Zechariah 7:4-5 ESV
“Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: ‘Say to all the people of the land and the priests, “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?”’”
There is a big difference between walking in obedience to the Lord and going through the motions of religious practice. There is a big difference between obedience to the Lord and just doing some of the things the Bible teaches us that we must do, and so we do them. For you can go through all forms of religious practice and appear righteous and not be righteous at all because you are not walking in obedience to the Lord, doing what he says to do.
For obedience is not just following a set of rules. Obedience is being in step with God daily. It means we are in tune with the Spirit of God who is living within us, if indeed we have the Spirit, and we are listening for the Spirit’s voice within us teaching us all things, counseling, guiding, directing, inspiring, motivating, gifting, and providing all we need to follow our Lord in obedience one step at a time, moment by moment of every day.
So, we can read our Bibles every day and have family devotions and pray at mealtimes and at bedtime, and pray for the sick and afflicted, and we can attend church gatherings weekly, and sing praise and worship songs, and listen to sermons, and even serve in areas of ministry within the gatherings of what is called church, and we can even live fairly moral lives and be kind to our neighbors and not be spiteful and still not be pleasing to God.
For God is not interested in what we are willing to do for him, especially if we are “cherry picking” what we are willing to do or not do. He wants our all on the altar of sacrifice laid. He wants us to surrender our lives to him as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our reasonable and acceptable worship of God. And we are not to be conformed to the ways of this world but we are to be changed in heart and mind of God’s Spirit.
In other words, following Jesus is not just following a bunch of dos and don’ts listed for us in the Scriptures. We do have to obey those, too – the ones repeated for us in the New Testament – but that alone is not enough to constitute true surrender and obedience to our Lord which is surely for him and not for ourselves. Our lives must be abandoned to Jesus Christ to go where he sends us, to do as he commands, and to say what he wants us to say as he gives us the direction and as it agrees with Scripture as a whole.
Zechariah 7:8-12 ESV
“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.’ But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 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.”
Now, the Lord knew what they were willing to do and what they were willing not to do. For God knows us inside out, because he is the one who formed us in the wombs of our mothers. And he sees everything, and he even knows what we are going to think or say even before we think it or say it, for he also knows all. So, he knows what you are willing to commit to him, or you think you are committing to him, and he knows what you are withholding, too, and what you are not willing to surrender to him.
And this may be different for each individual person. For you could be a person who cares about widows and orphans and who feeds the hungry, but you may refuse to obey the Lord about your thought life or about how you spend your free time because you think your thoughts are your own business and that your free time is yours to do with whatever you choose. And so these words here spoken to the people of that time dealt specifically with their situation, and God will speak to us individually, too.
So, rather than looking at this passage as instructions telling us that if we would just do all these things listed here that God will be pleased with us, it is better if we can look at it more in principle. The New Testament gives us many lists of dos and don’ts that we must follow. So, obviously if we ignore any of those specific dos or don’ts then God will not be pleased. Refusing to obey God in any areas where we know right from wrong is bad, no matter what it is. But it goes beyond just that.
The Bible teaches us that we are given the Spirit to teach us all things and to guide us into all truth, and that he will give us individual specific gifts and that God will assign us specific areas of ministry (our body parts). So we know that God has a design and a purpose for each one of our lives individually that he also wants us to obey which he will reveal to us through his Spirit. So, we must be in tune with the Spirit, listening to the Spirit’s voice, so we know our gifts and how God wants us to use them and so we will know our individual callings and body parts so that we can be them.
And for all of us, none of us are to harden our hearts against the Lord and to refuse to obey his word and his commands (New Covenant), nor are we to refuse to listen to the Spirit’s voice and to be and to do what God has called each one of us individually to be and to do. Like, for example, God has called me to write down what he teaches me from his word each day and to place these writings on the internet. This is my body part in the universal body of Christ. But that is not everyone’s assignment from God, although we are all to be his witnesses and to share the truth of his gospel with the world.
Zechariah 7:12-14 ESV
“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, ‘and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.’”
If we refuse to obey the Lord and yet we claim him as our Lord and Savior, then we are liars who do not live by the truth. For if we refuse to obey him then we don’t know him, and we will not inherit eternal life with him. For God sees obedience as equal to faith and disobedience as equal to unbelief (1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Co 10:1-22; Heb 3:1-19; Heb 4:1-13).
So, don’t just go through the motions of religious performance. Walk in obedience to the Lord in all ways, according to the word of God, and according to the leading of the Spirit of God (which must agree with the Word of God), withholding nothing from the Lord, following him moment by moment and step by step as he leads and guides us each step of the way. And don’t refuse him, and don’t refuse to obey him in any way, and it will go well with you, and you will be blessed.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10]
It Is Well with My Soul
Lyrics by H. G. Spafford, 1873
Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1876
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well; it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well; it is well with my soul.
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