Horns of Destruction
Text: Zechariah 1:18-21
I. Zechariah, at the end of Judah’s captivity, was given a vision of four horns
A. Horns are used symbolically to represent power.
1. In particular, the horns represented the power of the nations around Judah (see verse 21)
2. II Kings 18:11-12 - Assyria pulled away the northern tribes
3. II Kings 24:2-4 - Chaldeans, Moabites, Arameans, and Ammonites destroyed the southern tribes.
B. These were four horns which destroyed or scattered Judah
1. Four is used to represent the compass points: North, South, East, and West
2. God used the surrounding nations to destroy sinful Israel
3. And then God destroyed the horns
II. While it was the powers of the nations around Israel which pulled it down, Israel skewered itself on its own horns of destruction.
A. The horn of dissatisfaction
1. It did not take long after being freed from slavery for the children of Israel to complain about their life - Exodus 15:22-26
2. Barely one problem is solved before they continued their complaints - Exodus 16:1-3
3. This is only the beginning of a long list of complaints against Moses, Aaron, and God
4. In a strong sense, it was that habit of complaining, of always finding dissatisfaction with the things around them that kept Israel from entering the promised land for forty years.
a. After the twelve spies made their report, listen to what the people did - Numbers 14:1-4
b. God’s patience with such ungrateful people reached an end - Numbers 14:11-12
c. The complainers died in the wilderness as a result - Numbers 14:20-23, 26-33
B. The horn of doing your own thing
1. The next period of Israel’s history was the time of the Judges, recorded in the book of Judges. The very end of the book sums up the period well - Judges 21:24-25
2. It was a period of every man for himself.
a. Righteousness was defined in terms of what the individual thought was right.
b. The higher authority of God was ignored.
3. One of the reasons for requiring the people to gather for various feasts was to prevent this attitude of being a law unto themselves - Deuteronomy 12:5-9
4. Godly men disappear when man becomes his own standard - Psalm 12:1-4
5. Rightly are men warned not to lean on their own understanding - Proverbs 3:5
6. Because man does not fully understand - Proverbs 14:12
7. The period of the Judges was filled with the conquering of various sections of Israel and their rescue by God through the Judges he raised up to save Israel.
C. The horn of popularity
1. It became grating to Israel that they did not operate like the nations around them. Everyone else had a king. Someone to lead them. Israel thought they had no king - I Samuel 8:5-9
2. The motivation was to be like the nations, but it is tempting to let your leader make all the decisions. Yet, Samuel warned the people they would be responsible - I Samuel 12:12-25
3. You see, it is so tempting to continue borrowing practices from the other nations, even though those nations do not serve or even fear the Lord God.
4. In time, Israel became just like the nations around her. You could not distinguish them from any other nation.
a. They worshiped idols, just like the other nations. They even borrowed their gods: Baal, Asherah, Moloch, and others
b. Why Israel fell - II Kings 17:7-18
c. Several centuries later, Judah followed Israel.
D. The horn of self-righteousness
1. God restored Israel, but not to its former glory
2. Instead of yearning for the other nations’ status, the Jews turned inward and became proud of their difference.
3. They served God, but they were motivated by national pride and pride in their own righteousness. - Romans 10:2-3
a. Paul points to the root problem. They lacked faith in God - Philippians 3:9
b. They really did not trust God’s plan and God’s promises.
c. Instead they created their own law
4. They thought that whatever they did must be right and acceptable to God. They saw themselves as morally superior - Matthew 23:29-36
5. As a result the final destruction of Jerusalem came in 70 A.D.
III. What has happened in the past is for our learning - Romans 15:4
A. It was recorded so that we might not make the same mistakes - I Corinthians 10:1-12
B. The church is spiritual Israel, and it has been warned not to walk in the steps of physical Israel – steps that lead to the destruction of Israel
C. Warnings against grumbling
1. Dissatisfaction with the ways of God leave us open to sin. - James 5:9
2. We ought to be dissatisfied when God’s ways are not being followed, but too often we see any dissatisfaction on our part as an indication that changes need to be made. We become judges of the law - James 4:11-12
3. Despite these warnings, we have brethren whose hobby it is to find fault in their brethren. Whole publications are dedicated to ceaseless complaints.
4. I remember complaints against one publication that has now ceased to exist.
a. It focused on positive things, teachings about God’s word, and refused articles where fingers were pointed at other brethren.
b. The complainers complained that it didn’t complain enough.
5. Galatians 5:25-26 - Let us not challenge one another out of pride and envy
D. Warnings against becoming our own standard of righteousness
1. Everyone thinks his own way is right - Proverbs 21:2
2. We cannot be self-willed - II Peter 2:10-11
3. Jude is filled with warnings - Jude 4, 8, 10. 16
4. In today’s church it common to hear ideas justified because “I think.”
a. They declare it is “obvious,” yet they will not appeal to the Word, knowing their belief is not there.
b. Worse is the argument that we all do some things without justification, so there is no harm in doing other things without justification.
E. Warnings against imitating the world
1. Luke 16:14-15 - The Pharisees justified themselves by the praise of men.
2. Their religion sought the praises of men - Matthew 23:5-11
a. I find it spreading in the church men who seek titles “Director of Education,” “Outreach Minister,” “Youth Minister,” etc.
3. Peter compromised the truth because of what others thought - Galatians 2:11-14
a. The early church fought the pull of imitating the Jewish religion - Galatians 5:1-4
4. We cannot imitate the world
a. I Peter 1:14-15 - Don’t be conformed to former lusts
b. Not to live for the lusts of men - I Peter 4:1-2
5. Yet today, brethren see no harm in adding instrumental music, like everyone else or establishing organizations to carry out God’s work like the denominations.
F. Warnings against self-righteousness
1. Luke 18:9-14 - People have a tendency to trust in their view.
2. They think themselves as being something - Galatians 6:3-5
a. To do so will set ourselves for a fall - I Corinthians 10:12
3. Their standard of righteousness is being better than others - II Corinthians 10:12-13
4. It saddens me to see this so prevalent in the church
a. The idea of “church of Christ” beliefs instead of the “Lord says”
b. An infinite number of divisions
(1) Just the other day, I was corresponding with a preacher who said he heard a particular curriculum was unscriptural. I pointed out to him that he knew a large number of brethren who used the curriculum, so why would he assume that these brethren would use something they knew to be unscriptural.
(2) His response was, you know a lot of brethren are involved in unscriptural practices.
c. The search for reasons to divide fairly takes my breath away.
(1) Yes, sin exists, but our goal is to unite people under the truth, not to isolate ourselves from the so-called “unclean”
(2) I Corinthians 1:9-13 - Christ is not divided!
(3) Yet brethren search for division. “You talk to brother so-and-so, so I can’t talk to you.”
5. Errors exist and they must be exposed and dealt with, but the goal is to bring all into the unifying doctrine of Christ and not the isolating idea of our own self-purity - III John 9-10
IV. Israel was destroyed by the nations around her for her sins. We too will be destroyed if we follow her ways.