Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

Zechariah 8

Zechariah 8 has the prophet hearing a direct word from the Lord.  “I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain”.  God’s coming back.  His people and city will be transformed by His presence.  Because of God’s presence the city will be transformed into a place of truth and holiness. When God’s presence is real and embraced in our life, we become people of Truth and Holy people.  God’s power in our lives makes us different people.

Zechariah assures them that things will change.  They have been in bondage and scattered across the nations.  But now they have been restored and while there were many who were unable to make the trip back, life will move toward normal again.  “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets”.  Young and old will be there and life will begin to return to normal.

God gives them a promise to cling to.  “I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.  And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness”.  God promises a gathering from exile to come that will far surpass the present gathering.  Not everyone has been able to come home, but that day is coming.  The gathering God promises will not just be a physical gathering, but also a spiritual gathering. It won’t just be that their address changes, but their heart also.

Life changes when God is in control.  God has promised His love and care for His people.  They have returned to Jerusalem to live with Him there.  When God is allowed to be our all, people notice.  “In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”.  People are drawn to seeing God at work in us and through us.  The prophet reminds people that their lives are on display and people are watching.  It’s true for us today.  People pay attention to how we live and what we do.  Are you shining Jesus on those in your patch?

Zechariah 7

Zechariah 7 has the Word of the Lord again coming to the prophet.  If there is one consistency between all the prophets of the Bible, it is the reality that they were connected and communicating with God.  They didn’t just make things up or provide their personal interpretation.  They heard directly from God and got it ‘straight from the horses mouth’ so to say.  “The word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month”.  Do you hear from God?  Do you make it possible to hear from Him?  Sometimes we don’t listen, or create enough quiet that we can hear even when He tries to connect with us.

Zechariah tackles one of the traditions of his day – the yearly fast that was done in the fifth and seventh months and had been going on for 70 years.  But God questions the motivation.  These fasts were not commanded by God, but instituted by man. Yet because they were traditionally practiced for so long, they developed an authority of their own. People had done this for so many years, they wanted to keep doing it whether it was God honoring or not.  We can get trapped doing ‘good things’ for the wrong reason and that was true of these traditions – the people felt good but missed God.

And worse, they missed what matters most – how they lived out their daily lives.  God’s expectations were to “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart”.  God cared about how they treated each other, not whether they were following some tradition and missing the mark completely.  We have to be careful to stay focused on what matters to God – our walk with Him, and how we love people in our patch.

But Zechariah knows his people are failing and God has some harsh words.  “They refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through  the former prophets”.  The people made a deliberate choice to disobey what God expected and stay true to their long honored traditions.  The fast had lost it’s focus, and what really mattered in taking care of people around them, had been lost.

We’re guilty of the same today.  We get caught up in just doing what we’ve always done, with little to no regard to what God may be asking us to do.  Rather than seek and listen, we just keep living how we want.  We all wrestle with change, particularly in our spiritual lives.  We like comfort and what feels good to us.  But that carries a price as God has expectations and requirements.  “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear, says the Lord of hosts, and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known”.  How we live matters and we need to seek God, hear God and then obey God.  It’s not about us keeping tradition but loving and serving a very living God!

Zechariah 4

Zechariah 4 has an angel awakening the prophet to reveal a vision of a golden lampstand.  Zechariah asks the angel what the lampstand and its parts was all about.  The angel describes a very unique lampstand with lamps that were self filling as they were directly fed by connections to olive trees.  That would be a very unique lampstand – as one of the duties of the priests doing temple service was to keep the lamp stands filled with pure olive oil.  That was a tedious and constant part of their job, but this vision showed a very different way.

The angel also gave Zechariah a word to tell Zerubbabel, who was a leader in Jerusalem and was responsible to finish the work of rebuilding the temple.  God gave these powerful words: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts”.  In order to finish the work, it wasn’t going to depend on man and the effort of the people.  Might refers to the collective strength of the group, where power refers to the individual strength of a single person.  God says it won’t be either that will get the job done, but it will be His Spirit.

One of the challenges we face as humans is that we trust our own strength and ability first and sometimes only.  But when God has a task for us, it often requires more power than we can muster on our own.  We often then reach out to others to try and put the collective might toward the task, but that too will often fall short of what is needed for a God given task.  We need to learn to trust God and His Spirit.  When we trust in our own resources – whether they be small or great – then we don’t enjoy the power of the Spirit.  God doesn’t step in while we are trying to do it on our own.

God wanted Zerubbabel to know that the Holy Spirit would continually supply his need, just as the oil trees in the vision continually supplied oil to the lamps on the lampstand. God wants His supply and our reliance on the Holy Spirit to be how we live life with Him.  Our success is not about our own power or ability to put together others might, but to learn to rely on and live in the presence of the Holy Spirit who is always able and available as long as we stay out of the way.  God desires to do great things through us, just like Zerubbabel, but we can’t get in the way.

God makes it clear that the temple will be completed.  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it”.  When the work is done by God’s Spirit there are not only resources to begin the work, but also to finish the work. God is a finisher.  He always does what He says.  The temple has laid in ruin for over 20 years, and now Zerubbabel is on task to finish.  God tells him not to ignore the small things.  “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel”.  Often the key to getting the big things done is to focus on the small things.  It’s the continual focus on taking the next step that allows us to complete the bigger task.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the small stuff had to be done.  Though the work was empowered by the Spirit of God, Zerubbabel still need his plumb line. He still needed to do the work. God could have given Zerubbabel a shortcut and instantly, miraculously finished the work. That’s isn’t God’s way of doing things, because His work in the life of Zerubbabel was as important to Him as His work through Zerubbabel.  God is about who we are and become, not what we do.  We need to never forget that building our godliness and holiness is job one!

Zechariah 3

Zechariah 3 has the prophet seeing a vision with God, Joshua and Satan in it.  “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and  Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him”.  Zechariah sees the High Priest in the presence of the Lord (standing before the Angel of the Lord), and he is clothed with filthy garments.  Joshua isn’t in God’s presence just as a spectator but as a ministering priest.  Satan was accusing Joshua of not being fit to stand before the Lord in his filth.  This is exactly what we should expect from Satan.  He will be our accuser and will tell God we are not worthy to be in His Kingdom.

Unfortunately, he’ll be right.  Sin will prevent us from the opportunity to just enter into God’s presence.  It covers us in filth.  But as God dealt with Satan during this vision, He’ll also deal with Satan’s accusations when we stand before Him at judgment day.  Satan can’t condemn us to hell.  He can only attack and accuse.  The question will be how we answer God’s questions about our sin.  What have we done with Jesus and the grace offered to cover our sin?  If we answer that Jesus is our Savior and Lord and we’ve received the free gift of grace God provided, we’ll hear the same words as Joshua did.  “I have taken your iniquity away from you, and  I will clothe you with pure vestments”.  If not, the accuser will get his way and we’ll spend eternity apart from God.

God promises a fantastic future to Joshua if he walks with Him.  “If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here”.  God promised Joshua that he would continue to serve as High Priest if he was diligent to stay obedient to God.  How we live matters.  It’s the second part of the discussion we’ll have with God on judgment day.  One question determines where we spend eternity – the question of what we’ve done with Jesus and our sin.  The second is about how we spend that eternity which is based on how we live and walk with God and His commandments to us.

The vision goes further to show the breadth of God’s redemption and love.  God is creating a picture of what will be for those who walk in His ways.  “In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree”.  This is a powerful way for God to remind us that we can receive protection and prosperity and peace if we walk with God.  This vision and word from Zechariah shows how much God wanted to encourage and strengthen Joshua, and He does it in the best way: setting his eyes on our Messiah, Jesus Christ. That’s our best encouragement also.  Jesus is the answer, yesterday, today and forever.  Are your eyes on Him?

Zechariah 2

Zechariah 2 has the prophet sharing another vision God has given him.  “And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length?”.  This was an angelic being who was doing God’s work of measuring Jerusalem to see if it was big enough to hold those that God would bring back to the city.  God’s restoration of the remnant was coming, and He wanted to be sure it was able to handle the people.

It’s going to be a large influx – so large that they won’t all fit within the walls, so God gives them a promise.  “I will be to her a wall of fire all around….I will be the glory in her midst”.  In that day, city walls were a big deal when it came to protection.  But God makes it clear that they don’t need a wall to protect them from their enemies – He was going to take care of that Himself.  God has been waiting for this time to restore His people to His chosen city and will bless it with or without walls.

God makes it clear that His people are special.  “He who touches you touches the apple of His eye”: Those words are used to describe something precious to the Father, something that can be injured and needs His protection.  And God makes it clear that is exactly what He is going to do – to keep His people safe and cause those around them to know that He is the source of their protection and strength.  “Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me”.  As they see God do His work in their lives, they will know that He alone is their protection and strength.

God gives His people the biggest promise of all at the end of this vision.  “I will dwell in your midst, and  you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you”.  They have been exiled for 70 years, scattered all across Babylon and other nations.  But now God is bringing them back and restoring them to Himself in His city.  That’s the business God has always been in, and is today as well.  He longs to have us come back to Him and rebuild our relationship with Him.  He’s there with open arms, just waiting for our return.  Will you come back to God?  And if you have, will you walk with Him day by day in sweet fellowship and obedience?  That is what God desires from us.

Zechariah 1

Zechariah 1 has the next prophet speaking truth to the people of Judah.  He comes after the remnant has returned from their 70 year exile in Babylon.  The timing of Zechariah’s prophecy sets it two months after Haggai’s first prophecy and within a month after another prophecy of Haggai. This was between October and November of 520 b.c.  Like Haggai, Zechariah’s message is one of encouragement. But he was aware that not all the returned remnant were fully sincere in their desires to serve God, and he instructs them to repent of their sin and return to God with all their hearts and minds.

Zechariah is preaching a message of restoration.  “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and  I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”.  God is always in the restoration business.  He wants us to come back.  But these people have lived in very adverse conditions and have experienced difficult times.  They wondered why God was so far from them:

  • Their land was desolate and unkempt
  • There was extremely hard work needed to rebuild things
  • They were short on money and people to do the work
  • Crops failed
  • Their enemies continued to resist their work
  • Like the captives Moses led out of Egypt, the people looked back at their time in Babylon and thought it was easier there

God is clear in reminding the people why their situation is the way it is.  “Do not be like your fathers….Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds….they did not hear or pay attention to me”. 

 God makes clear what happens if people don’t walk in His ways.  “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented”.  God’s commandments and promises last forever.  Prior generations chose to disobey God, and they faced the outcome of that.  But over time they realized that God’s judgment was consistent and never wavered, so they made a different choice – the choice to repent and be restored.  That is what Zechariah is encouraging here – to have God’s people rebuild the temple (the work Haggai was pushing them to do) and to rebuild their relationship with God and learn from the lessons of their fathers.

God will deal with us based on how we live.  “As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us”.  The people were guilty of sin, and they refused to return to God and His commandments, so God was forced to address their sin and exiled them for 70 years.  Harsh punishment, but sin carries a significant price tag.  We need to realize that God isn’t just going to look the other way regarding sin.  It’s why He sent the most precious thing He had – His very Son – to the cross to provide a way for us to be redeemed and freed from sin.  But we have to receive that gift of grace.  Just as God says “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion”. He is the same for you and me.  That’s why Easter happened – because God loves us that much and was willing to send His Son to the Cross to restore us to Himself.

Haggai 2

Haggai 2 has the word of God coming to the prophet a second time.  This time in October 520 b.c.  There were celebrating the Day of Atonement and Feast of the Tabernacles and God tells Haggai to speak to His people.  “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now?  Is it not as nothing in your eyes”? We are 66 years after the temple was destroyed so there were likely some people who had been around then and saw the temple in its former glory.  They were caught up comparing what they were building versus what they remembered of the former temple and it was taking them off course.  It wasn’t going to match that which Solomon had built.

But that didn’t make it less important.  It didn’t do the people of Haggai’s day any good to think of how magnificent Solomon’s temple was compared to their own rebuilding work. So Haggai urges them on – to keep on working.  “Be strong….work….for  I am with you….according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of EgyptMy Spirit remains in your midst.  Fear not”.  They aren’t facing this task along.  God is with them and gives the leaders and people of Israel three clear commands. Each of these three is essential to getting the work of God done. Great things are not accomplished without action.

While the building itself won’t compare to Solomon’s temple, this one will exceed the original in that God’s promise is to fill the temple with His glory.  And as he does, “the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory….The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts”.  Solomon had all the treasures as raw material and used them in building the temple.  This time, what belongs to God will come later.  They didn’t need to be discouraged if they didn’t have money for the building project. They had to boldly trust the God who owned every resource, and then give generously.

It really isn’t about the temple, but the relationship and what God promises.  “But from this day on  I will bless you….for I have chosen you”.  God promised blessing to His people if they put their priorities back in order, with Him and His work first.  He promises to also take care of them.  “I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders”.  Haggai reminds the people that God is in control.  He encourages them to stay the course and walk in obedience to God!

%d bloggers like this: