God reveals his nature to the people of Israel: He is righteous, jealous, holy and committed to those who follow and love Him. He calls us to be a people with changed lives that demonstrate His power, not a people who follow rituals or complete "tasks" which identify us with the faith. In this message, believers are encouraged to demonstrate through our actions and relationships the power of radical transformation so that non-believers see God for who He really is... an awesome deliverer for those who follow closely after Him.
If You Think the First Christmas is Exciting, Listen Up to the Return of the King
The Good Shepherd's Rejection, Response, Replacement and Future Reign
Is Your Life Motto Consistent with the Life You Model?
Do They See God for Who He Really Is?
Don't Think Fast... If You Want to Know What True Spirituality Is
The Last 3 Night Visions: How to Avoid Going to Hell in a Handbasket
The Fifth Night Vision: If You Want Your Light to Shine Bright, It Won't be by Might
Jesus the Messiah: The Servant, the Shoot, the Stone, Our Savior
The Fourth Night Vision: Israel and You - Guilty as Charged, Cleansed by Grace
The Third Night Vision: A Word of Hope, a Word of Warning
The Second Night Vision: Horror for the Horns, Hope for Us
The First Night Vision: The Messiah Among the Myrtle Trees
Introduction to Zechariah
Father, we take this time out of our worship service to study your Word, because it is through knowing your Word, how you would have us think and then live, that we really truly worship you. I pray as a result of our time together tonight we will define worship the way you have always defined it, not as some moment of our week, not as some act we do in song or in bowing or in closing our eyes and opening them again or in some responsive reading, but worship is our lives yielded to you the way you would have us to live them.
We come now, and we open our eyes and read your Word so we can think with our minds the way you think so we might live in a way you would live, and in doing so worship you. Prepare our lives this week for a week a worship as we together seek to live in a way that honors you. In Christ's name, amen.
Turn to Zechariah, chapter 8. If you haven't been in Zechariah lately, go to Matthew and hang a left about three books and you will come across this second to the last book in your Old Testament. Just before Malachi, you have Zechariah.
We'll take a look at chapter 8 tonight. This is a book that was written about 520 BC. Actually, the prophecy was given then. It was recorded and became a part of what the Jews have traditionally considered as Scriptures, and we as Christians who share a common heritage and faith with them believe our Messiah, Jesus Christ, our Savior, is their Messiah.
We share a heritage and a faith and believe there will be a day when all true children of Abraham will see Jesus for who he really is, as the Messiah, and when they do, God will do a work through that people that he has always intended to do. He will use them as a kingdom of priests. If you remember way back in your Old Testament in Exodus, chapter 19, Moses is speaking to the people of Israel, and he says, "God desires to use you as a kingdom of priests."
Think about it in our vernacular. What are priests today? Priests are people who supposedly are the means through which others can find forgiveness through Christ. We think of it typically in a Roman Catholic sense, but the Scriptures would tell you that you are all today (believers in Jesus Christ) priests.
You don't need to go through some training or some theological school to be a priest who can receive confession and who can perform this thing called mass and, thus, offer forgiveness for the people, because Christ is our High Priest who has offered his own body as the sacrifice. There has been a sacrifice that has been done once and for all. Jesus Christ's blood that was shed for us and his body which was broken for us is the means through which we have our sins forgiven and our sins washed away.
All who become followers of Christ, he said, "Today you are then a kingdom of priests," so the church today is fulfilling what God's chosen people, the Jews, have never truly done the way he wanted them to do it. They did it for spurts in history but not consistently, but God says there will be a day when they will come to recognize the Messiah, Jesus Christ, for who he really is.
"Then, they will be what I have always longed for them to be." In a sense, the church today is modeling for the Jews what they themselves one day will do, what they themselves in previous days should have done, and by the grace of God he is allowing us to partake of the privilege of representing him to this world, so we are his ambassadors. That is what we are.
We are living as aliens in this world sent by him to go into the world to tell them about the kingdom from which we now are from, a kingdom not of this earth but a kingdom of heaven where our King reigns who will come and also reign on this earth, and to tell them about his love for them and the provision he has for them at his table and that anyone can sit there if they just come and ask for the privilege to be admitted though they have no right to be there. Come as orphans looking for a father and have the faith to believe that Father, the King, wants them to sit and dine with him.
We are his priests. What you'll find here in the book of Zechariah, chapter 8, is that they have just been brought back from the 70-year exile period we repeated many times as we worked our way through this book. He is exhorting them to rebuild the temple, which to the Jew was the central place of worship. During that day and age it was the place where God dwelt.
He embodied his presence there in the Holy of Holies as a picture of what ultimately was to come in terms of how he was going to reveal himself to the world, and the world was to find out about the character of the one true and living God through this house which became symbolic of his dwelling (the temple).
The Jews who had returned to their land were told to rebuild this temple so that during this specific age God could reveal himself to the world in Jerusalem. These people had gotten kind of off course or off track and they had become criticized by their neighbors for what they were trying to do.
They became kind of lethargic and apathetic thinking within, "This really is kind of ridiculous, this worship of a God we can't really see. People are throwing rocks at us and calling us names and trying to bring down the wrath of nations upon us because we're trying to build this temple. My house isn't so comfortable."
They're apathetic about their lives, so they want to rebuild their own houses and not rebuild God's temple, and God sends his prophets to speak for him to say, "Concern yourself with the things of God, for apart from that you will have no joy." That's the book of Haggai in a nutshell, and Zechariah is a contemporary of Haggai, another prophet who is telling these Jews to rebuild the temple so God can make himself known among the nations.
Now, how does that relate to you? It relates to you in this way. You're going to find out in Zechariah, chapter 8, that God is now coming on the second part of a message in chapter 7 and chapter 8 where he is exhorting his people…plug yourself in…to be faithful to do what he has asked you to do so that you don't suffer the consequences of disobedience (that's chapter 7) and so that you can prepare yourself for the blessings that are to come, for whom God loves he has wonderful plans laid out for.
In order to receive those plans, you must be his child, and evidence that you are his child shows that you live by faith that his blessings are coming. Chapter 7 says, "Don't live in dead ritual but live in real life with me, lest you suffer consequences." Chapter 8 says, "Be encouraged by the future glory which I offer you as my children and live passionately and expectantly for that. Because you believe that I will honor those who walk faithfully with me, then live faithfully for me today."
Chapter 8 will reveal to you a lot about the character of God and his desire to encourage his people. You will find out God wants to put before you the prophetic expectation of what is to come so you might be encouraged to live faithfully today. We have mentioned this before that believing there is glory in the future will enable you to be faithful today.
If you believe this life ends at the grave and that is all there is to live for, then you would be a fool to live as Christians live. That's what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15. If the resurrection didn't happen, then we above all men are fools, and we above all men are to be pitied, but if God exists and if he judges men based certainly first and foremost on how they have responded to his holiness and their sin…
Let me make this very clear. Biblically, salvation is always based on grace. What is grace? Grace is getting something you don't deserve. If one of you walked up here right now and said, "Todd, here is $100. Just go out and take your family across the street, grab a bite to eat, have some change, go get some yogurt afterward, and rent a movie," and I said, "Why did you do that for me?"
"For no reason. Not because you're anything special or because you've done anything for me or could do anything for me. I just want to give you $100." That is grace. Salvation in the Scriptures is always a gift. It doesn't get much clearer than a verse we often hear (Ephesians 2:8 and 9). "For by grace you have been saved…it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
I'm going to take a few parts of that verse and lay it before you. Salvation biblically is always a gift. Judgment is always a result, and every man will be judged according to works. You go, "Wait a minute! Does that mean Christians are going to be judged?" The answer to that question is, "Yes, Christians will be judged, but it will not be a judgment which will determine your eternal state."
It says that in John, chapter 5, verse 24. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life…" You have received the gift if you just believe the gift is available to you. It goes on to say, "…and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."
Christians pass out of the judgment which determines whether you are a sinner who will be condemned in eternity or whether you are a saint who will dwell with him in heaven. Once you are a saint declared righteous by the work of God you will then be judged as a servant, and that is what we see in the Scriptures in a number of different places as the judgment seat of Christ where we, as believers, will stand before him, and many of us will hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Many others will be saved because they truly turned to Christ and asked that he would be the provision for their sin, but they didn't live much of a life of faith since then, so while they themselves may be saved, 1 Corinthians 3 will make it clear they are saved as one that passes through fire and all they tried to present to Christ will be consumed as worthless because they didn't live a life by faith.
Salvation biblically is always a gift, but judgment is always based on works. That's why we, as Christians, still seek to please him, not thinking for a moment that we will lay before him our resume of righteousness but having the privilege of standing before him knowing he has done infinitely more for me than I could ever do, I will just simply lay at his feet all that I have and humbly not think I will deserve anything in return, but he, being a gracious Father, will take from me that small token of love.
I'll give it to you pictured this way. Here are two illustrations of what I'm talking about. First, my little girl asked me today, "Daddy, can I draw you a picture?" I said, "Well, sure." She went into her room and got some markers out and a little piece of paper, and she did her best to make a picture. It was one of the best pictures she had ever drawn, but ultimately it was worthless to me. I might hang it in my office, but it is not a great work of art. It is not something that someone would walk in and go, "Man! That just makes this room! It's beautiful!"
For me, when she laid it before me, she did it by faith knowing it was the best she could do and sought to please me because she loved me. She was thankful for the relationship she has with me which she has not earned. In fact, being a 4-year-old, she has lived for four years trying to convince me she's not worthy of my love, but she can't lose it, and she is grateful for that, so she greets me with hugs, and she showers me with her gifts, which ultimately never earn my love but are completely acceptable and pleasing to me.
I got that picture and put it in a place of prominence. I wrapped her in my arms and said, "Well done, my good and faithful Ally!" in every other word I can but saying it that way. "This is great!" She doesn't come up and say, "Now, Dad, don't you ever forget that. You'd better put food on the table now. We're even." How crazy would that be?
Here's another illustration. Think about how offended you would be if you came up and gave me more than I could ever, ever possibly earn or deserve. Let's say for some reason I had incurred an incredible amount of debt through irresponsible living. Let's say I had a gambling addiction, and I was just absolutely sure the Cowboys could cover that six-point spread today, so I bet the farm. I'd be a sick individual right now in my stomach.
You came up for no reason and said, "Todd, here's money to cover your house and to cover your car. Here's money to go redeem Alex who you sold as slave or a maid in this gambling debt." You laid down a quarter of a million dollars, and all of that was covered, and I showed up at your house next Monday about 7:00 in the morning. You heard a noise. You look out. There I am with a lawn mower. I was starting to mow your lawn. You say, "What are you doing?"
I say, "I'm mowing your lawn. I'm paying you back. I'm going to mow your lawn for the rest of this fall season. I'm going to rake your leaves. I'm going to clean your gutters. I'll even mow your lawn next summer. In fact, I'm your lawn service. I'm going to take care of your lawn and manicure your house, and I'm going to do it for as long as I'm in Dallas, for the next good number of years. We're even."
How offended would you be? You'd say, "First of all, you don't understand me. I didn't do that for you so I would own you as a lawn boy. Second of all, you ain't that good, and you can never pay me back that quarter of a million." Gang, that analogy falls infinitely short, for God has paid off much, much more than a quarter of a million dollar debt I had. I have offended eternal God. My debt is eternal, and being a temporal man, I can never bridge that gap.
He has paid the debt for me, so I am moved to do all I can to draw him the best picture I can with my life by faith believing as a child giving to a Father who loves me what will please him but never for a moment thinking I have squared the deal. He has given me a gift of grace, and it is the joy of my life to respond to him.
Chapter 8 in Zechariah is a picture for you of all that your good God has planned for you. You will find these words appear 10 different times in these 23 verses. Ten different times you will hear the words, "Thus says the LORD of hosts…" Let's see what he teaches us each time he speaks.
Remember, he is telling the people to rebuild the temple. Why? Because in that day and age it was the means through which he was going to display his glory to the nations, so what he's basically saying, when you hear him exhort the folks to rebuild the temple, is, "Concern yourself with my good name, because I want to do great things with my people who love my good name. I will be faithful to you beyond your wildest dreams. Respond in faithfulness to me."
Look what it says in chapter 8, verse 1. "Then the word of the LORD of hosts came, saying…" Here's the first one. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.'" **You go, "Wait a minute! That is a contradiction. God is claiming he is jealous for Zion, which is another name for the Holy City. How can God be jealous?" If you go to 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible defines love, and love is defined this way scripturally." Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous…"**
You say, "Wait a minute! God is saying he is jealous here. Does that mean God isn't love? If God isn't love, it contradicts 1 John 4:8. God is love. It says it as clearly as can be, so how can God be jealous here and God be loving in 1 John 4 and God be holy, as it says all through this entire Scripture?"
Gang, jealousy in and of itself is not an evil thing. In fact, jealousy Old Testament wise is more often defined as an intolerance of rivalry or unfaithfulness in a relationship. In the Old Testament, again, it basically means an intolerance of rivalry and unfaithfulness in a relationship. Specifically, it is expressed in the Old Testament in God's relationship with Israel, and he is intolerant of any rivalry he has with them because he loves them and he is jealous for their good.
The way you handle that intolerance determines whether or not jealousy is sin. Think about what's going on in 1 Corinthians 13, where it says that love is not jealous. In fact, if you go down a little further in that verse in your mind, it goes to one point where it says that love "… does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered…" The key is that one there that says that love does not seek its own.
That means if I'm in a relationship with somebody and I watch that somebody else is receiving a good thing or somebody else is being blessed, if I love them I'm not going to want to get in the way of that. I'm not going to want to stop them from some blessing that is coming, because I would rather have that blessing come my way or I would rather control them in such a way that they would only need me.
It says a little bit later that love "…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth…" Catch this. God is love, and he never rejoices in unrighteousness. Love never seeks its own, but God, who is intolerant of all rivalry and unfaithfulness in the relationship, when he sees the Jew or Israel or you or me turn to something else for life, he is jealous for us. He says, "Don't turn there, not because I seek my own but because I love you and I am jealous for you that you would experience life and not a lie."
Let me explain it to you this way. I'm jealous for my children's protection, and there is not a single person in this room who would say I'm not loving because I am. I mean, I am jealous that nobody would abduct them or that nobody would molest them. I am jealous for their health. I watch them and my wife watches them like a hawk to make sure they don't do anything foolish, that they're not jumping off more than I'm able to be there to catch them when they jump, or that they're not eating things that aren't going to be good for them.
I am jealous for their hearts, so I'm careful about what I let those little eyes observe. I especially pray for my little boy that he doesn't put before himself all of the junk I was exposed to as a 10- or 11- or 12-year old. I am jealous for his little heart. There's not a single person in this room who would say, "You don't love him, because love is not jealous. If you loved him, you'd let him jump off what he wanted to jump off of, go where he wanted to go, and do what he wanted to do."
That's not love! What you have right here in this very first thing is simply that you know God is zealous. That's a better way to describe this for you to understand it. God is zealous for you to experience good things. That's quite a promise for you to know the greatest force in all of the heavens said, "When I look at you, I am zealous to keep you from making bad decisions." Part of his zealousness is manifested in chapter 7 of Zechariah. He will let you suffer the consequences of some of your bad decisions so you will learn to not make them again.
One of the things I do is I spank my little children at times, not full of anger but full of love. Last night I put little Kirby in bed, and I spanked her after she got out a few times, and she said, "Daddy, you're not nice sometimes." I sat down with her and said, "Why don't you explain that to me?" She goes, "Sometimes you spank me." I said, "Why do you think I spank you? Does Daddy spank you when he's mad?"
"Does Daddy spank you when you don't listen so that you learn there is a consequence to being selfish and disobedient?"
I said, "Do you think that's bad or do you think that's good that he's helping you learn not to be selfish and disobedient?" Of course, you don't logic much with a 2-year-old, so I don't really care what she said, but I'm going to keep saying it to her until she's about 18. I let her know, "I'm jealous for you, and that is why, after a certain amount of gentle correction, comes the rod." I'm jealous for her.
Look at this next little verse 3. "Thus says the LORD, 'I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.'" If you remember, way back at the end of chapter 2, is the only place in the Bible where Israel is called the Holy Land. We always call it the Holy Land. Let me say something which might be blasphemy to some people.
Israel is not the Holy Land. Israel will be the Holy Land. A place is holy only because God is there. Now, we might say it's the Holy Land because God has been there, and I think that's what most of us mean, but biblically when you go and look you'll see when the Scriptures say, "Israel will be my Holy Land," it is when Jesus Christ himself is there.
That is why you see, when Moses was up on Mount Sinai, that he tells Moses, "Take off your shoes." Why? "Because you stand on holy ground." Why was that holy ground? Because God was there. Let me encourage you. Do you know it says in the Scriptures that God knows and cares for every one of his individual saints and that precious in the sight of God are the lives of his little ones (you and me)?
We talked about last week the persecution of the church. When people desecrate holy property, we think, "You are messing with God big time when you come into the temple and spray paint a swastika or some satanic symbol. You're going to get it. Look out for the lightning!" Biblically, you people (Christians today) are a holy land.
Why? Because the Spirit of God dwells in you. Therefore, you are a holy place because God lives in you in the personage of his Spirit, so when somebody comes and desecrates you, it is no small thing. Now, in some way every man, by the way, and every woman is made in the image of God.
That is why you'll find in 1 Thessalonians 4, when God exhorts you to possess your bodies in sanctification, specifically your sexual purity, he goes so far as to say, "If you go ahead and abuse another individual for your own selfish pleasure, if you desecrate what is God's, he is the avenger of those things."
Think about that the next time you're filled with passion at the end of watching Sling Blade after you rented it at Blockbuster and you turn over to that little sweetie in your arms and decide you want to desecrate that holy ground. We want to make a certain place holy so we can go over there and be solemn and walk gently and think of God, but I will tell you a place is holy because God is there.
Know this. In some small sense, God exists in every individual in that every man is made in the image of God, but because of sin, we fall short of that image, and some of us are more fallen than others, but God loves that individual and, specifically when that individual trusts in him and becomes his child, that is holy ground.
What you get out of that second, "Thus says the LORD…" is simply he is committed to his Word. He will do what he said he was going to do. He said he was going to make Jerusalem a holy place. He will do it one day. He's telling the Jews, "Go ahead and build that temple. It's going to be a place I use."
Verse 4: "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.'" Here's the third thing he says in chapter 8. It's this great promise. "My presence will bring you peace."
He says three things so far. "I am zealous for you for good things in your life." Secondly, "I will make the place where I dwell holy." Thirdly, "When I am there, you will experience peace." Jesus himself said this in John 14, verse 27. He said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled…"
What he describes there in Zechariah 8, verses 4 and 5, is kind of a Norman Rockwell painting. Think about this. You have old men and old women who will sit in the streets of Jerusalem. Living to an old age is a sign that there is no war, that there is no trouble in the land, and that it's free from disease and free from bad health. You have tranquility. You have peace. You have prosperity. You have security. Kids are in the streets of the city. They're filled with boys and girls playing.
Think about that. Is that what's going on right now in Jerusalem? That's not what I see in Jerusalem. I see riots. I see busses blowing up. I see rocks being thrown. I see terrorists having their way. What's going on in our streets in our cities? I see abductions left and right. You can't let Amber Hagerman ride her bike over there in the Arlington area because some jerk in a black pickup is going to come and take her off of her bike to find her facedown naked in a little creek bed.
There is no peace apart from what God does in the lives of men and women. When Jesus Christ is there and he rules and reigns in the hearts of his people, there is peace. What he is saying is there will be a day when he will rule and reign in that city with a rod of iron and all men will walk according to his ways, and his kingdom will be here on earth as it is in heaven. Then, there will be peace. There is no peace today.
I think about how, as a kid, I grew up. I was thinking, as I was reading through this, about how I don't let my kids out of my sight today. I won't let my little girl ride her bike further than I can see. I remember when I was a kid we had a place we called the field. I used to think it was huge. I went back there a couple of years ago, and it was probably about 30 yards big. We used to play football games. You had to be in great shape to run from one side to the other.
Next to the field were the woods, which I thought was about the size of the Sahara Desert. Today, I could throw a football over it, but we used to go every day in the summer to the field and to the woods and hang out and explore them. My mom never worried there was going to be some predator lurking in the woods.
She was never concerned that somebody was going to come in St. Louis, Missouri, in that little town of Kirkwood and try to push something on us in that field. What God is saying to these folks is, "I promise there will be a day when you will experience true peace, and I will put you in that place. My presence will bring you peace." Here comes the fourth one. Look at verse 6.
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?'" In other words, "It will be easy for me to do what I'm telling you I'm going to do." Just because you think, "There's no way there will ever be peace in Jerusalem again," don't think for a moment that's too difficult for God.
He promises. "You go ahead and anticipate peace, and you believe that I will bring my kingdom on this earth as it is in heaven, so you be my ambassadors telling them that the King of heaven is coming and they ought to be reconciled with him, because he will alleviate and eliminate all who are not about his peace. Don't think I can't pull it off just because it's too difficult for you." When people hear me preach this message, they go, "Yeah, right! What kind of pipe dream is that?" God says, "It's a real pipe dream if it's up to man to do it, but it's not at all a pipe dream if it's up to me."
Look at verse 7. Here comes the fifth one. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west…'" You're going to find out God is about reconciliation. God is about restoration, and he is committed to that with his people. That's his promise to you.
Let me just teach you a little something. Every now and then I like to learn more about the human language and things that go in and figures of speech. The thing used here is called a merism. A merism is when you use two opposites to display the totality. God says right there… Look at it with me in verse 7. "…I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west…" He says, "I'm going to get them basically from all over." He uses two opposites to express the whole.
That is why Jesus Christ basically says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega…" That's a merism. What he's saying right there is, "I am the beginning and the end. I am everything." That's why we say, "You can find everything in that store from A to Z." What are we saying when we say that? You're using a merism. When you say, "The NFL is full of teams from the Dallas Cowboys to the Green Bay Packers," that's a merism. All of the teams in the NFL, from the worst to the best… Not really. You might have thought so today. Right?
What he says is, "There is nobody and no person in my kingdom that I won't call back and say, 'You might think I've forgotten you,'" but it says in Psalm 139, "You can't go so low as to hide from me, and you can't climb so high as to be outside of my care. There is no place my people go that I am not aware of them, and I will accomplish good things for them on that day."
Verse 8 says, "…and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God…" Now catch this. This is encouraging. What you have right there in verse 8, where it says, "…they shall be My people, and I will be their God…" is that Paul uses that in Romans, chapter 9, to talk about us Gentiles (non-Jews).
He says, "You who formerly were no people have become his people, and he has become your God." That is not what Zechariah had in mind there. Paul quotes Zechariah, chapter 8, verse 8, in Romans 9:24-26, and he applies it to you Gentiles. What he says is, "You were folks who were outside of the promise."
God had a promise arranged with the Jews that he would use them to be a kingdom of priests through which his name would be exalted and they would be blessed as a result. Paul describes the Jews' unwillingness to respond to the prophets like Zechariah's teaching, so what he describes is this little event (this little parenthesis in the history of God's working with Israel) called the church.
He says, "You who were formerly not a people have become a people. You formerly had no God. He has become your God." In a theological sense, what he is doing right there is showing this impossible thing to a Jew to hear that the Gentiles could be in a covenant and loving relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They thought, "No way! That's our God, and we're his people."
What God told them repeatedly through books like Zechariah is, "Listen, gang. Just because you're Jew doesn't mean I'm going to always be your God and you're going to always be my people. I will through Jews do this thing I said I will do. The question is…Will you be the Jews I do it through? Will you humble yourself underneath me and thus avoid the punishment of disobedience and experience the blessing of promise?'
Ultimately, as Zechariah has screamed and as I have screamed and as you will scream as you read this book, the way that will happen is by his Spirit as they humble themselves and say, "It's not because I'm a Jew, God, that you're going to do great things with me. It's because I have humbled myself and asked you to be my God, and your Spirit has indwelt me and made me a holy child not through my deeds but through your gift which I have received by your Spirit."
There will be a day when the Jews who today scoff the name of Jesus Christ will one day turn back to him, and there is nothing a Jew can do that is more Jewish than to believe in the Messiah, and they will believe the Messiah one day. We, as orthodox Christians, believe Jesus is that Jewish Messiah, and that right now we are his people, and God is our God, and there will be a day when we will do what the Jews and what everybody thinks is impossible for God to do. They will become his people and he, again, will be their God. Why? Through the Messiah.
Look at verse 9. Here comes the next one. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built.'" Basically, "Listen up and be faithful and rebuild the temple." He says why in verse 10. "For before those days…"
Before two years ago when you started to build this temple, "…there was no wage for man or any wage for animal; and for him who went out or came in there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another." All verse 10 is saying is simply, "You worked hard during those 16 years you got back in Jerusalem from 536 to 520 BC to try and find life, but you did everything but seek to live for me, and you were never happy. There was always an emptiness lurking in your soul."
He says, "Remember that. Now, look at the last two years where you had begun to be an obedient people and to walk in faithfulness with me and do what I encouraged you to do. Hasn't life been different? Haven't you experienced a little bit of the blessing which I'm telling you is going to come in great amounts in the future? Haven't you experienced, if you will, some of the joy of obedience and of a relationship with me?"
He says, "Compare that to the absence of joy which was there for those 16 years previous." Remember what he's trying to do right here. They are two years into the rebuilding campaign, and he's trying to encourage them to stay at it. He's telling them, "What you're doing is bringing joy into your life. Don't go back to the old ways."
One thing I would tell you we need to do is remember what it was like before we were Christians. I sometimes hear guys share their testimonies, and they spend about 20 minutes talking about their life before they knew Christ with all the women they went through and how much alcohol they went through and the party life they lived. Then, they go, "Oh, yeah. Then I met Jesus, and I've been a Christian for five years going to church and stuff."
You get done hearing that testimony, and we go, "It sounds like you had a whole lot more fun before this Jesus guy came into your life." I had the privilege to meet a guy a number of years ago by the name of Rick Cua. I really appreciated him. Rick Cua used to play bass for Black Sabbath. He had seen some things. He used to be with Ozzy Osbourne and the boys in some of his concerts. He said he used to be a part of stuff, and I heard him share his testimony one time. Here's what he did.
He said, "You know what I used to do in terms of where I played and the kind of audiences I was before, and I could stand up here and tell you stories that would probably titillate you, but I would find no joy in doing that to you, because although I would tell you about some of the things I conquered as a man, what I could never relay to you was how empty I was the whole while I was trying to find life in relationships and alcohol and drugs.
Oh, yeah, there were moments my pain was numbed through pleasure or through some type of intoxication, but in no way do I want you to ever confuse you that that lifestyle compares at all to the life I've had since I've come to know Jesus Christ." That's all you ever heard him talk about that previous life.
One thing we as Christians have to get better about doing is looking people in the eye and not feeling like we have to have some dramatic testimony about what I used to do before I came to know Jesus Christ and start to look people in the eye and have a relationship with God that is alive and active today that we can tell people about the joy that resides there.
I can tell you right now there is something going on in my life that I wish wasn't there at all. It's painful for me to even think about, but I can sit here tonight, and as I think about what might come in this little event in my life right now that my wife and I are praying through, I have absolute peace and confidence that the God who is sovereign over this event can do what he wants to do, and he has my best interest in mind, and I need not lose sleep over it.
That is a peace which this world cannot give, and I have confidence that doesn't rest on the outcome of a certain situation. We, as Christians, need to be able to tell people not, "I came to know Christ, and I've been a Christian for the next five years." You need to be able to specifically say right now, "This is why things are better for me because of Jesus Christ."
It ought not always say because now you have a relationship or now you have a new car or now you have a better job, because that's not reality, is it? We have people in this body who are dying of cancer. We have people in this body who are in the middle of lousy relationships or who don't have a relationship. I want to know if Jesus is still sufficient there, because if not, he's no God. He does not offer you health, wealth, prosperity, and a better dating life. He offers you something far better, and we ought to be able to testify to it.
Look over there in verse 14. Here comes the next one. "For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and I have not relented, so I have again purposed in these days to do good…'" There will be a day when I won't have to spank you anymore because you're getting out of bed, and I will shower you with blessings.
Verse 16 says, "Here's how you respond to my grace." "These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates." You ought to have truth, justice, and love. Verse 17: "' Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,' declares the LORD."
He simply says, "If you want to be an individual in relationship with me, then love what I love. Don't let evil for another person even begin to be there in your heart. Don't give it a place where it can take root and blossom into some action." Verse 18: "Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts…'"
He answers the question we really started with that we looked at two weeks ago, which was simply, "Should we continue the fast we started when we were in exile?" He lists them right there in chapter 8, in verse 19 and following. "The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months…"
Here's how he responds. Let me read verse 19. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.'" All he's saying right there is simply, "Listen, gang. There is going to be a day when the things you fast in remembrance of…"
They all had to do with when they were being disciplined as a nation. He basically quotes the idea that Jeremiah 31 has, which is, "I will turn your mourning into laughter or into gladness." There will not be anything to remember anymore about sadness. It's interesting. To this day since AD 70 the Jews continue to fast on certain days of each of those months. The tradition of the Jews has become during times of peace and prosperity that you don't need to fast but during times of trouble you need to fast.
In other words, they try and buy God off sometimes by a hunger strike or some way of neglecting themselves of what they think some right is in order that God might then bring favor upon them that they would see they are mourning their current state of a lack of peace and a lack of prosperity.
What he's really saying right here is, "You can stop that nonsense and start living in hope, believing I'm going to take over all of this memory of discipline with the presence of joy. You should still fast to seek me." There should be times when you purposefully and willingly and voluntarily neglect food or some other pleasures we talked about a couple of weeks ago for a period of time. "Fast so that you might seek me, but I'm not looking for a ritualistic obedience in order to throw you a bone."
Follow me on this. Verse 20: "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, "Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the L ORD , and to seek the LORD of hosts; I will also go."'" There is going to be a day when people all over this earth are concerned for one another and they have a godly zeal and they're going to grab people and say, "Let's go worship God."
Look at verse 22. "So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD." **There is going to be a day when people will leave their cities and look for the City of God and to go where God is. Why? Verse 23 tells you."Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."'"**
Let me camp on this for a second. "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." That ought to be the response the world has to you and me. When you go back and look in Numbers, there is a verse in Numbers, which is a book in the Old Testament, that talks about how the Jew wore a coat or a garment that was distinctive. It had four tassels and the four corners of those tassels were blue. Only did Jews wear these garments with four tassels hanging on the four corners that were blue, so all men could see who a Jew was when he walked.
Word is going to get out that God is with the Jews, and there are going to be men who have heard about the blessing that comes for those who worship the God of the Jews, and they're going to literally run up and try to grab them and say, "Can we go with you? Because we have heard that God is with you."
If we had the chance to go to Ephesians 4 and tear through that chapter, you would see there is a garment that you and I are supposed to wear. It's not material with four tassels on the four corners where the color is blue, but it is the garment of righteousness, and we are to be cloaked in love. We are to be cloaked in forgiveness. We are to be cloaked in mercy. We are to be cloaked in kindness.
Paul tells you to put on basically your new self, which is the appearance and the embodiment of Jesus Christ. I can tell you when I was in high school there were some guys who were two years ahead of me. I was looking for life in all of the wrong places, and I saw some individuals who loved in a way that they had a different appearance to me.
There was a day when I walked up to them and literally grabbed them, and I said, "Can I go with you? Can I go where you go?" I didn't know why, but I said, "Something is different about you." In a sense, I said, "Because God is with you." Do you know, Christians, this is the season when we sing a lot about Immanuel, which means God with us, and what we claim is that God is with us.
This baby Jesus born in a manger grew to be our King who died on the cross for our sins. He was crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven where he offers us now salvation as a free gift that for all who believe in him he will come and dwell with them in Spirit, and he will enable us to no longer be clothed in selfishness and self-love but to be clothed with kindness and to be clothed with servanthood and to be clothed with compassion.
The world should see in us a difference, but the world doesn't just want to hear us talk about our ritual. They don't want to hear that we go to church. They don't want to hear that we fast. They don't want to hear that we take Communion. They don't want to hear that we celebrate Easter. They want to see that something is different in our lives.
A little movie this year we all saw or at least many people are familiar with is Jerry Maguire talking about agents and how he's trying to get this athlete to stay on board with him. The fact that athletes said to that agent, "Don't tell me what a good agent you are." What did they say? "Show me the money."
About 10 or 15 years ago, there was a little old lady who pulled up to a burger place and said, "I don't want to hear about what a great burger place you are." She said, "Show me the beef." The way she said it was, "Where's the beef?" Folks, the reason the world is not grabbing you and saying, "What are you doing on Sunday night? Where are you going on Wednesday night? When do you have Bible study? Why is your life different?" is because…
There are not people grabbing you at your hems and crawling on your back and begging to be taken where you go because you're not dressed in the garment that God says makes you distinct. I believe that is exactly what ought to be happening to us. The world is looking at us and goes, "Don't show me the ritual. Don't show me your place of worship. Don't show me your tithe. Don't show me your prayer habit. Show me the love. Show me your changed life."
We're going to go home to Thanksgiving tables this Thursday. A couple of weeks after that, we're going to go home to Christmas tables. We're going to be so desperate for our parents to know and for our family members and brothers and sisters in other cities to know about the life we have found in Jesus Christ, and we're going to want them to see it, but they're not going to see it because we just bang them over the head with it.
They're going to see it because we're different, because we're serving them, because we're kind, because we're patient with them when we didn't used to be, because we put up with their quirks, and because we're kind to them when they wrong us. Gang, I need your prayers to do it in my home, and the way my non-believing relatives are going to come to know him is not by saying, "Todd, tell us about your church."
They're going to say, "Todd, show me your changed life. Then, I'm going to grab onto you because I know what a jerk you are and you have changed since last Thanksgiving. I want to know who your God is, because he has changed you, and, son, that change has been a long time coming." I ought to be saying, "Amen. Let me show you where that change can happen. It can happen in a faith relationship with Jesus Christ."
It won't happen because I'm more pious than they are, I bring my Bible, or because I want to pray some long prayer at the Thanksgiving table and they don't. It will happen when they see me treat my wife differently, when they see me treat my kids differently, when they see me handle traffic differently, and when they see me choose what I watch differently, not because I'm a legalist but because I love my God.
I believe people will start to grab at my hems the way I grabbed at the hems of Jeff Coggan and John Splinter and Paul Fraser when I said, "Can I go where you go? Can I learn to love the way you love? Can I learn to discipline my life and have morality and hope like you have? God is with you." Will somebody say that to you this Thanksgiving at the table? If not, I encourage you to ask him to do a work these next four days, and before you go telling them about what a great agent for God you are, show them your changed life. None of us is perfect, and when you make a mistake…
I want to tell you what. One of my greatest ministries to my family is the ministry of, "I am sorry." I tell them, "I want to let you know what I just did didn't reflect Christ." One of the things they are going to see in me that's different than they've seen over the years is when I blow it I tell them I blew it, that I acted selfishly or I didn't act lovingly or I wasn't compassionate to them. I apologize to them because I want to let them know Jesus Christ is changing me and giving me a desire to love them and reconcile with them and to restore the relationship with them.
Show them your changed life. The world looks at us, but for too many people, religion is just something they have to put on. They have to spray white all over themselves and act holy one hour a week. They don't know God for who he really is, so they're not longing to be with us. For too many people, God is not a God who changes lives because they see people who go to churches and are abusive at their office and take the name Christian.
People don't know God for who he really is because we, as Christians, have failed to live in a way with the clothes and the garments he says we ought to have on. Will you live your life this week in a way that people will say, "God is with you," and "Can I go where you go to find out how my life could change and to become a lover of others and not one who lives in selfish conceit, a victim to his passions, and a slave to his next circumstance"? Let's pray.
Father, I thank you that ultimately it's not up to us to have to be perfect to convert the world, but I thank you that it is our privilege to be used by you, to be individuals who can love and who can do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind can consider others more important than themselves, who can have this attitude in ourselves which is also in Christ Jesus, that we can be lovers of good, that we can discipline our flesh and not be slaves to lust, that we can have joy despite circumstances, that we can seek to forgive those who have wronged us, and that we can seek to reconcile with those who have distanced themselves from us.
I thank you, Lord, you are a God who doesn't ask us to play games but to be real with who we are and to cry out to you, "Father, forgive us." We thank you for the provision of Christ in his death on the cross and then, in humility, to receive your gift of salvation and in response to that incredible gift to live our lives and do all we can to live in a way that's pleasing to you.
When we make a mistake, to confess our sin and to agree with you that wasn't right and to yield further and further to your Spirit who dwells in us so we can become more like Christ and evidence your life to others and all the while share about the hope we have which is not in our life which we live but in the life which you live for us in the person of Jesus Christ who, though he knew no sin, became sin on our behalf so we might become the righteousness of God in him. I pray, Father, through our changed lives people would want to go where we go because they know God is where we go. I pray people through us could see God for who he really is.
In this second volume of "Sawing through the ZZZs", Todd Wagner unravels one of the richest, most complex of the minor prophetical books, revealing a timeless message of hope to all who will hear. Using night visions, oracles and symbols, God gives the prophet Zechariah a warning to the struggling, disillusioned nation of Israel freshly returned from exile in Babylon. This glimpse into their immediate and distant future exhorts them - and us - to repent, obey and persevere. The Lord is near to His own and this prophetical work concludes with a glorious look at the Messiah and the hope of His triumphant return.