July 7, 2019 – Zechariah 7 – 8
Lesson Date: July 7, 2019
Focal Scripture Passage: Zechariah 7:1-14; 8:1-8, 18-23
AIM: To lead students to discover that some of the Jews’ religious activities had become empty, self-centered rituals, and to examine the sincerity of their religious activities.
Before class: Read the notes on Zechariah 7 – 8 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write on the marker board or chalkboard a checklist of religious activities, something like the example below.
- Read the Bible
- Attend Sunday School
- Attend Church
- Say the Blessing Before Meals
- Confess Sins
- Give Tithes & Offerings
- Tell Others About Jesus.
INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the class’ attention to the checklist on the board. Tell them you have made this checklist so you don’t forget to do any of your important religious activities. Check off the items you have done this week and tell the class what a satisfying feeling it is to get every item checked off your list. Tell them when you check off every item you know you are right with God.
Ask: “Does checking off the items on a checklist actually make me right with God?” (no – you can do those things out of mere duty; your heart can still be far from God). Tell the students anything we do repeatedly can become an empty ritual – just a meaningless activity. In today’s lesson we will see that the Lord rebuked the Jews for carrying out empty, meaningless, religious rituals.
HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):
- Remind the students that we are studying the Old Testament book of Zechariah.
- Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (the worldwide reach of God’s judgment and the only way to be truly innocent before God – faith in Jesus Christ).
- A Question About Rituals.
- Read Zechariah 7:1-3.
- Tell the class the date Zechariah gave in verse 1 was November of 518 c.
- By that time the Jews had been working on rebuilding the Temple for two years, but it would be another fifteen months before it was completed.
- Some men came to Jerusalem to pray and to ask the priests and prophets a question.
- Ask: “According to verse 3, what was that question?” (should they continue to weep and fast in the fifth month as they had for many years?).
- Explain to the class that this fast in the fifth month commemorated the burning of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 c.
- They had kept this mournful fast throughout the years of their captivity and continued it to the present time.
- Stress the fact that God did not ordain this fast; the Jews created it as a time of mourning and remembering the Temple they had lost.
- Tell the class that since the new Temple was nearing completion, these Jews wanted to know if they should continue those fasts.
- Summarize: The Jews were mourning and fasting each year in remembrance of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Since the new Temple was almost finished, they wondered if they should continue those fasts.
- God Rebuked Insincere Rituals.
- Ask a volunteer to read Zechariah 7:4-7.
- Ask: “What did the Lord ask them in verse 5?” (“When you fasted and mourned, did you do it unto me?”).
- Tell the students that instead of focusing their hearts on God when they fasted and mourned, the ancient Jews focused on themselves in an attitude of self-pity.
- Tell the class God said when they fasted they did it for themselves, and when they ate and drank (verse 6) they did that for themselves.
- Ask: “According to verse 7, who did God say they should have listened to?” (the former prophets who warned of Jerusalem’s destruction because of their sin).
- Remind the class that in the days when Jerusalem was established and prosperous and Solomon’s great Temple was still standing, God sent prophets to warn the people and leaders to repent and return to Him.
- Tell the students that for the ancient Jews obedience before would have been better than insincere demonstrations of sadness later.
- Ask: “Do you think the same is true for us?” (yes; we should repent while we can).
- Summarize: God told the Jews that their fasting was insincere. He said they should have listened to His prophets and repented of their sin while they had the chance, rather than making a show of sadness after judgment came.
- Results of Ignoring God.
- Read Zechariah 7:8-14.
- Tell the class that God reminded the Jews of some of the commands He had given them and their fathers down through the centuries.
- Ask: “According to verse 9, what had God commanded them?” (be just and honest, and show mercy and compassion).
- Ask: “According to verse 10, what else had God commanded them?” (don’t oppress those who are less fortunate, and don’t plot evil against your brother).
- Ask: “According to verse 11, how did the Jews receive these commands?” (they stubbornly refused to hear, like a rebellious child covering his ears).
- Ask: “According to verse 12, what did God say about their hearts?” (they were as hard as stone).
- Ask: “What does verse 12 say happened because they refused to hear God?” (they came under great wrath from the Lord of hosts).
- Ask: “According to verse 13, what did God do because they refused to hear Him?” (He refused to hear them).
- Ask: “According to verse 14, what else happened because they refused to hear and obey God?” (He scattered them among the nations, and their land was made desolate).
- Remind the class that throughout all this time the Jews were still carrying out their rituals.
- Ask: “Did their empty rituals do them any good?” (no).
- Summarize: The Jews stubbornly refused to hear and obey God’s instructions, causing Him to pour out His wrath and judgment upon them.
- God’s Merciful Promises.
- Comment that the picture looked pretty grim for the ancient Jews. They were stubborn, rebellious, and refused to listen to God. Because of this they fell under God’s judgment.
- God, however, is loving, merciful, and forgiving. In spite of all their failures, God still has a plan for the Jews. He has made many promises to them and He will fulfill those promises.
- Ask a volunteer to read Zechariah 8:1-8.
- Ask the students to identify promises God made in those verses. They should name the following:
- To return to them and dwell in Jerusalem, making it a place of truth and holiness (verse 3).
- To make Jerusalem a place of peace, safety, and happiness (verses 4-5).
- To save His people from foreign captivity and bring them back to Jerusalem (verses 7-8).
- To be their God (verse 8).
- Tell the class that these wonderful promises will have their ultimate fulfillment in the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ, which will be established when Jesus returns after the Tribulation.
- Summarize: In spite of the Jews’ stubborn rebellion, God mercifully promised to bless them in the future.
- Sadness Turned to Joy; Rejection Turned to Respect.
- Read Zechariah 8:18-19.
- Explain that the Jews had established four separate fasts during the year to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
- Ask: “What did God promise to do with their sad fasts?” (transform them into feasts of joy and gladness).
- Ask a volunteer to read Zechariah 8:20-23.
- Tell the class these verses foreshadow the time when people from all over the earth will seek the Lord in Jerusalem (during the Millennial Kingdom).
- Ask: “According to verses 21-22, why will people all over the world want to go to Jerusalem?” (to seek the Lord and to worship Him).
- Tell the students verse 23 says ten men of different nationalities will cling to each Jew.
- Ask: “What will they want?” (to go with them to Jerusalem to learn about the Lord).
- Ask: “How does the world treat Jews now?” (often with hatred).
- Comment that the Jews have been oppressed and hated by various people for many centuries. Hitler tried to exterminate them in the last century and radical Muslims want to destroy them today. In the future, however, people from all over the earth will seek and cling to the Jews so they can learn about the Lord.
- Summarize: God promised to transform the Jews’ sad fasts into feasts of joy and gladness. He also promised to turn the rejection and hatred many people have for the Jews into respect and reverence.
PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the students’ attention to the checklist of religious activities on the board. Remind them that we began this lesson thinking about empty, meaningless rituals. The Jews in Zechariah’s time were carrying out some annual rituals that had become self-centered, rather than focusing on God and his goodness. God mercifully promised to transform their empty rituals into meaningful feasts of joy. We ended the lesson with a picture of the Jews being the light of the world to draw people to the Lord.
Tell the class anything we do on a regular basis can become an empty ritual. We can easily slip into the mode of checking off our religious activities as if they were merely items on a to-do list. Christians should read their Bibles every day, but daily Bible reading can turn into an empty ritual instead of a time to listen to what God has to say. Prayer can become the repetition of meaningless words rather than intimate communication with the Lord. Church attendance and witnessing can turn into mere duties, rather than acts of sincere and obedient service.
Ask: “How can we keep our regular religious activities from becoming empty rituals?” After students suggest some things they can do to keep their spiritual life sincere and God-centered, ask them to examine the sincerity of their religious activities. Ask the students to bow their heads and do some honest self-examination. Encourage them to confess any sin God brings to their mind. Tell them to recommit themselves to sincere and meaningful prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance. Tell them to ask God to help them keep their hearts right with Him. Voice a closing prayer.
CONCLUSION: Encourage everyone to pray and read their Bible every day, but to do it out of sincere love and devotion to God, not mere duty.
Tell the students that next week is the beginning of the South Georgia Bible Conference. We will not have Sunday School that day. The first session of the Bible Conference begins in the Worship Center at 9:00 a.m. Ask everyone to read and study their Sunday School lesson this week, even though we do not have class next Sunday.
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