The Christian life provides many opportunities for service. It may be as “modest” as teaching a Sunday School class and changing forever the life of a student. It may be by bringing a casserole to a sick neighbor and altering forever the way they perceive someone who loves the Lord Jesus. Or it may even entail being a part of an enterprise that alters world history. Many examples of this are found in Scripture:
- the call of Moses to lead his people out of Egypt;
- the call of Saul on the road to Damascus.
The book of Zechariah describes such an historic opportunity when the remnant of Jews returned from their 70-year Babylonian exile. The 50,000 or so returnees to the Promised Land found their circumstances difficult and discouraging. Yet despite the harassment they endured from the nations surrounding them, they obediently set to work rebuilding the temple as God had asked them to do. It was not long, however, before this noble enterprise was abandoned. Finally, after several years God appointed two men to bring his people back on task—the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (according to Ezra 2 & 3 the harassment came after they started the work and it led to its suspension).
The rather obscure book of Zechariah opens our eyes to one of the most startling interventions by the Lord of Hosts into the lives of His people. Yet it is from this very interaction that we are taught several wonderful lessons about the character of God. As circumstances unfold and God steps in, we wonder how the Creator of the universe will deal with a people who have been distracted and discouraged from doing His will? What possible strategies will He use for not only getting them back to work, but refreshing their spirits so that they would work with a will? How could He possibly make them eager to commit themselves to a task at which they had already failed so miserably—the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple? As we examine His interaction with His people, we discover in it a kind of template for how God typically deals with His discouraged children—whether it be the Israelites of 520 B.C., or those of us in the 21st century dealing with the trauma of a worldwide pandemic.
The Strategy of the Lord of Hosts
We find as we read through Zechariah’s prophetic masterpiece that the Lord uses a four-pronged approach.
Addressing Issues of the Heart: Almost immediately, God reminds His people of their need to repent and return to Him, (1:3). Incredibly, this command is accompanied by an amazing promise—when they return to Him, He will return to them, with all the power and benefits that this entails. Later in the book, the Lord builds on this issue, giving them practical examples of how this change of heart will look in real life: “to dispense true justice and practical kindness and compassion each to his brother and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger, or the poor, and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another” (7:9-10, NASB).
The God of All Comfort: Secondly, He offers words of comfort. For a discouraged people this must have been as refreshing as a drink of cool water from a bubbling brook. “The Lord answered the angel who was speaking with me with gracious words, comforting words” (1:13, NASB). Later in the same chapter the Lord Himself promises, “I will return to Jerusalem with compassion” (1:16, NASB).
The God of Action: If comforting words were not enough, the Lord also promises that He will be with them not only in Spirit, but in deed as well. He will be working alongside them, encouraging them and protecting them. “‘Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion, for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ declares the Lord” (2:10, NASB).
Looking Ahead as Conquerors: Finally, He gives His people the opportunity to look beyond their present challenging circumstances to the bigger picture. The book of Zechariah is filled with reassuring prophecies regarding the wonderful blessings that await them and their descendants. Most precious of these promises are the many references pointing to the coming of the Messiah: “Behold your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble and mounted on a donkey; Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey . . . and his dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth” (9:9b, 10b, NASB).
It would seem that one of the chief goals of the Lord of Hosts is to remind readers that the building of the temple was only a part of a great plan that God has for all of mankind. David Jeremiah writes; “Everything Zechariah wrote to the Jews was to encourage them to anticipate the coming of [God’s] Servant, the Branch (3:8) to accomplish the righteous will of God in Israel and the earth. Step one was the rebuilding of the temple.” (The Jeremiah Study Bible, p. 1250).
The book of Zechariah is a testament to the way our God deals with people who are downtrodden and on the brink of defeat. It proves to be a stirring testament of His love for His people, of His compassion, and the wonderous hope it provides.
You and I are living in a time almost like no other. A catastrophic pandemic has swept the world leaving death and ruin in its path. Some of God’s people may be feeling as the children of Israel did in Zechariah’s day: abandoned, lost, and frightened. Yet at the same time we know in our heart of hearts that even this dreadful disease is no match for the power of Almighty God. Isn’t it encouraging to know that the God of Zechariah provides for us this practical, soul-restoring assurance of His presence and support for a troubled people during such troubled times?
- Address the Issues of the Heart. Come before Him, confessing our doubts and sins to him.
- Avail ourselves of God’s comforting presence through:
- diligent prayer,
- a daily reading of His word (especially the Gospels and Psalms),
- where possible, the fellowship of other believers.
- Know He is a God of Action. Reacquaint ourselves with the promises of God as it pertains to His many assurances that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5)
- Look to the Future. Study His Word to remind ourselves of what He has promised for the future. “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (I Cor. 2:9, ESV) (the context is that He has revealed this to us by His Spirit – v 10).
The Lord of Hosts is perfect and unchangeable. He was faithful and true in the days of Zechariah, and so, too, He remains faithful to His Church during a fearful pandemic.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). by Nathanael Reed