Summary: This sermon discusses the need to return to God, not just return to doing good. Is religious activity enough to get God's blessing?
- Background on the book:
- Addressed to the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon in 538 B.C. Two years later they started to work on the temple, but opposition led that to be put aside for 16 years.
- This opening statement comes right after the restarting of the temple project.
- Also: Zechariah has lots of Messianic prophecies. The NT cites or alludes to Zechariah at least 40 times.
- Also: overall theme of the book can be found in the three names in v. 1. Zechariah means “whom the Lord remembers”; Berekiah means “the Lord blesses”; Iddo means “at the appointed time.” The Lord remembers and blesses at the appointed time.
IMPORTANT QUESTION: Is religious activity enough to ensure God’s blessing?
- They were again starting on the Temple, but is that enough to get a blessing from God?
- As noted above, this was substantial progress over where they were a few years back.
- But God opens this book not with praise for their religious activity, but a call to something more.
STARTING POINT: Our first move should not be “doing religious stuff” but recognizing our guilt.
- The anger statement here is a strong one.
- Can’t know the good news until we acknowledge the bad news.
- God loves the sinner but hates the sin. True, but there is a point where the sin is closely tied to the person and will be judged.
An Open Door: Our guilt doesn’t crush us because there is grace available.
- Our sin and guilt do not leave us hopeless. There is grace.
- This a truth many do not get and so they try hard instead to minimize their sin.
AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION: Returning to good is not the same as returning to God.
- Here is where we see that the message applies to people like us. We are religious. We are doing church stuff. Surely that means we’re ok?
- They were doing “church stuff” too. In fact, working on the temple.
- But God makes the point that He doesn’t just want them returning to “good.” (That is, doing good.) He wants them to return to Him.
- v. 3 – return to Me.
- v. 4 – they did not pay attention to Me.
- And note that this is an old problem. The forefathers did it and now these Jews are in danger of doing it too.
THE DESTINATION: In the midst of short-term struggles, remember long-term lessons.
- Their temple rebuilding project had hit problems along the way. Their return from Babylon had not been easy.
- It’s easy for us to look around and see that many are enjoying short-term ease. But God reminds them here of the long-term results.
- We could even make the point here that it’s easier to just keep some semblance of religiosity but, again, the forefathers had that too.
- What that leads us to is what should be our cry: “God, I want You.” Whatever temporary struggles that means, I want You. Not just religion. Not just religious activity. You.
- This is an important point for us as we continue to seek fire from heaven. Do we want the result for the result. Do we just want to see the fireworks? Or is our deepest heart (and this is important) that we might see an outpouring of the Spirit that would bring us closer to God than ever, able to share Him more clearly, and able to understand Him more deeply? Do we want the result or Him?