Summary: God specializes in taking hard, difficult, painful messes and turning them into something beautiful. He has done it in the past, and He will do it again.
Fasting to Feasting
September 21, 2008 Zech 8:18-23
God specializes in taking hard, difficult, painful messes and turning them into something beautiful.
Remember Abraham and Sarah – old, childless, wandering. God turned their barrenness into a nation of people still prominent today, 4000 years later.
Remember Joseph – sold by his brothers as a slave. God turned his abandonment and slavery into a role second only to the king of Egypt, and through him saved the very brothers who had betrayed him.
Remember Job – who lost everything in a matter of days. God turned his despair into abundance once more, following Job’s faithfulness.
Remember David – an adulterer and murderer. God turned his sin around when he asked for forgiveness and gave us a model of repentance and restoration.
Remember the Hebrew children in slavery in Babylon, thrown into the fiery furnace to be burned alive. God met them there, walked with them, and allowed them to be un-touched.
Remember Peter – betrayed Jesus three times, but was then restored.
And of course, the best example of God taking something horrible and turning it into something incredible is the cross, which becomes the empty tomb.
God specializes in taking hard, difficult, painful messes and turning them into something beautiful. He has done it in the past, and He will do it again.
A personal example:
We all can probably identify times in our lives when God has done just that. In my life, I look back and see a single mom with two kids, living on welfare in a tiny basement apartment, teetering on the edge of the poverty cycle and heading down a path leading to a dark place. But then God comes in the middle, surrounds that family with a bigger, healthy family known as “the church of Jesus”, and that single mom makes good decisions, those kids have opportunities and role models and positive influences, and God takes a hard, difficult, painful mess and turns it into something beautiful.
And that is exactly what God is doing with His people during the days of Zechariah. We’ve been studying how God has brought His people back from slavery, and has been with them as they rebuild their lives and their city and the temple of the Lord. God has been present with them all along the way, with words of incredible hope and assurance and passionate love. He brings that again in the text we look at this morning.
But just before reading today’s passage, there is one more piece that I need to remind us of so that this makes sense. Zech 1-6 was a series of visions, and chapter 7 began a new section of the book with a visit from a group of Jews with a specific question: Now that the temple is functional (even though not complete), they come and ask: “Should we continue to mourn and fast each summer on the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction, as we have done for so many years?” (Zech 7:3b). You might recall that God didn’t answer the question directly, but rather asked a question in response, “was that really for me??”. But the specific question was not lost, and today’s passage begins with addressing that issue.
Zech 8:18-23 (NIV)
18 Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. 19 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace."
20 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ’Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him."
23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ’Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’ "
Fasting to Feasting (vs. 19):
We see the response to the original question from back in chapter 7: “those times when you got together to mourn and to fast – those painful seasons when you were just looking back on how great things used to be – those are coming to an end. They are going to change…” Let’s not miss how huge this transformation is – imagine the people gathering on the anniversary of the temple’s destruction, reliving the pain and loss, confronted again with the hopelessness of their situation as helpless slaves in a foreign land, weeping and fasting and sharing their misery.