Saturday, June 22, 2013

Heaven’s Best Gift (Zechariah)

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

Click here for Stream or Download

Here is the Script:

Heaven’s Best Gift (Zechariah)
“The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown” (Zechariah 9:16, NIV).
The way I approach the creation of these overviews is to find an overarching theme and expound on it.  Sometimes it is easy to find it, other times are not.  Sometimes it is so simple it is hard to believe it.  This is this week’s case. 
The last chapters of Zechariah are a series of foretelling prophetic utterances that seems chaotic and long winded.  This of course is not true.  So, once you find the logic of the writings it becomes clear.  What Zechariah is foretelling is a series of events that surround three different periods of time on this earth: each of Christ advent to this planet.  Although, our quarterly says it is two, the author of the lesson stated correctly that, “When Zechariah announced the coming of the Messiah, he did not draw a line of separation between His first and second comings. As was the case with other prophets, he saw the coming kingdom of the Messiah as one glorious future. Only in the light of Christ’s first coming can we now distinguish between the two comings.”
The first period happened 2,000 years ago.  The second period will happen during the Second Advent: when Christ comes back in all His glory to take back His redeemed.  The last period is when the Holy City comes to the planet, and the entire planets with all the wicked are destroyed. And, finally, the new earth is created.  Time does not allow us to go through these passages to “tease” them out.  But we do have time to establish the main overarching theme.  As we can see they cover the entire human history since Zechariah’s day.  And, it reveals to the Jews then and to us today, how God is involved in the plan of redemption.  Specifically, how Christ, The Branch (Zechariah 3: 8; 6: 12), the One who was pierced (Zech. 12:10), the Shepherd who was struck down (Zech. 13:7) is involved in every step of our redemption.  Ellen White expounds on this,
“In the darkest days of her long conflict with evil, the church of God has been given revelations of the eternal purpose of Jehovah. His people have been permitted to look beyond the trials of the present to the triumphs of the future, when, the warfare having been accomplished, the redeemed will enter into possession of the Promised Land. These visions of future glory, scenes pictured by the hand of God, should be dear to His church today, when the controversy of the ages is rapidly closing and the promised blessings are soon to be realized in all their fullness. . . .Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 722, 732, 733.
This concept is greatly revealed in the following passage,
Zec 13:7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
Zec 13:8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
Zec 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

These three verses can span thousands of years.  You see, here we find the cross, how we are sanctified, and what our glorification will be like.  The beauty is that Christ makes it all possible.  He is Heaven’s Best Gift to us.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Visions of Hope (Zechariah)

Due to extenuating circumstances there will be no audio review this week.  Sorry for any inconvenience.  But, for those who may benefit, below is the script.

Visions of Hope (Zechariah)
Memory Text: “ ‘ “In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,” declares the Lord Almighty’ ” (Zechariah 3:10, NIV).
The name Zechariah means “the Lord remembers.” What does God remember? He remembers His people and His promises.  God want to fulfill his promises; one of which is to deliver His people from the power of evil. He remembers His assurance to send the Promised Seed, who will defeat Satan (Gen. 3:15). He remembers His promise to establish His eternal kingdom based on love, justice, truth, and freedom.  It is we that forget Him. 
Zechariah began his prophetic ministry a few months after Haggai began his ministry (Hag. 1:1, Zech. 1:1). So, Zechariah and Haggai were contemporaries in Jerusalem and both were concerned with the rebuilding of the ruined Temple.  By Zechariah’s first recorded sermon, building was already underway, so Zechariah’s message has a different context; for example, his first message concerned the symbolism of the temple services.  Through a series of prophetic visions, Zechariah learned God’s plans for the present and the future. God’s eternal kingdom was coming soon, but the prophet called those who lived in his time to serve the Lord now. A good portion of the book is centered on how they were to do just that. This week, and the next, we will look at what the Lord has revealed to us through Zechariah.  Let start be taking a closer look at the visions of Zechariah. 
As mentioned above, the message of Zechariah’s first six chapters is quite simple: it is time to rebuild the temple. This appeal was the main communication behind a series of eight short visions that God gave to Zechariah in order to help him to understand from a broader perspective the contemporary situation of God’s people. Each vision engaged the prophet in reasoning that deepened his understanding of the message. They were written in a chiastic order (in a mirror structure), which means that the first vision corresponds with the last one, the eighth; the second with the seventh; the third with the sixth; and, finally, at the climax is the fourth, accompanied by the fifth. These pairs also deal with related subjects, which are chronologically arranged in a reverse order. Let read a brief summary of each vision:
1. The first vision (Zech. 1:7–11), about the man among the myrtle trees and four horses with their riders, conveys the idea that these horses went through the whole earth, and their riders declared that the earth was at peace (vs. 11). So, it was now a ripe time to work on God’s project; namely, to build His house, because no one had the power to stop it. God had established peace.
2. The second vision (Zech. 1:18–21), about the “four horns” (NKJV), describes how the craftsmen broke them. God revealed the end of political cause for the exile. These powers were torn down because they were hindrances to the building of the temple.
3. The third vision (Zech. 2:1–5), about the “man with a measuring line” (NKJV), points to God’s abundant blessing: “ ‘ “I myself will be a wall of fire around it [Jerusalem]” . . . “and I will be its glory within” ’ ” (vs. 5, NIV).
4. The fourth vision (Zech. 3:1–10), about God’s forgiveness for Joshua, lies at the heart of these eight visions. Satan accused Joshua, the high priest, of sin. Joshua’s priestly robe was dirty, thus representing the filthiness of sin. But the “Angel of the Lord,” who is without doubt the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, ordered Joshua’s filthy clothes to be removed and assured Joshua: “ ‘I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you’ ” (Zech. 3:4, NIV). The Lord then re-ordains Joshua to minister in the temple and announces a magnificent prophecy about the Messiah. Joshua is freely forgiven and made just, because God ordered it so. Joshua just accepts it.  On this basis he experiences the assurance of forgiveness and the joy of salvation.
5. The fifth vision (Zech. 4:1–14), about God’s empowering Zerubbabel, lies at the core of Zechariah’s message, together with the fourth vision. God gives His Spirit to Zerubbabel to build the temple; thus, He strengthens him to accomplish His will. This vision about the gold lampstand and oil puts the emphasis on the work of the Spirit of the Lord who sanctifies. Only the Holy Spirit can change and stir up the work for God in an efficient way.
6. The sixth vision (Zech. 5:1–4), about the “flying scroll” (vs. 1, NKJV), shows that the curse was measured and God Himself punishes iniquity.  By this we mean that God allowed the Jews to suffer the consequences of their own choices.
7. The seventh vision (Zech. 5:5–11), about the “‘woman sitting inside the basket’ ” (vs. 7, NKJV), explains the spiritual reason for the exile. God revealed the people’s wickedness that had led them into the Babylonian captivity.
8. The eighth vision (Zech. 6:1–8), about the “four chariots” (vs. 1, NKJV), proclaims the opposite of the first vision. The last message was about war and turmoil in the world; but God would intervene, and His Spirit would bring peace.
To fully understand the message of these visions, one needs to realize that the first four visions show the effects and that the last four visions describe the conditions that led to those results. Thus, these visions should be studied in reversed sequence. One should begin with the last vision and go to the first (from war to peace), continue with the seventh one and then examine the second one (from the religious cause for the exile to the political reason), then investigate the sixth vision and follow with the third one (moving from curses and punishment to God’s immense blessing). At the heart of these visions are visions four and five. God first enables Zerubbabel to build the temple and then cleanses the high priest Joshua to serve in this sanctuary. From the first to the last and from the last to the first, God is in action. His love, grace, and justice are revealed and vindicated.

Apart from learning from this historical situation, we should see how it applies to us.  The bad comes as a result of our choices.  But, God intervenes to bring about good out of the bad.  All the while, God allows those experiences to teach us to know Him more and better.  That we may learn to trust and depend on Him.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

First Things First

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

Click here for Stream or Download 

Due to technical difficulties there will be no audio player this week.

Here is the script:

 “First Things First! (Haggai)”
There are three main things on this book worth exploring.  One is the messages of Haggai to the people.  Second is the term Desire of nations.  Third is answering the question of the  lesson, such as: “Do you see any warning here for us?” “How can we learn to better appreciate the importance of the sanctuary message in the plan of salvation?” “Why is [Old Testament prophecy] so relevant for Christians even today?”
Let us deal first with the messages.  Haggai preached three messages to the returning Jewish remnant from their Babylonian captivity. (Actually five, but they can be combined into three.) The time of the three messages corresponds with our months of August, October and December. His first message was in regard to their hands; the second, to their hearts; and the third, to their heads.
The August Message (1:1-15). This was directed to the people’s hands. God said, build the Temple (1:2, 4–11). The people’s complacency is recorded in verse 2. “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.’ ” But the Lord pointed out two things (1) The people’s materialism (1:4,5). They were living in luxurious homes while the Temple lay in ruins. (2) The people’s misery (1:6, 9–11). They planted much, but harvested little. Attempting many things, they failed in everything.
     Nevertheless, God reassured them that if they would build the Temple, He would bless them abundantly. (1:7,8). He spoke through three of His servants: one from public life, Zerubbabel (Judah’s governor), one from the church, Joshua (Judah’s high priest), and the third, Haggai (Judah’s prophet). (1:1, 3, 12–15).
The October Message (2:1-9). This message was directed to the people’s hearts. There was both weeping and rejoicing at the second Temple’s dedication. Some of the older men remembered the glories of the first temple (Solomon’s) wept as they compared the second building with the first one. In light of this, Haggai attempts to encourage everyone as he speaks of the coming of the Messiah (verse 7).
     The prophet tells them to take courage because God’s presence among them is far more important than the size and glory of any earthly Temple. Although the outward splendor and glory of Solomon’s temple was greater than the one built after the captivity, this second one would be far more glorious than the first. “‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts” (2:9). This was to be because Jesus, “The Desire of All Nations” would come and fill this second temple with the presence of heaven (2:7).
The December Message (2:10-23). This final message was directed to the people’s heads. It* involved thinking, pondering and reasoning. There were facts Haggai wanted the people to think about, especially Judah’s contamination (2:10–19). He reminded them of past problems, giving them concrete examples (2:10–17).
     The questions were designed to get the people to think. The first question had to do with the person who carried a holy offering. If that person brushed his garment against an object, will the object become holy? The priests pondered and said, “No.” This is because holiness cannot pass to other things or even to other people. Holiness is embodied in Christ. It cannot be separated from Him. The only way holiness comes to us is by receiving Him by faith.
     The second question through Haggai is: “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?” The priests answered, “It shall be unclean” (verse 13).
     God was illustrating the spiritual condition of His people. They did not believe. They were unrepentant. They were dead in sin; so everything they did was contaminated. They were unclean because of the deadness of their hearts and minds (verse 14). Haggai applied this principle to the people. He told them that their sinful ways contaminated their consecrated offerings to God, resulting in crop failures, famine, and all the rest of the calamities that befell them. (verses 14-17). The lesson for all time is this: work and worship do not sanctify sinning, but sinning always contaminates work and worship.
    The good report is that head, heart and hands responded to God’s call through Haggai. The people repented, believed and began building with their hands. And so, from the laying of the foundation of the temple, God promised to abundantly bless them (2:18,19). 
As mentioned above, throughout this lesson, questions are asked, such as: “Do you see any warning here for us?” “How can we learn to better appreciate the importance of the sanctuary message in the plan of salvation?” “Why is [Old Testament prophecy] so relevant for Christians even today?”  Is the message about building literal “temples,” church buildings, or could His message for us concern another “temple”—the heart, corporately and individually.  A wise author said that the “Lord used Haggai to stir the people’s hearts toward God’s concerns.” 
We are God’s concern.  And, Paul says that we are His temple.  So, the temple God is trying to restore is His dwelling place in us.  We read from Peter: “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1Pet 2:4) What is another name for a “spiritual house”? A sanctuary! “You also, like living stones, are being built into a sanctuary…” Ellen White elaborates on this subject,
The Jewish Temple was built of hewn stones quarried out of the mountains, and every stone was fitted for its place in the Temple, hewed, polished and tested, before it was brought to Jerusalem. And when all were brought to the ground, the building went together without the sound of an ax or hammer. This building represents God's spiritual temple, which is composed of material gathered out of every nation and tongue and people, of all grades, high and low, rich and poor, learned and ignorant.  These are not dead substances, to be fitted by hammer and chisel. They are living stones quarried out from the world by the truth, and the great Master Builder, the Lord of the temple, is now hewing and polishing them and fitting them for their respective places in the spiritual temple. When completed, this temple will be perfect in all its parts, the admiration of angels and of men, for its builder and maker is God. Truly, those who are to compose this glorious building are "called to be saints." {TMK 151.5}
So, God has formed every man for His own dwelling place, and implanted in every soul desires that can only be satisfied by the fullness of God dwelling within, Christ is truly “the Desire of all nations” (Haggai 2:7), who was to come and who would fill this second temple with the presence of heaven (2:7). That heavenly presence is the very righteousness of God, for salvation, and comes to the fallen race through the faith of Jesus (Rom 3:22, KJV), the Desire of All Nations. At His second coming, Jesus will still be “the Desire of All Nations,” but because of the desire for, and the cultivation of, sin by the lost, the desire for heaven’s righteousness will be destroyed in the hearts of the lost. They will despise and hate “the Desire of All Nations,” who is the Desire of All Ages, before He comes to claim His own.
Just as people did not like the second temple that was built in Haggai’s day; just as Herod despised the Desire of Nations and attempted to kill Him when Jesus was born into the human family; so the lost at the end of days will make war against Christ and His faithful followers (Rev 17:14). But the lost will lose that war. The cause of the lost will be traced to their unremitting resistance to the Holy Spirit as He brings to them “the Desire of All Nations.”
I want to end this study by quoting from the Preface of The Desire of Ages, let us read some excerpts:
   “ In the hearts of all mankind, of whatever race or station in life, there are inexpressible longings for something they do not now possess. This longing is implanted in the very constitution of man by a merciful God, that man may not be satisfied with his present conditions or attainments, whether bad or good or better. God desires that the human shall seek the best, and find it to the eternal blessing of his soul…
     It is God’s design that this longing of the human heart should lead to the one whom alone is able to satisfy it. The desire is of him that it may lead to him, the fullness and fulfillment of that desire. That fullness is found in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the eternal God. “For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell;” “for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” And it is also true that “in him ye are made full” with respect to every desire divinely implanted and normally followed.
    Haggai calls him “the Desire of All Nations,” and we may well call him “the Desire of All Ages,” even as he is “the King of Ages.”…
   It is the purpose of this book to set forth Jesus as the one in whom every longing may be satisfied.”

Is Jesus the Desire of your heart?