Nothing New

Nothing New… – Zechariah 10:2       10/03/2019 Our text today touches on a topic that, in some circles gets way too much attention, and in others, not enough.  That is the occult.  We live in what we like to consider an enlightened society.  We tend to emphasize the physical, the scientifically empirical, over the intangible.  The problem is, whether we recognize it or not, there is a spirit world all around us.  What’s more, as beings who are both physical and spiritual, we can interact with, and be affected by, that non-tangible spirit world. In our text today, Zechariah turns from eschatological concerns to the evils of his present period in time.[1]  Apparently, in spite of the punishment already inflicted on the nations of Israel and Judah through the Assyrians and the Babylonians, certain aspects of Jewish culture remained radically pagan.[2] We throw this word “pagan” around, but do we actually know what it refers to?  The term “pagan” is used in the Scriptures to refer to people who were neither Jews nor Christians.[3]  Paganism was a derogatory term for polytheism, the belief in many gods.[4]  That is exactly the problem the Jews were dealing with.  They should absolutely not have been so characterized, but they were; Zechariah 10:2 (which I leave to you to look up). The word used for “idols” is (תְּרָפִים)[5] [terā·p̄îm].[6]  These teraphim were idols used in household shrines.[7]  The etymology of the word is uncertain[8] and therefore exactly what these were is also uncertain.[9]  They seem to have been images in the form of humans.[10]  Whatever their form, they were believed to provide guidance, blessing, and earthly prosperity.[11] The passage references “speaking” images.”[12]  Was this literal?  Did it require an interpreter to tell you what the teraphim was “saying”?  Is this simply an example of an anthropomorphism (applying human traits to non-human things)?  The text doesn’t spell it out.  The possibility is kind of creepy. Then there were the “diviners” who pretended to predict the future.[13]  The word used is (קָסַם) [kaw sam].  This verb describes one of several varieties of occult practice.[14]  It can refer to divination, witchcraft, sorcery, fortunetelling, some forms of dream interpretation, and interpreting omens.[15]  These practices, divorced from God, all fall under the category of “magic” ﮹טּ﮹ﬧ﮹ﬨ)) [kheh´-ret ].[16] These practices were forbidden for the people of Israel[17] but was commonly practiced by all the nations of the Middle East.  The simple reality is that these diviners offered only lies, empty dreams, and unfulfilled promises.[18]  The problem is this; there is power behind these practices.  Certainly, some of what was practiced was simple sleight of hand and trickery.  However, in some cases, these practices were demonic in origin.[19] So, as God’s people, what do we need to know about the occult?  Very little.  What we need to recognize is that there is an enemy, and that he has servants.  He is the one behind all occultist activity.  We know that this one called the devil is a personal being.  We know he is real and personal because he spoke with Jesus in Luke 4:3.  This devil goes by many names, and he is clearly identified in Revelation 12:9 as the Dragon, the Serpent, the Devil, Satan, and in Mark 3:22 he is called Beelzebub.  He was known to be the ruler of the demons. Now, as a created being, Satan is not everywhere at once, he is not God.  And so, we also see that there are angels referred to as “his angels.”  Who are these angels?  They are apparently angels of heaven who abandoned their place, according to Jude 6.  I’m not certain about what the chains referenced are about, after all, these are spirit beings.  It could be a reference to a God’s imposed restriction on their activities.[20] Now, if these angels did not keep their proper place, how did that happen?  Well, there’s a passage in Revelation that’s using some symbolic language, so I want to be a little careful about drawing a firm conclusion.  So, with a level of caution, I say that it seems likely to me, that this refers to a third of the angels being cast out of heaven; Revelation 12:3-4.  Now these angels, referred to as the devil’s angels, would seem to be the demons addressed in the New Testament.  If it’s not them, then where did the demons come from?[21] The scope of these beings’ power is under the direct control of God; we find this conversation between Satan and God in Job 2:6-7.  This tells us something, first it would seem that demons have the ability to influence the physical world, but only within what God allows.  Now, what do we do with this information?  Are we seeing demons behind every bush and around every corner?  Nope.  We live in a world that operates under mechanical principles that God set in place.  The fact is we live in a fallen world, and sometimes we get sick because of the natural processes that were cursed at the fall of mankind.  At the same time, we need to be aware that there is a spiritual side to our existence, and the enemy is real;[22] 1 Peter 5:8-9. How are these beings dealt with?  The New Testament is clear.  Our spiritual warfare does not consist of the use of magic formulas or charms, Satan and his servants are not intimidated by the Bible as a physical book.  They are certainly intimidated by the truth, and the Scriptures are our primary source for truth.  But… more than anything else, our power in the spirit world is through the power of Jesus who has overcome the enemy.[23] We need to be prepared, and God tells us how in Ephesians 6:10-18.  You know, if you think about it, this sounds an awful lot like the Spiritual Disciplines.  The center of our attention is not on the enemy, oh, we recognize that he’s there, but the center of our attention is on Jesus Christ.  And we walk by faith… in Him!

[1] Ralph L. Smith, Micah–Malachi, vol. 32, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1984), 261.

[2] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume III, Proverbs – Malachi, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1982), 960.

[3] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

[4] Accessed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paganism on 9/19/19.

[5]Christo van der Merwe, The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2004), Zec 10:2.

[6] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[7] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

[8] John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, and Talbot W. Chambers, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Zechariah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 78.

[9] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Zechariah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 106.

[10] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Zechariah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 106.

[11] C.F. Keil, Zechariah, trans., James Martin, Commentary on the Old Testament: Volume 10, The Minor Prophets, eds., C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2011), 583.

[12] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Zechariah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 106.

[13] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Zechariah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 106.

[14] Robert Alden, “2044 קָסַם,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 805.

[15] Robert Alden, “2044 קָסַם,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 805.

[16] The People’s Bible Encyclopedia: Biographical, Geographical, Historical, and Doctrinal, ed., Charles Barnes, (The People’s Publication Society, Chicago, IL.: 1924), 667.

[17] Robert Alden, “2044 קָסַם,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 805.

[18] J. Carl Laney, Zechariah, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984), 102.

[19] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume III, Proverbs – Malachi, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1982), 961.

[20] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1994), 412.

[21] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume One: God, the World, and Redemption, in Renewal theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Three Volumes in One, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, M<I.: 1996), 173, note 32.

[22] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1994), 420.

[23] The People’s Bible Encyclopedia: Biographical, Geographical, Historical, and Doctrinal, ed., Charles Barnes, (The People’s Publication Society, Chicago, IL.: 1924) 265.

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