Zechariah 7, the bible reads, "And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu; When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the Lord, and to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, 'Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?'"
Now remember that the children of Israel had been in Babylon for a 70-year captivity, and they're coming back from Babylon, they've got Jerusalem back, and they had had this tradition that for the last 70 years, they would weep in the fifth month, and then later he talks about doing it in the seventh month and other months.
The thing that they're weeping and lamenting is the fact that they had been carried away captive, and that they were suffering in Babylon. Now that the Babylonian captivity is over, they're saying, "Should we continue this thing of this prayer and fasting that we do in the fifth month? What should we do? Do we just throw this this out now or there's a change to something else?" They're seeking advice on this.
Now, God actually rebukes them. He actually answers them roughly if you read this passage. It says in verse four, "Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying, 'Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?'"
God knows their heart here. They come and ask what seems like just an innocent question, "We've been doing this tradition. Should we keep doing it or not?" but because God knows their hearts, he rebukes them and says, "You know, the fasting and the mourning that you've been doing while you were captive, you weren't even doing it to me in fact. You were actually just doing that for yourself."
Now, he goes on to explain a little bit more as we go into this passage. Beginning verse eight it says, "The word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying, 'Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.' But they refused to hearken ..." talking about their fathers that were taken away captive, "... and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts."
I believe that the reason why God has Zechariah give them this strong answer, this rebuke and tell them, "You didn't even fast for me when you did this tradition for the last 70 years. You did it for yourself." Is that these people were going through the rituals and going through the motions of worshiping the Lord but they actually were not keeping his commandments. They actually did not love the Lord. Therefore, they did not love their fellowmen. They're mistreating people.
The bible talks about oppressing the widow, oppressing the fatherless, oppressing the stranger. That would mean taking advantage of foreigners and treating foreigners bad. It says that they would oppress the poor halfway through verse 10, imagining evil against your brother in your heart. These are not good people. These are not godly, righteous people, but they wanted to appear spiritual unto men. That's why they go down to the temple and say, "So, should we continue our prayer and fasting that we've been doing for the last 70 years?" It's all outward show to these people. They're not doing it for the Lord. They're doing it for themselves, God said.
Now, there's a lot of scripture like this specifically about fasting. Go if you would to Isaiah 58 because remember, Zechariah 7 refers back to the former prophets. He says, "You need to hear what the former prophet said before you guys went into captivity. Your fathers didn't listen to them, that's why you even got punished in the first place." One of those former prophets to Judah is Isaiah. Isaiah teaches in chapter 58 pretty much the exact same thing that Zechariah 7 teaches.
Let's look at it together. Isaiah 58 beginning in verse one, the bible reads, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours."
Now, what's he saying here? These people delight in seeking after God but only on their own terms. They don't actually want to do right in their own lives. They don't really love the Lord or love their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, but what they love to do is to put on a big show and go through a lot of rituals even on a daily basis. They like to go through physical exercise, but they don't have their heart in the right place, and they don't do right by their fellowmen.
Look what it says at the end of verse three, "And exact all your labours." Look at verse four, "Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness." Now, stop and think about that. These people who are fasting, what does it mean to fast? Abstain from food. These people are abstaining from food and outwardly, it is that they might draw nigh to God, and worship him, and have a prayer life that would be acceptable in his sight, but he says, "No. I know your heart. You're actually fasting for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness."
Now, that's a pretty strong accusation when he says, "You're fasting to smite with the fist of wickedness." I mean, that's a pretty bold accusation. He says, "Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?"
God is saying here that when you fast to show how spiritual you are when in reality, you're living a wicked life, you're not following his commandments, you're not doing right by other people. He says here, "That's a wicked fast. The fast that I've chosen is that you would actually obey my word, that you would actually love people and treat them well. That's the fast that I've chosen."
Now, how do we apply this today? Well, before we do actually, let's just look at Matthew 6 quickly where Jesus mentioned something similar to these scriptures. While you're turning to Matthew 6, let me just remind you about that famous story about the pharisee who prayed the bible says with himself. Now, doesn't that remind you of what Zechariah 7 said when he said, "You fasted for yourself, and when you ate, it was for yourself. It wasn't for me. You weren't doing that for me."
The bible talks about in Luke 16 this pharisee or 15, he prayed with himself. He's not even really talking to God even in his heart. He's just going through an exercise. He prayed thus with himself saying, "I thank thee that I'm not as other men are, even as this publican," he says. He said, "I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess." The bible is giving this guy's a bad example of a guy who's puffed up, arrogant, and prideful, and thinks that he's very spiritual when the bible really says that he was not even saved.
Now, look at Matthew 6 where Jesus mentioned fasting here. He says in verse 16, "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." Now, that's exactly what God described in Isaiah 58 where he talked about them bowing down their head like a bulrush, putting on sackcloth and ashes, mourning and, "Hey, everybody. I'm fasting," making a big show out of it.
What is he saying here in Matthew 6:17, "But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Now, what the bible is teaching us in all these scriptures and in many other scriptures about fasting is that the purpose of fasting is to humble us, not to make us prideful and arrogant.
In fact, David said in the Book of Psalms, "I humbled my soul with fasting." He also said, "I chastened my soul with fasting." Now in these examples that we looked at in Zechariah 7, Isaiah 58, Matthew 6, this is not people humbling their soul with fasting or chastening their soul with fasting. These are actually people being puffed up and prideful as a result of fasting. Because this is a common danger with fasting, it's repeated in scripture after scripture, not just in one or two places, but in multiple places throughout the bible this warning is given.
Why? Because fasting is a physical exercise, and it does not take a spirit-filled person to fast. It does not take a godly person to fast. You don't even have to be saved to fast. Mahatma Gandhi fasted for almost 50 days straight, and almost died from fasting that long. There are all kinds of godless, wicked people who fasted, and the bible is giving us evidence of a pharisee who fasted twice every week, and he is unsaved.
Now, I'm not against fasting. Obviously, the bible teaches that fasting is a good thing. Fasting does have its place, but we need to make sure that fasting does not become abused in our lives, that it does not become something that is actually harmful to us, instead of being something that's helpful to us. It's supposed to be helpful. It's supposed to be something that humbles us. It's a way to chasten our souls and afflict our souls.
It should be accompanied, of course, by godliness and good works, but also, it should be an exercise in humility, not an exercise in pride. One of the key instructions is that we are not supposed to go around telling people about our fasting. The bible says, "You don't want to appear unto men to fast. Fast before your father in secret," the bible says. The pharisees, they also would love to make long prayers, the bible says. They would publicly pray long prayers just to be seen of men. The bible says that when you pray, enter into your closet, shut the door, and pray to thy father which is in secret.
Now, there is a time to pray publicly. The bible says, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting," but you don't pray long prayers publicly. Publicly, you pray short prayers. You know where the long prayers need to happen? Alone with God in your prayer closet, that's what the bible teaches because people will use long prayer as a way to exalt themselves, lift themselves up, and appear spiritual unto men. When people strive to appear spiritual unto men, it's a sign that they're prideful and arrogant, and that they're not humble as they should be.
We've all been around people that I call hyper spiritual, where you get around them and everything out of their mouth is, "Praise the Lord. Hallelujah. Bless God," and they drop all the spiritual talk to the point of ridiculousness where they go overboard with it. Usually, it's because it's fake. It's a façade. The person is not being real. The bible warns us about this.
Now, when it comes to fasting, think about Matthew 9, just a few chapters later. You don't have to turn there, but the disciples of John, they come to Jesus and they say, "Why do we and the pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?" Now, here's a couple of problems with that. Number one, they're announcing how much they fast. "Why do we fast often?" Of course, they knew that pharisees fast often because they make it real clear to everybody how often they fast. "Why do we and the pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?"
There's two things wrong with that. Number one, they're announcing their fasting which shows they don't even get it. They don't even understand the point. Then secondly, they're confronting someone and rebuking someone for a lack of fasting. That is foolish. Why? Because there is no commandment that says, "You must fast this often," or "You must do this fasting or that fasting." It is not something that is mandated where you could go and rebuke someone and say, "How dare you not fast?" I can tell by looking at you that you haven't been fasting. No, I'm just kidding. Just kidding.
The point is though that it's not a requirement. Now, look. Does God tell us when we fast, this is how we do it? Yeah, but he doesn't say, "Fast at these intervals." Here's the thing. Even if he did, which he didn't, but even if he did mandate certain fast, if the whole point is that we're not supposed to appear unto men to fast, then if someone's confronting us for not fasting, maybe we're just really good at not appearing unto men to fast. Maybe we're just in obedience. Maybe we're just in such good compliance. "I don't hear you talk much about fasting." "Maybe it's because I don't go around announcing it because I'm trying to obey the bible." It's what someone could say, right? Hello?
There are a lot of hypocrites out there that like to make a big deal about how they fast, and there's plenty of examples that are out in the bible. Again, I'm not down on fasting. I'm not negative about fasting. The bible does teach it. It is something that can be an effective way to make our petitions known unto God, to pray and fast. It's also something that people do in the bible in order to mourn bad circumstances. It's something that is associated with prayer. It's something that's associated with making us more humble, and chastising our own souls before God. It is something that Jesus did. It's something that Moses did. It's something that Elijah did. It's something that the apostles did because he said, "They don't fast now," but he says, "After I'm taken from them, then will they fast in those days."
The apostle Paul was in fastings often, but I believe they're obviously part of what he's talking about is just he just didn't have any food. That's what he's talking about because he's listing off bad circumstances: nakedness parallel fastings often, "Hey, looks like we're fasting today because we don't have any food," one of those kind of fasts.
The point is that we need to beware of thinking that we are very spiritual even in our own heart because we fast. See, it's one thing to appear unto men to fast because you want to show them how spiritual you are by announcing your fast and making a big point about it. Then it's another thing too that even if you do keep it to yourself that you would actually become puffed up in your own heart and think, "This makes me a good Christian because I'm fasting," because you know what? It doesn't. It doesn't.
I mean, listen, the bible says that bodily exercise profiteth little. Listen, fasting is a bodily exercise. Period. I'm not saying that we shouldn't do it. I'm not saying that it doesn't have a spiritual benefit, but don't tell me that it's not a bodily exercise when unsaved people are doing it, when godly is doing it, when the pharisees love it, when all these ungodly people are doing it. It's a bodily exercise.
Look, walking up and down the street, and knocking doors, and putting a track on the door is a bodily exercise. It's physical works. It doesn't necessarily come from a heart and a spirit that's right with God. Now, winning someone to Christ, that's not a bodily exercise. No. That's spiritually accomplished. That's only accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, fasting can be done in the spirit where we're fasting in this, just like praying in the spirit versus praying with yourself. Fasting can be done in the spirit. It can be put to spiritual profit, but it is not necessarily always a blessing because for these people, God's telling them that they would be way better off to just start obeying the bible than to keep fasting. He's saying, "First of all, your fast, I didn't approve of it. In fact, I see you fasting ..." I don't know if you're still there on Isaiah 58. I'm going to take you back there. Go back to Isaiah 58 because there's a little bit more that he says about this.
Let's just talk about some of these things that he's saying, "Ye fast for strife and debate." What does that mean you fast for strife and debate? Basically, you're using this to show other people how spiritual you are to shut them up. What's debate? It's when people disagree on something. "Oh yeah? Well, I don't see you fasting for 14 days like I did. I don't see you doing a three-day fast." You know what I mean? Wouldn't that be fasting for debate and strife? "Well, I don't see Jesus' disciples fasting. I see the pharisees doing it, and John's disciples, yeah." That's fasting for strife and debate, basically to show others that they're right even though their actions aren't right. God is looking at their actions and saying, "You guys are doing wrong."
He says they fast for strife and debate. Verse four, "... and to smite with the fist of wickedness." This is like when the pharisees in Matthew 23 are accused of devouring widows' houses and for a pretense making long prayer. Basically, they devour widows' houses, and for a pretense, they make long prayer. Meaning, that they make long prayers so that people won't realize how wicked they are. They'll think they're godly.
Now, how do they devour widows' houses or how do they exact from the people? Often this is done through usury, through predatory lending. See, the people that we're talking about here, these Jewish leaders in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, these people are also rebuked by Nehemiah, same people because remember, Zechariah and Haggai are parallel books with Ezra and Nehemiah. They're both the same time period.
Remember Nehemiah dealing with this, and he's saying to them, "You need to stop exacting the oil and wheat and the wine. You're taking a percentage from this, and you're using usury," the bible says. Now, what is usury? It's when you loan somebody money, and you charge them interest.
Now, today's Jews are actually known for this. They actually have the reputation as being the money lenders and bankers because throughout European history, they were the money lenders and the bankers. The Jews were the ones who did that business. It's a wicked business. It's an ungodly business. Remember, the Jews that we're talking about who really thrived in this usury business over the last few centuries, and even in the days of the Koran, they were Mohammad, the pedophile that he was, but even Mohammad is saying, "Oh yeah, the Jews are involved in a lot of usury." It went all the way back to sixth, seventh century A.D. They were into a lot of usury.
In the bible days, they're at usury, but it was the wicked Jews that were into usury. The righteous Jews are not participating in this. God didn't want them to participate in it. Christ-rejecting Judaism has been big on usury. In our nation, when you talk about usury, people get confused because they think it's fine because we've been so influenced by this wicked ideology in the United States that we don't even realize it's a sin anymore to charge interest.
I've done a whole sermon called The Sin of Usury. By the way, usury in the United States is defined as charging an interest rate of 30% or more. The bible calls 1% interest usury. I'm not going to repreach my usury sermon, but I went through and showed all the mentions in the bible, and proved that it is a sinful way to make money. If you loan someone money, you shall not charge them usury.
Now, you can take collateral which means that you hang on to something of theirs until they pay it back, but you do not charge usury. It is a wicked way to make money. You say, "Oh, that's a legitimate income being a banker and loaning out money." It is not a legitimate form of income. A legitimate form of income is doing some productive work with your life not moving numbers around, and making money off the backs of other people who do real work.
Again, when people hear this they're like, "Whoa! What are you talking about?" Study your bible, friend. Being a usurer is not an honorable way to make a living. It just isn't. Now, I'm not saying that the teller at the bank is a wicked usurer because honestly, they're just getting paid an hourly rate. I'm saying that the people who run that bank are wicked. I don't want to work at a bank because I don't believe in it.
Now, here's the thing. People have asked, "Is it wrong to borrow money?" It's not wrong to borrow money on interest. It's not wrong to loan money if you don't charge interest. If you are loaning someone money and charging them interest, that is a sin. Again, I would refer you to my whole sermon on that where I went through all the scriptures that talked about that.
The point is though that these people are wealthy people who are abusing the poor. That's what he said. He said they're abusing the poor, they're abusing strangers, they're abusing the fatherless, they're abusing the widow, and they are basically ripping them off financially. They're mortgaging their houses and mortgaging their land to them, and they're exacting usury from them. There are this fat cat banking wicked people. Then they're fasting and going to church, and they're so spiritual, and they're making these big, long prayers, and they think that that makes their life so godly, and God is telling them, it's not.
You're running a check cashing place where you're ripping people off everyday, and then you're fasting and praying, and you think that makes it all okay. Well, it doesn't. It doesn't make you spiritual. It doesn't make you godly in my sight.
Let's keep reading. He says in verse 6, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"
This is the exact opposite of what they're doing. They're not caring for the poor and loving the poor. They're just taking advantage of the poor, ripping them off, stealing from them through banking, fraud, et cetera, predatory lending practices. That's what they're doing.
He says then if you do it the right way, verse eight, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, 'Here I am.'"
Look, wouldn't you love to pray to God and just as soon as you cry out to the Lord he's just like, "Here I am. What can I do for you?" You know what? God wants to answer your prayers. God loves you. He wants to show himself mighty on behalf of his servants. He's looking for someone to ask him for something that he could do something for them. He says, "Here's how you do it. Be a godly person. Love other people. Take care of other people. Do good works. Then when you pray to me, then I'll say, 'Here I am.'"
The bible says, "Whatsoever we ask," 1 John 3, "we receive of him because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." Is fasting a way to make your voice heard on high? Yes. Here's a better way. Keep God's commandments and do what's pleasing in his sight. Better way to get your prayers answered. Then he'll say, "Here am I. What can I do for you?"
Like I said, there is a time and a place for fasting, but we need to keep a balanced view of fasting, and realize that fasting has a time and a place. Fasting is appropriate in situations. Fasting can be something that's beneficial to our prayer life and to our soul and spirit, but we better get the right attitude about it, and understand it's a humbling exercise, not this lifting up of ourselves like, "Man, I'm so spiritual. I've been fasting for three days," or whatever. Then you're missing the point. Also, I do not.
Some people have criticized me, no one in this church, but I've gotten e-mails. They criticize me for not emphasizing fasting enough. Again, it's not that I don't believe in it because I do, and I do preach about it from time to time, but here's the thing. I'm not going to emphasize it in my ministry. It's not something that I emphasize. It's not something that I'm going to emphasize. It's not something that I believe should be emphasized.
I believe that it's a part of the package. It's something that's a part of our spiritual lives, but I do not think that it is a huge thing that needs to be just constantly talked about. When you see pastors that are just constantly talking about it, that would make me more nervous of, "Is this guy trying to basically make us think or lead us to believe that he's doing a ton of fasting? That's why he's talking about it so much." I think it's more of it should be preached when it comes up type of a thing or preach it about as much as Jesus preached on it. Preach it in the way that Jesus preached on it.
Again, I've done a full sermon on fasting. Nothing wrong with doing a full sermon on fasting. I've heard great sermons on fasting that I really liked, and that were a blessing to me. It has its place, but we don't want to go overboard on it because of the fact that it's very easily confused and abused by people where it just becomes the exact opposite of an eating contest. Have you ever participated in an eating contest? Who has participated in an eating contest? You know why very few people have and the ones who have are putting their hand up slow because it's not exactly the most refined activity, right?
Now, the closest thing to an eating contest is ... Yeah, I've done some eating contest. Okay, there I said it, but here's the thing though. We don't want fasting which is something good and godly. Fasting is good. Don't walk out of here and say, "Pastor Anderson is against fasting." Realize that something good like fasting can degenerate into something as juvenile as an eating contest in reverse where we're just showing how tough we are that we can just not eat, and still survive.
Now, here's another thing about fasting is that everybody's body is different. Some people could go a long time without food, and it wouldn't even phase them. Other people, they need to eat more just to survive because they're burning through more calories. Here's the thing. Fasting is not a one-size-fits-all, I don't believe. I believe that's part of why God doesn't mandate a certain length of time, a certain frequency. I think fasting is a personal thing between you and the Lord that you would do basically depending on who you are.
For some people, it's a one-day fast. The most common fast in the bible is a one-day fast. That's the most commonly. See, when people start talking about fasting, and they get into eating contest mode, all of a sudden the one-day fast, "Oh, man! That one-day fast, that's nothing. That's nothing. We're doing a seven-day fast over here." See, again, it's foolish.
In the bible, these are the type of fast we have. We have a one-day fast, the most common type. Then we have the three-day fast. Then we have a seven-day fast. There's a 14-day fast, but that's pretty extreme. That's pretty intense. I mean, a seven-day fast is very intense, not eating for seven days.
Now, if you drink plenty of water and go without eating for seven days, you will not die, but it's pretty intense though. Some people might die. I don't know, but they're really skinny. The point is that it's not a one-size-fits-all. Now, Daniel did a 21-day fast, but it wasn't really fasting as we would think of because he actually was just on bread and water. He actually did not abstain fully from food. Then the most extreme fast in the bible we see is Jesus fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. That's the biggest fast.
The point is, it's not a one-size-fits-all. It might be enough for you to just fast for one day, and just use that as a time of ingesting the spiritual food of God's word instead of eating food, replacing that with God's word coming into you, and having a spiritual emphasis day where you humbly and unbeknownst to other people go through that process of fasting.
Someone maybe might die or something awful might happen, and you might fast as a way of mourning. That's also biblical. Again, I don't want to go too far off on that subject because I want to finish the rest of the chapter in Zechariah 7, but I just wanted to point out these important scriptures in Isaiah 58, in Matthew 6, and in Zechariah 7 that they do warn about people getting puffed up because of fasting. We need to beware of that, and to realize that fasting is something to do but it's not as important as obeying the commandments.
Get your life in a godly order, get the sin out of your life, start serving God, start going out soul-winning. If you're going to sit there and not do any soul-winning, you're not active in the church, you're not seeking for the edification of the body, the body of Christ here, the local church, but you just want to go hole up somewhere with no food, and your bible and prayer out in the wilderness somewhere, you know what? Your heart is in the wrong place. There are plenty of Buddhist monks who do the same thing. There are plenty of Catholic monks who do the same thing, and it doesn't make them any more saved. They're damned.
It's not all that it's cracked up to be. Jesus, yeah, he fasted for 40 days, and then he's just preaching everyday. I mean, you better be preaching before and after your fast than to just sit there and just fast for yourself. No, it should be fasting so that you can be built up spiritually, that you can be a humble servant of other people. The pharisees didn't care about other people. All they cared about was money, and prestige, and power, and looking good. They did not love people.
What motivates us to go soul-winning? We love people, and we don't want them to go to hell. We want them to be saved, so we go out and we try to win them to Christ. That's a good reason to go out soul-winning, right? Whereas, there could be self-centered narcissistic type people that aren't interested in helping other people at all, but they just want to just fast, and really go deep, and find themselves, and really just rise to these new spiritual heights all by themselves in their own misguided warped mind.
Anyway, that's just something to be concerned about. Let's go back to Zechariah 7 with some of those other scriptures in mind. The bible says in verse three, they're coming to him and saying in the latter half there, "Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?" By the way, let me just tell you this, the word pharisee means separated ones. That's what they were called. The pharisees, the separated ones. They took great pride in being separated.
Now, should we be separated? Yeah, but we shouldn't call ourselves the separated ones and go around telling everybody, "Hey, did I tell you how separated I am?" What does it mean to be separated? Separated means holy. It means set apart. It means that you are different. Now, should we be different? Yeah. Should we be separated? Should we be holy, sanctified? You know what though? We shouldn't go around telling people how holy I am. It's like that phrase that we use today someone being a holier than thou. That phrase comes from the bible where it says, "Come not near to me from holier than thou."
This is a wicked attitude when we go around announcing how holy we are, and how set apart we are. We need to be humble. That's what he's rebuking here in this passage. Let's go to verse nine, "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, 'Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor." What's he saying? They had been oppressing these people through predatory financial practices.
He says, "Let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart, but they refuse to hearken," verse 11, "and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets," and all the while, they're praying. All the while, they're fasting. All the while, they're not missing church.
I mean, they're so into church as they're crucifying Jesus. They're killing Jesus, the son of God, the prince of life. As they're killing him, "Oh, we got to take him down from the cross so we can observe the Passover properly. We don't want to be unclean on the Passover," as they're killing Jesus, as they're killing the Messiah, "Oh, we got to make sure we keep all our rules." That's straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Remember, the pharisees were the ones who tithed on the mint, the anise, and the cummin. These people tithed on everything. I mean, to the point where the parsley on their plate with their meal, they're going to tithe on that. They're tithing on the mint that they got on the door on the way out of the restaurant. They're tithing on cummin, these tiny, little grains and seeds.
Obviously, he's exaggerating, but he's saying, "You're tithing on mint, anise, and cummin, and you've omitted the weightier matters of the law, things that are more important." Justice, judgment, mercy, equity. He says, "These ought you to have done." He's saying, "It's not that you were wrong to tithe on the mint, anise, and cummin." He said, "These ought you to have done, but not to leave the other undone." We need to make sure that we get our priorities right. There are plenty of independent, fundamental Baptists out there that cross the T and dot the I that have their tapered haircut where they don't have any hair touching their ears, and no hairs touching the collar, and they've got the skirt check passed, hair check is passed, and they're a wicked person.
They don't care about anybody but themselves. They'll rip people off. They don't care about souls. They don't care about helping people out. They're just wicked in their heart. They have all these rules that they follow. Now, I'm all for rules. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." He didn't say, "My suggestions." He said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."
We need to understand that these works that we do need to be accompanied by a right heart or they are worthless, literally, where God will even say it's wicked or God will even say that if you turn away your ear from hearing the law, even your prayer is in abomination, where God will say, "I don't even want to hear from you." We wouldn't want God to say that of us. We need to make sure our heart is right.
What does the bible say in 1 Corinthians 13? "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal, and though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
I mean, if I have faith that can move mountains, and I have the gift of prophecy, I can preach and I'm doing all these bodily exercise, but if I don't have charity in my heart, he says it's not going to profit me. I'm nothing. Wouldn't you hate to be nothing in the sight of God? We need to make sure that when we do work for the Lord that we don't get prideful and arrogant, but that we do it from a heart of genuine compassion for other people.
There are plenty of people that God accuses of drawing near to him with their lips, but their heart is far from him. Only God knows your heart. That's why even when we're reading Zechariah 7, we see these people coming to Zechariah, and we think it's a valid question, and then all of a sudden, God's coming down on him and we're saying, "Whoa! Where do these people be wrong?" but God knew what their life is like, and God knew what their heart was like.
Let's keep reading here in Zechariah 7. It says, "Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone," so their heart is being hardened, "lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; 'So they cried, and I would not hear,' saith the Lord of hosts: 'But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not.' Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate."
Now, notice that word "whirlwind". Verse 14, "I scattered them with a whirlwind." Flip back to Proverbs 1. Proverbs 1, and that term whirlwind comes up. Now, what did he say there in Zechariah 7? He said, "I sent prophets unto them preaching the truth, they would not hear them," and because they hardened their heart, and would not listen to those prophets, he said, "Then when they called me, I wouldn't listen to them." What's God saying? "You don't listen to me, I'm not going to listen to you." Isn't that what God said?
Over and over again, this principle is found in the bible. The bible says that if you turn away your ear from hearing the law, your prayer is in abomination. He says to the pure, he'll show himself pure, to the froward, he will show himself unsavory. Over and over again, this statement comes up.
Go to Proverbs 1, and in this passage, he's pleading with people to listen to the wisdom of the word of God, pleading with them to be wise and not to be stupid, not to be a fool. He says in verse 24 at the end or let's start in verse 23, "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof."
He's saying, "You would not of my reproof. You didn't want my reproof. You didn't want to hear what I had to say. You didn't want me to correct you. I called and you refused. I stretched out my hand, and no man regarded it." Stretching out his hand and no man regarded, it reminds me of there's on YouTube where Obama goes to Russia or something, and there's all these Russian government officials lined up, and he walks up to them, and they're just like no one is shaking his hand, and he's just like, he don't really know what to do because he looks real awkward because he's stretching out his hand and nobody's regarding him. They're all just punking him. They're dissing him, and he's looking like an idiot.
Basically, that's the idea here. It will be like if I say, "Hey, Brother Corbin. How you doing?" and he just ignores me. Wouldn't that be the biggest insult? Wouldn't that be so rude if somebody, "Hey, how you doing?" and you're just like, "Pfft!" Can you imagine doing that to God? I mean, can you imagine Jesus walks in and say, "Hey, how you doing?" and you're just, "Pfft!" God says that that's basically what we're doing when we ignore the bible. We ignore his word. He's giving us his word. He's giving us pastors and teachers. He's giving us preaching. He's poured out of his spirit unto us, and then we just have no interest. That's what we're doing spiritual is just leaving him hanging when he holds out that handshake.
He says, "I stretched out my hand and no man regarded, but ye have set at nought all my counsel." What's his counsel? His counsel is his opinion on things. He gives his opinion, his counsel, and basically, they've set it at nought. They say, "Oh, that's nothing. That's stupid." Think about how many people in America today, God's advice, they just ignore it. God says how to deal with adultery. God says how to deal with homos. God says how to deal with all these different subjects, and they're just like, "Pfft! We know that's wrong. We know that can't be the right way to handle it." Just setting it at nought like it's just nothing. It just doesn't mean anything.
When it comes to how to punish criminals, people who steal or people who kill or people who do whatever, God tells us how to deal with all of these crimes, and they just set it all at nought. His opinion means nothing to these people, right? Even Christians will just set at nought all his counsel on so many different issues. Childbearing, well, forget what God says. We've got studies and science to show us what works, setting at nought God's counsel on manner of subjects.
He says, "I also will laugh at your calamity." God's saying he'll laugh, and this is not the only place that talks about God laughing. When God laughs, bad things happen. When I laugh, it means good things are happening. I'm in a good mood. "Hey, how's it ...?" When God laughs, watch out because he's laughing in Psalm 2 when he's about to pour out his wrath on the whole world. Beware of the laughter of God.
"I also will laugh at your calamity." That's a scary thought. "I will mock when your fear cometh." God's going to make fun of these people someday. "Oh, what's the matter? Your way didn't work out so good, huh?" That's what the bible says. He'll laugh at them.
"When your fear cometh as a desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind," remember that was the same term that was used in Zechariah 7 where he brought the whirlwind to punish them. "You've sown the wind and you'll reap the whirlwind," the bible says.
In Zechariah 7, he says, "You wouldn't listen to my preachers and my prophets? I'm not going to listen to you." Here he says, "You wouldn't listen to my word? I'm not going to listen to you, but rather your destruction is going to come as a whirlwind." What's a whirlwind? Think about a whirlwind romance. What does that mean? It happened fast. Basically, you're going along thinking, "Oh, I'm getting away with it. God's not going to punish. God doesn't see what I'm doing. God's not going to do anything," and then bam! Just out of nowhere, destruction cometh, and that's what it means when he says it's like a whirlwind.
"When distress and anguish cometh upon you, then they shall call upon me, but I will not answer. They shall seek me early, but they shall not find me. For that they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would none of my counsel. They despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way and be filled with their own devices."
Now, this actually is talking about people that are not saved even. A lot of the people in Zechariah's day were not saved. The pharisees, obviously were not saved. It's interesting because it says that, "They will call upon me, but I will not answer." "Lord, save us," but he won't answer.
Now, here's the thing. Here's what we have to understand is that there are many that will say unto him, "Lord, Lord," the bible says, but they're not saved because he says, "Not everyone that sayeth unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?'"
What are these people trusting? Their works. They say, "Oh, we've done all these works. We've preached in your name, we cast ..." "And then will I profess unto them ..." "I used to know you"? No. "Then will I profess unto them, 'I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'" The good works that they thought they were doing, in God's sight are works of inequity because they came from a sinful heart, a wicked heart, works of inequity. They're not saved.
The bible is teaching that saying, "Lord, Lord," is not enough to get you saved. In order to be saved, you have to believe. Salvation is by faith. Now, truly the bible does say, and this is where people get confused because the bible says that, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," right? Then they're looking at a scripture like Proverbs and they would say this is a contradiction because here he says, "They'll call upon me, and I won't answer."
Then over here he says, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." What happens is they're taking scripture out of context because what's the very next statement after it says, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call upon him in whom they've not believed?"
Calling upon God without faith in Jesus can't save you. You could pray a prayer saying, "Save me, Jesus. Take me to heaven," but if you don't believe in Jesus, you're not saved because the bible says that, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." You can't just confess and be saved if the faith isn't there, if the belief isn't there. You got to have the faith. Does everybody understand that?
Now in this passage, we see people calling upon the Lord and he's not answering. He's laughing at them, he's mocking them. They're done. Too late for you, guys. You had your chance. Too late for you.
Now, go to John 12. I don't have time to go into all the ramifications of this, but Romans 1 is a great chapter on this where people are given over to a reprobate mind. Now, what did Zechariah 7 say? Zechariah 7 said, "I sent you the prophets, you wouldn't hear them. Well, now you're calling to me and I'm not hearing you. You don't listen to me, I'm not going to listen to you." Isn't that what he said in Zechariah 7?
Then in Proverbs 1, he said something similar, "I stretched out my hand, I made known my words unto you, you didn't want to hear what I had to say, and so now that you're talking to me, I don't want to hear what you have to say. I'll laugh at you. I'm not going to answer you when you call me." It would be like this. Think about this since we're in the cellphone generation. It would be like if Jesus kept calling you on your phone, and Jesus is calling, Jesus is calling, Jesus is calling, and you're just like, "Ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore." Jesus is calling, you're ignoring it, you're ignoring it. You have 37 missed calls from Jesus, one really long voicemail.
Then all of a sudden, things go bad and you're like, "Who do I call?" "Oh, Jesus." Call him up and he's like, "Ignore." It's true. I mean, does that help? Does that help this generation? All the teenagers are like, "I get it now." Whoa! Everybody is so confused on this reprobate doctrine, but you have to explain it in a way that we can get it today. In John 12, we're talking about the same type of people. What did they do in Zechariah 7? They'd hardened their heart like an adamant stone. They would not hear God's word. They would not listen. He said, "Well, I'm not going to hear you either." They had gone over that line.
What does the bible say in verse 37 of John 12? "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, 'Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?' Therefore," watch this, "they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 'He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.'"
Now, notice. These people, and in this context, we are talking about the pharisees. We're talking about the pharisees. It says that they could not believe. Why could they not believe? Because God had hardened their heart and blinded their eyes. Why would God do that? Why would God ...? You say, "Wait a minute. God's a god of love. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. God's not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. God wants people to be saved. He will have all men to be saved to come to the knowledge and the truth. Why is God hardening people's hearts and blinding eyes?"
There's one reason why. It's the same reason in Zechariah 7, same reason in Proverbs 1, same reason in Romans 1, because of the fact that they rejected him first, and not once, but many times and repeatedly, and not even just the casual, not even just hitting Ignore, but saying, "Man, I wish that he would stop calling me." That's what they did. Not even just ignoring the call, but saying, "I want him to stop."
In fact, the bible says in Romans 1, they didn't even want to retain God in their knowledge, "Man, I wish I could just forget about him. I wish he would just lose my number." When a person does that, God will eventually take them up on that. The bible, look, it's taught in the scripture, Romans 1, Proverbs 1, many other places.
We run into this doctrine with Pharaoh, all kinds of scriptures where people get to a point where God hardens their heart, and God blinds their eyes, and it says, they could not believe because a lot of people will always whenever you talk to them about this doctrine of being a reprobate that Romans 1 covers so thoroughly, here's what they'll say, "Well, you're saying that if a person believes in Jesus, they still won't be saved because they're a reprobate." No, no, no. I've never said that.
Let me just make it clear. Anybody who believes on Jesus is saved, anyone, as long as they truly from their heart believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise, John 3:16 is a lie. It says that, "Whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." Anyone who believes will be saved because people come at you with, "Well, what if one of these reprobates believes on Jesus? So why can't they get saved? I'll say, "You must not even understand what it means to be a reprobate," because what does it mean to be a reprobate? You cannot believe because your heart is hardened and your eyes are blinded. What does it say? Read it.
Don't just say, "Well, I just don't agree with what Pastor Anderson is saying right now. Look what Jesus is saying. Look what the bible said. Look down at your bible. Verse number 39, "Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 'He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart.'" Why? "That they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." God's saying, "I'm to the point with these people where I no longer want them to be converted or healed. I'm to the point with them now where I'm just blinding them because I'm through with them.
It says even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not convenient. What does it mean to have a reprobate mind? Listen to me now. A reprobate mind is a mind that is incapable of believing on Jesus. The reason I take the time to explain this too, I've had some people come to me and say, "I'm afraid that I might have blasphemed the Holy Ghost," because one of the things where God says that he'll pretty much just set you to go straight to voicemail when you call him, where he'll put you straight to voicemail, he's not going to answer when you call. One of the things is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, right?
Now, people will say, "Well, that's the only thing. That's the only sin that can't be forgiven." Yeah, that's the only sin that can't be forgiven, but that's not the only thing that will send you down the road to being a reprobate because adding to or taking from God's word, the bible says you're for sure damned. The bible also says that if you take the mark of the beast, you're done. There are other things that you could do where God will ... or if you just keep refusing God, he will give you over to a reprobate mind.
It's not that you've committed an unforgivable sin because again, they're mixing two things here. He says he'll forgive all sins. He won't forgive the sin of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, but he's only going to forgive the sins of those who are what? How do you get sins forgiven? You got to be saved, right? Okay. Well, if he turns you over to a reprobate mind, are you getting saved? That's why your sins are forgiven. It's not that you've committed an unforgivable sin.
I keep explaining this doctrine over and over again. I keep explaining it and I understand it real well. Some people understand it real well, and then other people just never get it, but I wonder if they just don't want to get it. You know what I mean? Because I don't see why this is that complicated. I think some people, they're really resistant to this doctrine because it's different than what they've been taught when there's a lot of scripture about it.
Where did I have you turned? Anywhere? Still in John? I had some really important to say. Now I forgot. Where was I going? Somebody help me out. You help me get the train back on the rail here. Thank you. Perfect. People come to me and they're like, "I'm afraid ..." This is important. I really wanted to talk about this. Thanks for telling me that. "I'm afraid I blasphemed the Holy Ghost, Pastor Anderson. I'm afraid that I'm a reprobate," or they'll name some other thing that they did and say, "Hey, I'm afraid I'm a reprobate, Pastor Anderson."
Here's what I always ask that person. I always ask that person, "Do you hate God?" "No." "Do you not want to retain God in your knowledge?" "No." "Do you believe in Jesus?" "Yes." "Then you're not a reprobate." Period. You don't have to worry like, "Oh, I'm afraid I'm a reprobate." Look, reprobates hate God. Reprobate's heart is like an adamant stone. A reprobate's eyes are totally blinded to where they can't see the truth, they can't understand the truth.
Now, do these reprobates sometimes pose as Christians and infiltrate like a Judas Iscariot type? Of course, but they're not ... If you have to wonder, "Am I a reprobate? I want to be saved. I believe in Jesus. I love the Lord. I love the bible," then you're not a reprobate because the bible says of reprobates that they're haters of God, hard-hearted. What does it mean to be hard-hearted?
You know what a tender heart is? It's sensitive, sensitive to the word of God being preached, sensitive to the Holy Spirit. A hard heart just everything bounces right off. Does everybody understand? Therefore, even just the fact that you're so worried about it shows that you even care. The fact that you believe and understand the gospel, look, if you believe and understand the gospel, then you're apparently not blinded because you see it, you get it, you understand it.
Now, compare that with the reprobate in Proverbs 1 where they call on the Lord, and he won't save them. Does it say they'll believe on Jesus and they won't be saved? Did it say they believed in the Lord and he wouldn't save them? No, no, no. It just says they called upon him, and he would ... This is just somebody who's like let's say they're just dying on their deathbed or whatever. They're in a car crash and the car is sailing over the cliff, and they're like, "Oh, God! Save me!" That's not really believing. He's just going to laugh and be like, "See you, sucker!" He's going to mock when their fear cometh.
He's going to laugh or some reprobate Sodomite who goes out and he fills his body with AIDS and staph infections and gonorrhea and syphilis and every other filthy thing that these homos are filled with. He goes out and fills body with all this disease, and then he's just withering and dying away in some hospital bed, and he's like, "Oh, God! Please, help me God." That's not him believing on Christ because guess what that guy? His heart is hardened. He's not going to believe on Christ, but he might just call out to God. He might just call out to the Lord. Is that salvation though? No, because it's not accompanied by the faith in his heart. His heart is hardened to where he could not believe.
Anyway, just wanted to go over that with you because it's such an important doctrine mainly because of the fact that number one, it's not being talked about today. It's become uncool. It's become unpopular, unkosher in churches, in the Judeo-Christian world. Number two, it's because of the fact that our country is actually filled with reprobates more and more. This is becoming more relevant to us than it was to previous generations where you didn't have as much of a God-hating spirit in this country that you do now. There's a lot more to just God-haters now than there were in time passed this country. Why? It's people that are reprobate that have that God-hating mentality.
Let's bow our heads and have a word of prayer. Father, I thank you so much, Lord, for your word. Lord, please help us to be spiritual, spirit-filled people, Lord, and help us to have charity in our hearts, and love for the brethren. Help us not to be going through a lot of bodily exercises of church and fasting and prayer, and bible reading without actually having the heart of Christ in our lives, and without actually having a spiritual walk with you that's real and genuine.
Help us when we pray to be actually talking to you, Lord, and not to just be going through an exercise with ourselves. Father, also I pray that you would just please help us to understand the deep things of the scripture because there are so many people who are confused or teaching false doctrine knowingly on this doctrine of those who are reprobate, but Lord, we know you've made it very clear on your word that it is too late for some people. If anyone dies without Christ, it is certainly too late for them, but that it's even too late for some people who are still alive. Father, please just help us to study, to show ourselves approved unto you. We ask these things in your name. Amen.