Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 23 December 18:
1. Zechariah 3:2 – “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’” Satan, the accuser has no case against the one God has chosen.
2. Zechariah 3:4-7 — “And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.’”
– “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” Only Jesus can take away our iniquity and make us clean again.
– Joshua was given the free gift of forgiveness by the mercy and grace of God. THEN there was an expectation and demand for Joshua to walk with God and remain obedient to God that Joshua would be worthy for holy service. This conditional “If… Then…” statement is repeated several times in the Bible, revealing the impact that our decisions have on our fruitfulness. We are saved by faith, not by works, but grace is a call to obedience that we might both glorify God as we should and also receive the fulfilment in our purpose, joy.
3. Zechariah 3:8 – “I will bring my servant the Branch.” Jesus is both the perfect Priest (Hebrews) and the promised Branch.
4. Zechariah 4:6 — “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
– God is glorified when He uses us to do things we could never accomplish with human abilities. When there is no question that human talents and abilities had nothing to do with it, God is best revealed. We must be guided and walk by the power of the Spirit rather than the flesh. We must trust in the wisdom of God and follow his commands rather than leaning on our own understanding and doing what seems right in our own eyes. What God would have us do is 180-out than what we are being told continually by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We must live by ‘every word that proceeds form God’s mouth,’ day-by-day. Our power is not natural; it is supernatural when we are obedient to God and step into Loins’ Dens and fiery furnaces in faith, hope, and love. Today we read that Joshua was cleansed from sin and clothed in purity by the power of God – new clothes, not cleaned clothes, gifted not earned. But then we read that Joshua, after grace, is given the conditions for service and position in the Kingdom – “If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts.” It takes faith to obey; without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith trust in the power of God rather than human power. Only the power of God could enable an unconfident, poorly spoken, fugitive like Moses to lead the greatest exodus in human history; only the power of God could enable 300 foot-mobile farmers to defeat an innumerable multitude of heavily armed, experienced, ruthless, camel riding marauders. So, when Jesus commanded His small group of very imperfect followers to make disciples of all nations, was that possible? Certainly, if Jesus said it was, but not through their power, but through His, which is why He reminded them that all authority on heaven and on earth had been given to Him and that He would be with them always. When Jesus told his disciples to love their enemies, was He being realistic? Of course, because He was the One who would achieve reconciliation through them. It is faith that believes that when God gives an assignment it is no longer impossible but rather an absolute certainty. Yet a lack of faith can cause us to modify God’s word to find an interpretation that seems more plausible to us. In Jeremiah 32:27, God challenges us: “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” So, when God calls you for an impossible or seemingly irrelevant or insignificant task, how do you respond? Stories like that of Moses remind us that no task given to us by God is too big for us, but we must also remember that no task God gives us is too small for us either. Jesus said, that He did only what the Father led him to do; notice that Jesus (much to the dismay of his disciples) spent much of His time ministering to nobodies, talking to people who no one else would talk to, noticing who everyone else had long forgotten. Why? Because the Father commanded Him. Isn’t that how you should transform the world around you? Absolutely. We cannot comprehend the power of the small, seemingly insignificant things we do in faith and obedience to God, because God’s measurements are not our measurements. Led by love for Jesus, a women humbly and quietly performs a simple act of anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume, nothing spectacular, no miracles, no performances, no sermons, just an act of love seen by very few; yet Jesus proclaimed, “truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” The Bible tells us that the small gifts we give to others in the name of Christ are “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
– From Henry T. Blackaby — God’s word came to His people at a critical time. They were a despondent, disillusioned people who faced a daunting task. They had been exiled in Babylon for seventy years. During this time they had witnessed the strength of the most dominant military power in their world. They had watched the Babylonian army marching off to conquer other nations. They had seen the wealth and splendor of the Babylonian king. When Babylon was in turn conquered by the Persians, the Israelites saw an even greater superpower emerging on the world stage. They lost heart when they compared their own weakness and captivity with the enormous strength and wealth of the superpowers of their day. As the Israelites returned to Jerusalem after seventy years in captivity, they found their city in ruins. Their magnificent temple had been destroyed. The city walls had been torn down. They had no resources to rebuild their splendid city. As these former refugees looked at the mammoth task before them, they realized their poverty and weakness, and they became greatly dismayed. Then came God’s word! He promised that they would, indeed, rebuild their city. But, He told them, the rebuilding would not be accomplished by their own power and resources but by His Spirit. As long as they had God’s Spirit, they had everything they needed. There will be times when obeying God will lead you to impossible situations. If you look at your own skills, knowledge, and resources, you will become discouraged. However, when you became a Christian, God placed His Spirit within you. You now have the resources of heaven at your disposal. The success of your endeavors will not depend on the way you use your own resources but on how you obey the Spirit of God.
5. Zechariah 4:6-10 – Completion of the temple would show that Zechariah is a true prophet.
6. Zechariah 4:10 – “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” From Henry T. Blackaby — The world loves the spectacular. God has proven that He is certainly capable of the extraordinary, but He often chooses to work through the ordinary and seemingly insignificant. In this way He demonstrates His love and His power. Throughout history, God’s answer to a critical time was to send a baby. Isaac, Moses, Samuel, John the Baptist, and Jesus were all born as answers to a time of need…. When Jesus selected His first disciples He could have enlisted a multitude to follow Him, but He chose twelve. It was not the number of disciples but the quality of their walk with Him that would determine how they affected their world. When Jesus fed a multitude, five loaves of bread and two fish from a boy’s lunch were sufficient in the hands of the Lord. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31-32). The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to the Jews, yet it grew into an enormous tree. He also likened God’s kingdom to leaven that is hardly noticeable but raises the entire batch of dough (Matt. 13:33). When children came to Jesus, His disciples assumed they were an annoyance and chased them away (Matt. 19:13-15). But Jesus said that in order to enter His kingdom, people must approach God as a child. Christians often accept the adage “the bigger the better.” We measure success by the number of people involved in our ministry. We seek spectacular displays of God’s power. We must learn to view success as God does. God is interested in the heart; He is pleased with obedience.
7. Proverbs 23:4 — “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.” If your pursuit of productivity gets in the way of your relationship with God and others, your productivity, your accomplishments, have become your idol – sin to you. Don’t sacrifice what matters for what ultimately doesn’t matter.
8. Proverbs 23:17 — “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.”
– Following Jesus is a daily endeavor that requires self-control. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Notice how these sins involve a lack of self-control. However, Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Notice that self-control comes from the Spirit, not merely human will. Note that the key to self-control is belonging to Christ and being crucified with Him and being born again into a new creation:
— Galatians 2:20 — I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
— 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
— Galatians 6:15 — For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
— Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
— Luke 14:27 — Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
– The Bible describes envy as one of the most dangerous of emotions. It involves resentment over the wealth, blessings, talents, good fortune, or achievements of another. The envious person feels a deep sense of injustice that can only be directed at God who provides all things to all people. This verse points out that envy is a deep spiritual sin which tempts you into a tantrum of rebellion against God. Be very careful not to be envious of others, but rather be thankful for what God is doing in your life to bless you.
9. Proverbs 23:20, 21 — “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” It is interesting that the Bible places alcoholism and excessive eating into the same category — what do they have in common? They both demonstrate a lack of self-control, and idolatrous dependency, misdirected emotions, escapism, and destructive behavior. God wants you to have self-control through the Spirit, and to desire and depend on Him that you might experience the fullness of life and joy.
10. Psalm 148:5 – “Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.” The creation praises God and brings glory to God by fulfilling the purpose God intended for it. We were created to love Him and others, and we praise Him and bring glory to Him when we obey the Great Command of love. Will you praise God today and glorify Him by fulfilling your purpose of love?
11. Psalm 148:14 – “He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!” He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!” God has chosen you and your church to be instruments of praise so all the world can praise Him.
12. Psalm 148 – One of God’s primary commands for you is to praise Him.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 Dec 18: Focus on your relationships today, your relationship with Jesus and your relationships with others. Strive to love selflessly and unconditionally. Love those who are hard to love. Love sacrificially. Do not seek anything for yourself. Take on the role of a humble servant in all of your relationships. Deny yourself, take up your cross in relationships, and follow Jesus. (see today’s readings)