Sunday, May 16, 2010

Start Again - Part II

Zechariah was a minor prophet during the time of challenge in much the same manner that Haggai, the minor prophet, was faithful to bring the message he had been given by God. He came alongside Haggai in the deliverance of a similar message of challenge to the Jews in the land, but with a different twist. While Haggai focused on calling the people back to the work of rebuilding, Zechariah delivered the message calling the people back to rightly exalting God in the land of their promise.

The people of Judah and Israel had lost their passion for serving God. In their eyes, their God had been publicly disgraced by mighty armies of conquering kings, his reputation was laid in ruins alongside the ruins of the Temple. Zechariah's message made it clear that this was not the case – God’s reputation was indeed in ruins, not because of the conquering armies of mighty kings, but because of the sinfulness of his chosen people. His challenge to the people: “Come back to me and I’ll come back to you.” (Zechariah 1:2-3)

His was a simple message, but one that can be the hardest to hear for the one whose heart has been hardened by “putting off” the things of God and the pursuit of those things that minister to our self-man. As we look deeper into the message brought by Zechariah, we see the truly telling attitude that can so easily permeate our churches today: “You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people.” (Zechariah 7:6)

God was making it clear that the Temple was not being rebuilt to simply restore religious worship to the nation, but to provide a means of truly connecting his people to him once again. To the Jew, the Temple was an “animate” connection with God – just as meeting in a house of worship in our local community can be the same to us. It was more than four walls, a roof and a pulpit – it was a symbol of strength, a place of gathering, and a place of refreshing.

Although eighteen years had passed and the hearts of his people had been swayed by the pressures of the forces around them, God had not forgotten his people. The message of hope rings clearly through Zechariah:

GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies will step in and take care of his flock, the people of Judah. He’ll revive their spirits, make them proud to be on God’s side. God will use them in his work of rebuilding, use them as foundations and pillars, use them as tools and instruments, use them to oversee his work. They’ll be a workforce to be proud of, working as one, their heads held high, striding through swamps and mud, courageous and vigorous because GOD is with them, undeterred by the world’s thugs. I’ll put muscle in the people of Judah; I’ll save the people of Joseph. I know their pain and will make them good as new. They’ll get a fresh start, as if nothing had ever happened. And why? Because I am their very own GOD, I’ll do what needs to be done for them. (Zechariah 10:3-7)

God will “step in” – he will revive, he will put to use again, he will unite in purpose and focus those who have drifted into places of complacent idleness. This should be a message of hope to us today. God is not content to let us drift away, focusing our attention on that which promises fulfillment but leaves us lusting for more. He is a jealous God and he hotly pursues those he has chosen. He does not await our independent return – he chases after us, presents the challenge again, and rekindles the fires of our passion toward him. Before restoration can come, revival must begin. There must be a return of our consciousness toward the things of God. We must be brought back to a place of activity – not self-absorbed, meaningless, unfulfilling activity – but that activity which gives our live purpose, directs our focus toward God, and challenges our every step.

The enemy of our soul “loses no time” in providing the opportunity to “shut down” the work of God in our lives. He relishes the opportunity to present defeating messages and the criticism of our abilities. He uses effectual tools to “stop us in our tracks”. It is reassuring to know that God is just as faithful to bring the message of challenge that brings us back and revives our soul. His is a message that stimulates and excites - his is a message of activity. Our enemy’s message is one of inactivity and complacency. Let us become proficient at listening to the message of our God: “Because I am their very own GOD, I’ll do what needs to be done for them.” Our abilities do not matter – our availability to God is all he really looks for. He stands alongside, walks before, and makes a way where no way seems possible – because he is our very own God.