Is it time, God? (By Lory Mitton)
Text: Zechariah 5-8
5:1-4 - Vision of a very large flying scroll , representing a curse over the land that will banish the thief and person who swears falsely. The curse will come and destroy the house of such people.
5:5-11 – Vision of a basket with a lead cover. Inside is a woman, who is called, “wickedness”. The basket is flown by two women with wings to Babylon so to make a place for it, where it will belong.
6:1-8 – Vision of 4 chariots coming from between 2 mountains. The horses of each chariot are described as powerful and each is red, black, white and dappled. The angel tells Zechariah that this is a picture of the four spirits of heaven leaving the presence of the Lord and moving north, west and south to go throughout the earth. The chariot in north country gives rest to the land of the north.
The people of Bethel are asking the Lord if they should mourn and fast as in the previous 70 years of exile. The Lord responds through Zechariah asking them if their hearts fasted and mourned for the Lord or for themselves? He reminds them of His requirement that they administer true justice and show mercy and compassion to each other. They need to not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the alien and the poor and not think evil of each other. In the past they refused to pay attention to God and hardened their hearts and ignored the prophets. The result was that the land that had been pleasant was left so desolate that no one could come or go.
The Lord says He is very jealous for Zion and He will return and dwell there in Jerusalem. He describes both old and very young people filling the streets. He says he will be faithful and righteous to them as their God. He tells them to rebuild the temple and says that He will deal with them as He had in the past, describing fruitful vines yielding good harvest. He says He is determined to do good to Jerusalem so they should not be afraid. They are to love truth and peace, and have sound judgment in their courts. The fasts they used to hold are now to be celebrated as festivals. He describes the nations coming to seek the Almighty.
Perhaps Zechariah's visions could demonstrate the big picture desire of God that wicked and unjust living are no longer to be part of Israel's story. Instead, it is the increased carrying out and spreading of His presence in the earth that is on God's heart.
The remnant people of Judah were familiar with Jeremiah’s prophecy that exile would be 70 years. Now that the years have mostly been completed, they are curious and have gathered to inquire of the Lord if they should continue mourning as they had done every year in exile or if this was the time to celebrate because it was the time of their promised restoration. God’s response to their question, “is it time?” was to call them to daily faithfulness in how they live as His people. He reminds them that what He requires is covenant faithfulness and He also encourages them to prioritize making space for Him by rebuilding the temple. He promises His plan is to dwell again in Jerusalem and paints a picture of the fulfilled purpose of the city being a dwelling place for Himself so that all the nations can come to Him. However, He doesn’t directly answer their question about timing. It’s as if God is reminding them of the big picture and asks them to do their part by making a commitment to daily faithful living and to press forward by continuing to work on rebuilding the temple as a direct action to demonstrate their commitment to being His people once again.
With a worldwide pandemic on our hands and many unknown circumstances for the future, we may find many parallels with how the remnant people of Judah were feeling. We may be asking God, “Is this the time of the end? Are you returning soon? Is the tribulation of Revelation soon to be upon us?” Perhaps God has a similar response for us: “Live faithful to me today and don’t lose sight of my ultimate plan to dwell with you and draw all people to myself. Prioritize my presence.”
Lord thank you that we don’t have to have all the answers in order to live faithful to you. Our heart's desire is to be in your presence. Come and be near us in our hearts and minds today.
Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.