International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 23, 2015
Purpose: To put God’s desires first as we learn to love and serve all people
Bible Lesson: Zechariah 7:8-14
Background Scripture: Isaiah 30:18-26
Zechariah 7:8-14 (CEB)
(8) The Lord’s word came to Zechariah: (9) The Lord of heavenly forces proclaims: Make just and faithful decisions; show kindness and compassion to each other! (10) Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other! (11) But they refused to pay attention. They turned a cold shoulder and stopped listening. (12) They steeled their hearts against hearing the Instruction and the words that the Lord of heavenly forces sent by his spirit through the earlier prophets. As a result, the Lord of heavenly forces became enraged. (13) So just as he called and they didn’t listen, when they called, I didn’t listen, says the Lord of heavenly forces. (14) I scattered them throughout the nations whom they didn’t know. The land was devastated behind them, with no one leaving or returning. They turned a delightful land into a wasteland.
Key Verses: The Lord of heavenly forces proclaims: Make just and faithful decisions; show kindness and compassion to each other! Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other! (Zechariah 7:9-10)
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Today’s text was written in about 520 B.C. or about 16 years after the first Jews returned to Jerusalem. An original plan to rebuild the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar's army in 586 had stalled due to Persian resistance in 536. The foundation was laid, but that is as far as the reconstruction went.
Zechariah, who had returned from the Babylonian captivity was a priest although he is better known as a prophet than as a priest. Our text is part of a sermon delivered by Zechariah to encourage those living in Jerusalem to continue with the construction of the temple.
There was not a lot of wealth amongst those that had returned from exile. It appears that it would require a lot of devotion and sacrifice on the part of the community to get the temple rebuilt. I presume that the lack of wealth had caused an unusually high number of people that were struggling to get along in the economy in Jerusalem.
Because of the number of people that were unskilled or underemployed things were tough within the community. Zechariah’s message was simple, there is no excuse for not treating each other with kindness and mercy. Zechariah did not want those returning from exile to make the same mistakes their fathers had made. The prior generation stopped listening to God, so God stopped listening to them.
We must never make the mistake where people think God is so good, He will not punish or ignore us when we fail to live a life committed to His values and His teachings. The people of Judah had failed to obey God’s laws, they sought other gods and were amazed when God ignored their cries for help. The problem was they wanted God to change His ways and ignore their sin, instead of them changing their ways and repenting of the sins they had committed. They had lost sight of God’s purpose for them, and thought that the temple was God’s dwelling place and when the temple was destroyed so was their belief and faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The road back for these exiles was to live holy and righteous lives. That meant taking care of those that could not take care of themselves. The lesson for us comes from our Key Verses. “The Lord of heavenly forces proclaims: Make just and faithful decisions; show kindness and compassion to each other! Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other! (Zechariah 7:9-10)
A great motto for all church communities to live by. If you are not seeing growth in your church check how you are doing with these words from Zechariah. I am reminded of the great Fanny Crosby hymn for missions. “Rescue the perishing.”