PULL AWAY THE SHOULDER
Zechariah 7:9-11 Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgement, and show 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 harken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
The setting for this text was approximately two years after the Jews had begun to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. Messengers had been sent from the Jews to the house of God inquiring whether Jewish law was still to be obeyed. God's answer is the text of this lesson. It was given to Zechariah and he delivered it to the people. Their reaction to God's answer is also in the text. They refused to hear. They pulled awaythe shoulders and stopped their ears. God's answer was not what they wanted to hear, so they refused to listen. The following verse says that they made their hearts as an adamant stone (Vs. 12).
This text reminded me of observing the efforts of my grandfather and one of my uncles as they tried to harness the mules for working in the fields on their farm. The younger mules that were not as well trained would pull away from the collars and other parts of the harness. In a symbolic sense, they pulled away their shoulder from the restraints of the reins. They wanted to be free to do as they willed. They didn't want to submit to the commands that would require them to pull the plow, cultivators, or other farm implements.
So it was with the children of Israel. They did not want to remain under the restraints of God's law. They wanted their freedom to do as they pleased. Their pleasure was selfish. They did not want the responsibility of caring for, and sharing their possessions with others. What they had, they wanted to keep for themselves. They wanted no part in demonstrating mercy and compassion on others; to help the widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor. They didn't want to share their time or wealth with others. They said, by their actions, "I am selfish, and I refuse to listen to anyone that tells me that I have to share any of my time, my effort, or my possessions."
Regarding this thought, Paul's admonition to Timothy was this: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
Does this occur today? Do people continue to search for preachers and teachers that tell them the things that they want to hear? Is there a tendency to seek out those that support your own views and attitudes? Do people today walk past the poor and needy, ignore the homeless and widows, and show indifference to strangers? I've heard many justify this attitude by saying, "I pay taxes. There are many government programs that will offer sufficient help for those in need. I'm doing my part by paying taxes." Have we, as a people, passed off the obligation we have toward our neighbors to our government?
Consider these scriptures: For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:11). But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17-18). Does this sound like our responsibilities to one another should be filled by the taxes paid to our government? Surely not!
When we see others in need, whatever that need may be, don't pull away your shoulder of responsiblilty. Don't avoid your personal duty to your fellow man. Don't search for reasons to justify keeping all of your possessions to yourself. Search for spiritual reasons to share your good fortune. If we have charitable love for others and if we demonstrate that love through deeds of kindness, the love of God dwells in us. 1 John 4:7-8 reads like this: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Do we obey God, or do we pull away the shoulder?