A little heads up...Zechariah is going to have a bunch of dreams
These are God-inspired dreams aka VISIONS
So there is going to be a lot of SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE going on in his prophecies
But it’s ok, because ZECHARIAH IS A PROPHET!!
So there’s a lot of stuff going on
Let’s look at Ezra a little bit
Some people say that Nehemiah is BETTER THAN EZRA (because it’s GOOOOOD WHOAH OH WHOAH OH WHOAH OHHHHHH!!!! 🎸 Ok seriously, if you get this reference, kudos for growing up in the 90s 🤪) and Fr. Mike had to work that in two days in a row
In Ezra Ch 3 we have Worship Restored in Jerusalem
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!
Here are the people that come back
What are they doing now?
They are doing what they SHOULD BE DOING
King Cyrus of Persia had given them access to the treasury that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had taken from the Temple
So they were given all these treasures so they could RESTORE TEMPLE WORSHIP
THIS IS THE WHOLE POINT!!
Yes, the Promised Land is THEIRS
Jerusalem is THEIRS
Judah is THEIRS
The City is THEIRS
That land is THEIRS
The main reason why this is so important is because of the Temple in Jerusalem
The reason the Temple is important is because of the worship that is offered in Jerusalem
So they set up the Temple and get the altar ready and begin doing what Moses had prescribed
They begin, pretty quickly, offering up those sacrifices on a daily basis
And all the feasts and festivals
Then we have the story of the Foundation of the Temple Laid
This is the second year of their coming to the House of God at Jerusalem
They begin laying the FOUNDATION STONES
THIS IS A BIG BIG DAY!
People are saying, “Hey, we are DOING this. Not only are we offering up the sacrifice on the altar, but now we have this place that is the HOUSE OF GOD.”
Remember going all the way back to where David had said, “Lord, I intended to do this. I wanted to build you a house. Here I am living in a nice house, but you are dwelling in a tent. I want to build this incredible house, this Temple of God for you.”
Then God, through Nathan the Prophet, says, “No, your son Solomon is going to do this.”
So Solomon did do this and built this INCREDIBLE GLORIOUS TEMPLE that gave glory to the Father
So what happens?
Ezra 3:10, “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord...and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord...And all the people shouted a great show, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid.”
So this Temple was smaller
They had seen this INCREDIBLE GLORIOUS HOUSE
And here they are, weeping, because they realize that this is going to be a PALE COMPARISON to the original Temple of God built by Solomon
There is a PRO and a CON here
The PRO is that these people, who are weeping, they REMEMBER
They REMEMBER the way that here not only is God GLORIFIED
But here we are as a people and have this place to gather
This place to give God worship
This place to offer sacrifice
So they remember this and they realize, “Man, this is NOTHING in comparison to what once was.”
THAT IS A REAL GRIEF FOR THOSE WHO REMEMBER!!
Not just back in the day, I remember things being simpler
Back in the day, I remember things being better
Because that is not always the case (EXCEPT when it comes to the Washington Redskins who WERE BETTER BACK IN THE DAY, I SWEAR!! 🤪)
But this is actually ACCURATE
They do remember a time when God was GLORIFIED IN THAT OLD TEMPLE
Now, here is the new Temple that is a SHADOW OF THE PREVIOUS ONE
The CON to their weeping means that they are STUCK
Sometimes this happens to us where we get so stuck in LOOKING BACK AT THE PAST that we are not seeing what is ACTUALLY HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
It could be that these elders, with their memories, were so stuck that they were UNABLE TO SEE WHAT GOD IS DOING NOW
Remember, the whole THEME of Ezra is RETURN AND REBUILD
There is also REPENT in there
But these first moments are RETURN AND REBUILD
And the process of rebuilding is NOT GOING TO BE IMMEDIATE
In the New Testament we learn that the Temple of Herod took 47 years to build
We have to understand that when we become unable to see what GOD IS DOING NOW then we MISS OUT on what GOD IS DOING NOW
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT
There is a PRO in remembering the past
There is a CON in remembering the past in that we might get STUCK IN THE PAST and unable to see what GOD IS DOING IN OUR LIVES RIGHT NOW
In Ezra Ch 4 we have Resistance to Rebuilding the Temple
There were people who were back in the Holy Land and they are now known as the Samaritans
They were basically saying, “This is our home. You guys are just moving back.”
All those thousands of people that King Cyrus told they could leave Babylon and go back to their original land
There were people still living in that land for 70 years though
So these people, a lot of them being Samaritans, are saying, “Ok you’re coming back and claiming what was my land for the last 70 years.”
There is some tension there
They make an offer
“Let us help you build this Temple. Because we are your family, essentially.”
The Jews say no
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!!
2 Kings Ch 17 tells us that these Samaritans had offered to rebuild the Temple but they were not worshiping the God of Israel
They were worshipping their own gods
This is why in John Ch 4 Jesus has this conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well
She says, “You Jews say that the place to worship God is in Jerusalem and yet we worship here.”
She highlights the fact that there is DIVISION here
Because the Samaritans might even SAY, “The Lord God” BUT they mean SOMETHING ELSE
This is one of those points of division that is so painful to experience
When churches split and even when doctrines change between groups
Here are the people of Samaria saying, “Let us build the temple with you to the Lord God.”
The Jewish people say, rightly, “No because you would be building this temple to your false god and we can’t do that.”
Now of course there is some political conniving and they write a letter to Ahasuerus who we will see in the Book of Esther
He is also known as Xerxes
They also wrote another letter to Artaxerxes who was the next in line
What do they say?
They mix the truth with some lies
And that is the best way to tell a lie
We all know that
Sometimes the Evil One gets to our hearts because he speaks A LITTLE BIT OF TRUTH AND THEN TWISTS IT
AND MAKES IT IS A LIE!!
Here is what the Samaritans are doing as well saying, “Listen, these are people who rebelled against the previous folks. They rebelled against Babylon.”
Ok, That part is true
“And if they rebuild their walls and their temple, they will not pay taxes. They will not give you what you need. They will become this rebellious land over here in Judah and Jerusalem.”
Ok, THAT IS NOT TRUE
Because they always paid their taxes and did what was asked of them
So the temple building was halted
Until King Darius
Ezra 4:24, “Then the work on the house of God which is in Jerusalem stopped; and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”
Why is that important?
The second year of the reign of King Darius is where we heard the Book of Haggai yesterday
It is also where we opened up the Book of Zechariah today
Haggai and Zechariah are writing at essentially the exact same time
Zechariah writes two months after Haggai spoke this first installment of his prophecy
So all of these events are converging at around the same time
So like Haggai yesterday, Zechariah is a BOOK OF ENCOURAGEMENT
The people have gone back to Israel, the land of Judah and Benjamin
God, through Zechariah, is saying, “Don’t stop. Return from your evil ways and I will return to you. You have come into MY presence. I will come into YOUR presence.”
SUCH AN INCREDIBLE WORD OF COMFORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT here in Zechariah
Zechariah 1:17, “Cry again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”
So we have the first four of eight visions that Zechariah had
One of those visions is in Ch 3: Fourth Vision: Joshua and Satan
Remember that while Satan has come to mean the Evil One, of Principalities and Powers TODAY
In the ancient world of the Old Testament Satan means “accuser”
So that could mean the Devil himself
It could mean anyone who is an ACCUSER
Here is the ACCUSER standing next to Joshua the High Priest who is dressed in filthy clothes
He is NOT FIT to offer the sacrifice in the Temple
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!
In so many ways, we are unfit to enter the presence of the Lord
Think about Fr. Mike as a priest and other priests
In so many ways, they are like Joshua
Unfit to stand in the Lord’s presence and offer him sacrifice with a pure heart, good intention, and as God wants it
THAT DOES NOT DISQUALIFY JOSHUA!!
Zechariah 3:4, “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 rich apparel.’”
The angel basically says, “Hey now, basically you have been CLOTHED this way. Now, LIVE this way.”
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!
This is what EVERY ONE OF US who has been FORGIVEN BY JESUS CHRIST are invited to do
Just like Jesus said caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
That is an encapsulation to what is said to Joshua, the high priest
“Ok your sin, your iniquity has been removed from you. Now GO AND SIN NO MORE. Now worship the Lord God in this way of truth and of goodness.”
THAT’S WHAT ALL OF US ARE CALLED TO DO!!
TO RECEIVE THE LORD’S MERCY!!
TO RECEIVE THE LORD’S FORGIVENESS!!
TO BE MADE NEW!!
TO WALK FORWARD AWAY FROM OUR SINS TOWARD THE LORD!!
Zechariah 3:9-10, “...I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day. In that day, says the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree.”
THIS PLACE OF REST!!
“I WILL REMOVE THE GUILT OF THIS LAND IN A SINGLE DAY.”
WHEN WAS THAT DAY??
THE ORIGINAL GOOD FRIDAY!!
In a SINGLE DAY when GOD HIMSELF PAID THE PRICE FOR OUR SINS
In a SINGLE DAY when GOD HIMSELF MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO BE WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
THAT ON THAT GOOD FRIDAY, THAT SINGLE DAY, THAT GOD REMOVED THE INIQUITY NOT ONLY FROM THE LAND
GOD REMOVED THE INIQUITY FROM OUR LIVES
AND HERE WE ARE NOW MADE NEW
JUST LIKE JOSHUA AND THE WOMAN CAUGHT IN ADULTERY, THE LORD GOD SAYS, “I DO NOT CONDEMN YOU. I HAVE FORGIVEN YOU. NOW GO AND SIN NO MORE.”
WE CAN ONLY DO THIS WITH GOD’S GRACE
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU
BECAUSE WE NEED GOD’S MERCY
WE NEED GOD’S GRACE
WE NEED GOD’S STRENGTH TO KEEP MOVING FORWARD
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER