Today’s Reading: Zechariah 7-14; Psalm 15
As God’s people were returning from exile to a city and land that had been destroyed, they were discouraged with the work that lay ahead of them – the task God was calling them to. God reminded them, as He sometimes reminds us, that their current condition was a direct result of their own sinful decisions. There are times when we choose to do our own thing and make a mess of what God could have made a masterpiece.
“Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit…Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to me, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. As with a whirlwind, I scattered them among the distant nations, where they lived as strangers. Their land became so desolate that no one even traveled through it. THEY turned their pleasant land into a desert.” – Zechariah 7:11-14
What was the message they had refused to listen to? What did they refuse to do that God was telling them to do? Look at the two verses right before this passage:
Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against one another (Zech. 7:9-10).
So God wanted them to put the needs of others above their own desires and they refused. God wanted them to honor the truth and love God by loving others and they chose self-preservation instead, only to find out that, by trying to build a life for themselves, they had instead destroyed their chance of truly experiencing life. They made a mess out of what could have been a masterpiece.
God went from being an angry God determined to punish to a God of grace determined to bless His people once again. But his instructions remained the same as before.
“But this is what you must do: Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace. Don’t scheme against each other. Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth. I hate all these things, says the Lord…The traditional fasts and times of mourning you have kept in early summer, midsummer, autumn, and winter are now ended. They will become festivals of joy and celebration for the people of Judah. So love TRUTH and PEACE” (8:16-19).
God was ready to dwell among His people – to bless them with His presence – but He demanded they live in peace with one another and treat each other justly. Sometimes this is where we struggle in families or in Churches. We pray for God to bless our efforts, to bless our growth, but we stubbornly hold on to grudges. We sit back and wait for someone else to come begging for forgiveness instead of seeking restoration with each other. Now that’s what I would call a mess – a missed opportunity to allow the hand of God to create a masterpiece. Truth and peace – God would love to turn our mourning into joy and celebration but we must first love truth and peace.
Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts. – Psalm 15:1-2
When God lives among us, He creates a sense of community with each other. You may say this is impossible for the group of people you are thinking of right now, but God says nothing is impossible for Him! Invite Him to dwell among you and He can REVEAL TRUTH and RESTORE PEACE into any situation. Look at what He did for the Israelites when they returned to their war-torn country.
“And now the Lord says: I am returning to Mount Zion, and I will live in Jerusalem…Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play…All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? Says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Zech. 8:3-6).
When we have fixed our relationships with each other, when we are truly living in peace and truth and God’s presence is dwelling among His people, then we can be about the task of doing what God has told us to do! We must first obey God’s command to love Him by loving others before we can follow His calling in our lives. Then, when PEACE IS RESTORED, He strengthens us with His presence and tells us:
“Be strong and finish the task!” and “So don’t be afraid. Be strong, and get on with rebuilding the Temple!” (Zech. 8:9,13).
And this is my favorite part! When we are living in truth and peace, and God’s presence is living among us, it will become evident to all those around us. They will see the difference God’s presence is making in our lives and they will want to become a part of it. Instead of seeing a mess, they see God’s masterpiece. As in Zechariah 8:23, people will see what we have and say, “Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”
Oh, may God’s presence be evident in our lives today! May others see God living in us and among us in such a powerful way that they want what we have – God’s presence in our lives!