to overcome then, and that we need to overcome today, or else --- Zechariah 7:11-14 . . .
“refused to listen.” “pay attention.”
“turned stubborn.” “willingly obey.”
“closed their ears.” “be open-minded.”
“hardened their hearts.” “have a heart.”
“disregarded the Spirit.” “be led by the Spirit.”
Would you agree that the BIG problem here was that those who failed to learn from their past or present brought God’s wrath upon themselves?
Do you believe, that we as a nation, or we as a body of believers, will ever learn, from the experiences of earlier generations as well as our own generation, the value and necessity of maintaining our integrity before God as we worship and serve Him? Amen!
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