Daily Reflections December 20, 2017
Tucked in the midst of a series of complicated visions lies a straightforward, practical text in Zechariah 7. Some men had approached the prophet Zechariah and were wondering if they should go ahead with the ceremonial weeping and fasting that had typically accompanied the fifth month of every year. On the surface, this question seems innocent enough. The people wondered: ‘Does God notice our fasting? Is this getting through to Him?’
Reflect on God’s answer:
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? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? (Zechariah 7:5-6 ESV)
That is a convicting response! In effect, God asks: ‘Were these ceremonies ever about me? In the midst of your fasting and then your feasting, did you turn your attention toward me at all?’ He goes on to rebuke their way of life. They had turned a blind eye to the poor and neglected justice. They persisted with their religious ceremonies but their life and conduct remained unchanged. God looks upon their attitude with incredulity. Did they truly believe that the blessings of God could be summoned this way?
In a startling verse, the God of the universe says of His people:
As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear (Zechariah 7:13 ESV)
The people turned a deaf ear to God’s frequent calls for reform. In the same way, God will now turn a deaf ear to their calls for help. The principle here is not difficult to uncover: Disobedience blocks further blessing.
The answer, of course, is not to abolish the religious ceremonies. The ceremonies themselves were not wrong. The problem was the heart of God’s people. Religious duty with no love for God and no love for our fellow man is empty, hollow and vain. This is why Jesus said to the Pharisees:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23 ESV)
Religious activity is worthless before God if it does not come with love and obedience. The implication for us is clear: God delights in obedience that comes from the heart. Let your church attendance, your Bible reading, your prayer and your care for the vulnerable be fueled by a genuine love for God and His people.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b ESV)
Assistant Pastor Levi denBok
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15 ESV)
The Lord Jesus’ favorite metaphor for spiritual leadership was that of a shepherd who tends God’s flock. Jesus came as the God-incarnate Shepherd of the sheep. Old Testament prophecies of Messiah pointed to a single shepherd (Ezekiel 34:23) whose identity was mysterious and who would suffer death according to God’s will (Zechariah 12:10, 13:7).
John’s gospel contains the longest discourse of Jesus’ use of shepherd imagery. Isaiah 40:11 and Ezekiel 34 provide important background for this Gospel. John heralds Jesus as both the Passover Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the Good Shepherd of the sheep (John 10:14).
In John 10:15, Jesus indicated he would willingly lay down his life for the flock. Our Shepherd lived a sacrificial life and died a sacrificial death. While Luke describes the extent to which a shepherd will go to rescue a sheep (Luke 15:4), John states that Jesus the Good Shepherd will go to the point of death. Thus, the rescuing Shepherd is also the sacrificial Lamb.
Jesus is the perfect Davidic shepherd who succeeded where David and the Old Testament false shepherds failed.
I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. (Ezekiel 34:14 ESV)
In his younger years, David fought for the sheep. However, near the end of his life he selfishly murdered Uriah, one of God’s sheep, to cover up his own sin (2 Samuel 11:15). Clearly, David was not the perfect good shepherd. However, Jesus, the Son of David, is the righteous king who sacrificially died for the sheep. Jesus IS the perfect Good Shepherd who stands in contrast to all other shepherds. His ministry was foretold in Numbers 27:16-17,
Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd. (Numbers 27:16-17 ESV)
As THE Good and Great Shepherd, Jesus is the source of living water (John 7:38) and the Bread of Life (John 6:35). In light Ezekiel 34:14 and Psalm 23, Jesus gives his sheep an abundant, cared for life (John 10:10).
John 10:14-15 expresses the intimate relationship between shepherd and sheep, which is a picture of Jesus’ own relationship to the Father. Whereas the hireling is consumed with self-interest and cares nothing for the sheep, Jesus is willing to die because of his profound commitment to the Father and thus to the ones the Father loves. The love between the Father and the Son determines the relationship of Jesus to his flock. In the gospel of grace we are invited into that intimate relationship and love.
How good it is to be loved and led by the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Shepherd! We are not alone. We are not defenseless. As you enter into 2018, your Good Shepherd goes before you. He cares for you and he will lead you in God’s righteous paths.
Associate Pastor Jody Cross