Zechariah says, “God will Renew and Restore”

Sermon Series: Minor Prophets – Imagining a Better Story

Donnell Wyche – August 11, 2019

Preamble

We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space. Together we’ve been welcomed into God’s family through Jesus. As we become the people of God, we choose to reflect God’s love in our gratitude, in our joy, and in our generosity as we navigate the complexity of our daily lives. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

Introduction

This summer Pastor Marissa has us camped in out in minor prophets. Let’s remember that a prophet is a person who is telling the truth from God in a way that makes people listen and care. Sometimes these prophets describe something that will happen in the future or they are telling the truth about what’s happening right now. Often prophets are conscripted by God to tell someone powerful or important what they need to do to make things right in God’s eyes. Sometimes these prophets speak on behalf of the people to God when the prophet cries out for justice.

Zechariah says, “God will restore and renew.”

2“The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. 3Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you. (Zechariah 1:2-3)

Don’t be like your ancestors Zechariah declares, “Return to me [God], and I will return to you.”

8I will signal for them
and gather them in.
Surely I will redeem them;
they will be as numerous as before.
9Though I scatter them among the peoples,
yet in distant lands they will remember me.
They and their children will survive,
and they will return.
10I will bring them back from Egypt
and gather them from Assyria.
I will bring them to Gilead and Lebanon,
and there will not be room enough for them.
11They will pass through the sea of trouble;
the surging sea will be subdued
and all the depths of the Nile will dry up.
Assyria’s pride will be brought down
and Egypt’s scepter will pass away.
12I will strengthen them in the Lord
and in his name they will live securely,” declares the Lord. (Zechariah 10:8-12)

“Return to me and I will return to you.” This is an encouraging word that couldn’t come at a better time. It’s been a rough go for Judah. God has allowed the Assyrians and the Babylonians to capture and subjugate them, and there’s a hint that maybe God has let this subjugation go on for a little too long. But Zechariah offers hope as he moves through eight opening visions and dreams.

God’s Good Intentions

Zechariah prophesies about God’s good intentions for the people who were scattered because of their sin. The prophet speaks of God’s passion, compassion, and comfort.

10“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. (Zechariah 2:10)

This is important for the people because of the seemingly unending dominance of the conquering empires, it has felt like God had abandoned the city of God and God’s people. But there’s compassion, which signifies God’s motherly feelings for the city and the people.

I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. 12The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. (Zechariah 2:11-12)

Comfort has two aspects: it suggests both words of reassurance and actions that back up the words and change the situation.

6The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: 7“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here. (Zechariah 3:6-7)

The pardon offered to Joshua gives hope that the whole community can be pardoned.

Since You are Coming, Should We Keep Fasting?

In spite of this seemly good news, the people are still unsettled. They are back in the land, they are in the middle of the rebuild of the temple, but things aren’t like they were before the exile. So, the people send a group to inquire of the Lord whether they should continue their fasting and mourning.

2The people of Bethel … to entreat the Lord 3by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” (Zechariah 7:2-3)

They have been fasting and mourning for about 70 years and they want to know when are things are going to change.

70 years!

That’s a long time to wait and hope for God to act! Have you ever felt that God had forgotten about his promises to you–that you are not hearing anything from God? “God, where are you? God, how long?”

So the people ask, “Since you are coming, God, should we keep fasting?”

This is a great question because it reveals the heart of the people. The question reveals that their experience of brokenness has gone on for too long. They need hope that things are going to change.

That’s an important question for us to consider as well. Are we just going through the motions too or are we engaging in spiritual practices and disciplines because we want to grow closer to God? Or are we doing what we are doing in the hopes that God will accept our acts of service, our worship, our tithes as an offering in exchange for God’s favor?

God Speaks: We Aren’t Where We Thought We Were

In midst of this question, the people’s doubt and rising despair, God answers,

4Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: 5“Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?  ” (Zechariah 7:4–6)

Wow God! You mean 70 years of fasting and mourning and waiting were not what you wanted?! AND you’re saying we did that … for ourselves?! Well, that’s disorienting. I would have gladly eaten all these years while waiting for you. I thought the fast was what you required of us. That mourning was what you wanted from us? If you didn’t want the fast or our mourning, what exactly God did you want?

While We Wait on the Promises to be Fulfilled

8And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ “ (Zechariah 7:8-10)

“Administer True Justice, Mercy, and Compassion,” God Says

More than sacrifice, fasting, worship, and offerings, what God desires from us is that we become a people who administer true justice, show mercy and compassion, care for and look out for those who are at the margins. That we treat people appropriately.

God starts with justice because God is a co-victim in every act of injustice that we inflict on each other. God, who has a stake in humanity, is beside Godself and God’s heart is filled with pain! God’s personal, involved, passionate concern is for justice!

Reinhold Niebuhr puts it this way,

“Justice was not equal justice, but a bias in favor of the poor. Justice always leaned toward mercy for the widows and orphans.” And that’s exactly what we see here in Zechariah.

I have a couple of real-world examples for you. You meet someone at church, work, or in your neighborhood and they ask for help finding additional resources (food, housing vouchers, clothing, etc). You help them out and in the midst of your on-going conversations with them you discover that they have overstayed their visa. What’s just for this neighbor of yours? What’s just for you?

Consider the kid who lives in an under-resourced situation. They are at a free creative camp. Everything they need to participate in the activity is provided for them. However, this child hordes all of the supplies. Your child is eager and excited to participate in this activity, however, there aren’t any available resources. What’s just for your child? What’s just for the other child?

Your child is a high performing student, but they aren’t being challenged in your neighborhood school. There’s a school nearby with higher test scores and the district allows for in-district transfers. You have recently read about the benefits of under-resourced kids going to school with resourced kids, both kids do well. Do you use your resources to move yourself so that they are challenged and continue to excel? What’s just for your child? What’s just for the children who benefit from having your child in their class?

God through the prophet is asking us to cultivate a life where we have space to administer true justice. What happens when the rules and laws are broken, when we are faced with both moral and legal implications. What does it means to administer true justice.

Sure, you could report your neighbor for overstaying their visa, or you could find immigration resources. You could demand that the child hoarding the supplies turn over what they aren’t using, and I don’t think anyone would say you’re being unreasonable. But what if instead you took some of you time and created more resources for everyone, including the child who is hoarding.

What if instead of requesting an in-district transfer for your child, you stayed in your neighborhood school, cultivated relationships with your neighbors, invested your child’s classroom, and helped those in need.

Here’s a working definition of mercy, “it’s the kindness, compassion, or forgiveness that we offer when it’s within our power to exclude, harm, or punish someone.”

“How do you feel about someone not getting what they deserve?”

Certainly, we want mercy for ourselves, and often we are okay with others receiving it.

But ask that same question, and make one modification,
“How do you feel about someone not getting what they deserve, especially, when that person has harmed you?”

It can be hard to “show” mercy in these situations, especially in situations where we have been wounded, harmed, or taken advantaged of.

There’s this hope that is present in Zechariah that God is indeed at work in what appears likes a frightening, scary, and unstable world. And because God is already at work within creation, there’s an opportunity for us to join in. God invites us to join in this effort to expand and build the kingdom in our midst.

Are we willing to wake up to God’s invitation to become a people of peace, justice, and mercy in a world that feels unstable. Imagine with me what might happen within us if we allowed the seeds of justice, mercy, compassion to take root in our lives and the way we walkout our faith? How might we understand and inhabit the Gospel or think biblically about the social issues of the day?

When our world becomes unstable, it’s hard to see God at work. Our fears, uncertainty, and doubt take over and cloud our vision. When we are trapped in fear, overwhelmed by grief, our ability to see clearly is distorted. It’s hard to make our way. But we are not alone. God grieves with us. God experiences the same pain we experience. God know what it means to suffer and to suffer loss. God hears the cries of injustice.

And Zechariah encourages us here,

10“Who dares despise the day of small things.” (Zechariah 4:10)

Risky Response

Consider inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal to you an opportunity for you to show mercy, compassion, or care for someone you deem is undeserving. Is there someone at the margins of your life who could benefit from your kindness or mercy? Then invite the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to act.

Prayer Senses

Infilling of the Holy Spirit

Healing. If you are here in pain of any kind, we would like to pray for you.

Perseverance for those in transition. The Lord will guide you and help you set new roots in the places you are going. 

Freedom. Help to quit smoking. 

Courage. The Lord is releasing courage to forgive those who hurt you. 

Healing. The Lord is ministering to sounds of brokenness and betrayal. To those dealing with the aftermath of other people’s lies, the Lord wants you to know that He sees you, He cares for you, and He wants you to trust Him. He will not lie to you. Trust Him for the truth. 

Strength. The Lord is giving strength to those fighting anxiety. He is fighting your battles and He does not want you to give up. His peace is on the other side. 

Psalm 29:11. “The Lord gives strength to his people. The Lord blesses his people with peace.”

Intimacy with the Lord. The Lord is ministering to those struggling with doubt that God loves you. He is increasing you in the certainty of His kindness towards you and He is surrounding you in His truth.