This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here. Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence written in the curriculum is being reviewed.)
December 5-11, 2023
Haggai; Zechariah 1-3; 7-14)
After decades of captivity, a group of Israelites, probably including the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Some in this group remembered what Jerusalem looked like before it was destroyed. Imagine their feelings as they saw the rubble that had once been their homes, their places of worship, and their temple. To those who wondered whether the temple would ever again resemble the Lord’s “house in her first glory” (Haggai 2:3), the prophet Haggai spoke the Lord’s words of encouragement: “Be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, … fear ye not.” “I will fill this house with glory, … and in this place will I give peace.” (Haggai 2:4–5, 7, 9.)
But it wasn’t just the holy temple that needed rebuilding. In many ways, God’s people were spiritually in ruins. And rebuilding a holy people takes more than hewing stones and aligning them to build a temple wall.
So far, there are no problems in the two introductory paragraphs.
Today, temples bear the inscription “Holiness to the Lord,” and those words apply not just to a building but to a way of life. Engraving these words on “the bells of the horses” and “every pot in Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:20–21) is helpful only if they are also engraved on every heart. True holiness requires that the Lord’s words and laws “take hold” (Zechariah 1:6) in us, allowing His power to change our natures so that we become holy like Him (see Leviticus 19:2).
I am troubled when it says here that “true holiness” must first take place I have no problem with “holiness.” The Bible does teach that Christians ought to be holy as He is holy. But we don’t become holy through our own efforts to enter into God’s presence. Rather, it is He who makes us holy so we can come into God’s presence. There is a huge distinction between those two points.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Zechariah 1–3; 7–8; 14
The Lord can make me holy.
Sister Carol F. McConkie taught: “Holiness is making the choices that will keep the Holy Ghost as our guide. Holiness is setting aside our natural tendencies and becoming ‘a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord’ [Mosiah 3:19]. … Our hope for holiness is centered in Christ, in His mercy and His grace” (“The Beauty of Holiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 9–10).
The problem with this quote is it does not consider the differences between justification and sanctification, and so McConkie muddles the words. Holiness is part of sanctification. These are the things we are commanded to do according to the Bible in order to live as Christians. Yet mercy and grace are traits of God provided to a person based on belief and it’s not based on what we do. The atonement as well is something that provided for our justification but is not involved with our sanctification.
As Christian scholar Wayne Grudem writes in his systematic theology book:
Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives. Although the initial saving faith by which we are justified occurs only at the time of conversion, faith and repentance do continue throughout our lives as well. Similarly, although regeneration, justification, and adoption are instantaneous one-time events that occur at the beginning of the Christian life, the results of all these continue throughout life; we continue to have the spiritual life we receive from regeneration, the legal standing we receive from justification, and the membership in God’s family we receive from adoption.Systematic Theology, 746
There are four attributes of sanctification, according to Grudem:
- Sanctification has a definitive beginning at regeneration.
- Sanctification increases throughout life.
- Sanctification is complete at death when the Lord returns.
- Sanctification is never completed in this life.
Righteous living is certainly commanded in the Bible for the Christian believer. Consider, for instance, Romans 6 written by the apostle Paul. He said, among other things:
- Verse 1: Don’t continue to sin so that grace may abound
- Verse 2: How can you continue to live in sin when you have died to it
- Verse 4: We were buried with Christ by baptism so that “we too might walk in newness of life.”
- Verse 6: Our old self crucified with him so that the body of sin would be brought to nothing and we would not be enslaved to sin
- Verse 7: The Christian has been set free from sin
- Verse 11: Consider yourself dead to dead and alive to God in Christ Jesus
- Verse 12: Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body so you obey its passions
- Verse 13: Don’t present your members of your body to sin
- Verse 14: No longer under law but grace
- Verses 17-18: No longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness
- Verse 19: Present your members as slaves to righteousness that leads to sanctification
- Verse 22: Fruit you get leads to sanctification and ends in eternal life
A great chapter explaining exactly what the meaning of sanctification (and holiness) is all about!
Keep these teachings in mind as you read the Lord’s words, given through the prophet Zechariah, urging Israel to become more holy: Zechariah 1:1–6; 3:1–7; 7:8–10; 8:16–17. Note the things the Lord asked Israel to do so He could make them holy. How is He helping you become more holy?
As part of the sanctification process, Zechariah says “turn from your evil ways and your evil deeds” and “walk in My ways and keep my instructions.” These are not the things we do in order to be made right before God, but it’s what we do as a result of who we are.
Zechariah 9:9–11; 11:12–13; 12:10; 13:6–7; 14:1–9
Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.
Several of Zechariah’s writings point to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and also His eventual Second Coming. Compare the following prophecies from Zechariah with related passages from other books of scripture:
Zechariah 9:9–11 (see Matthew 21:1–11; 1 Peter 3:18–19)
Zechariah 11:12–13 (see Matthew 26:14–16; 27:1–7)
Zechariah 12:10 (see John 19:37; Revelation 1:7)
Zechariah 13:6–7; 14:1–9 (see Matthew 26:31; Doctrine and Covenants 45:47–53)
What did you learn about the Savior as you studied these passages? Why is it important to you to understand these passages?
The prophecy found here and other OT books is simply incredible. Since the audience that Matthew wrote to were from a Jewish background, prophecy was very important to him.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
To introduce these verses, you could share the story of the Provo City Center Temple, which was rebuilt from a beloved tabernacle that had burned down (see the video “Provo City Center Temple Completed,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org). As your family reads Haggai 2:1–9, you might ask family members to think of something in our lives that might be like the work of rebuilding the temple that had been destroyed. How does the Lord rebuild us after tragedy or adversity?
I had a feeling an illustration like this might have been used. Of course, there are many more dissimilarities than similarities between the rebuilding of Solomon’s temple and the Provo City Center temple that no comparison can be made.
As you read these verses, you could show your family some dirty clothes. How might Joshua have felt when he stood before the angel in dirty clothes? How is sin like dirty clothes? What does Zechariah 3:1–7 teach us about forgiveness? You could then clean the clothes together and talk about the cleansing power of the Savior’s Atonement.
The problem is this: Dirty clothes are not a good illustration of sin. Sin is permanent. Someone with dirty clothes can just take them off and wash them. Sin is more like tattoos. Even if you try to erase them with the tools artists now have, I understand you can never make those stains go away. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
So while it is a nice attempt at an illustration, I think this illustration just fails to convey the seriousness of sin and how permanent it is…until Jesus enters the picture.
Misunderstanding the difference between justification and sanctification is the main problem in today’s lesson. Unless a Latter-day Saint has been instructed in this biblical principle, of course it is difficult (if not impossible) to not understand holiness is not something done in order to qualify for God’s blessing. Rather, it is something done by a believer as a result of the changed heart that has taken place in the wonderful picture of justification. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith [justification of sins], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verse 2 adds that we have already obtained access by faith into this grace.
My hope is every Latter-day Saint would see what the Bible is showing us. Our standing before God is not based on what we do but on what He has done for us. Until a person can truly see this, there will be a frustration of attempting to become holy without first having a heart transformation.