Summary: And in the midst of this, all the mess and rubble, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies speaks. “I was very angry… but return to me, and I will return to you… Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.”
Introducing… Zechariah: The Book of Zechariah
June 8, 2008 Zech 1:1-6
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would come, he taught them more than how to pray: he opened his heart to them and challenged them to be inspired by the same vision he had, and for which he would go to the cross. For Jesus’ whole life and ministry was about the kingdom of God. The message he preached was the good news that the time had come for the kingdom of God to be manifested on earth. In other words, that the hope of the Old Testament prophets was about to become a reality in his own living, dying and rising again, and that this would be God’s doing from beginning to end. Indeed, the strong apocalyptic language in which Jesus spoke about the coming of the kingdom shows quite clearly that for him it meant nothing less than the beginning of the end of the world… The same Jesus who spoke of crisis also spoke of process… Indeed, the prayer ‘your kingdom come’ would make no sense at all if there were no interval between the ‘now’ and the ‘then’… That interval is precisely the time that Jesus was preparing his disciples to live in… So to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is (among other things) to be fired by a great vision, and to live in the interval between its initial and final realization. (Barry G. Webb, The Message of Zechariah, Introduction, p 19-20).
This is not an easy thing to do – to be “fired by a great vision” yet have to “live in the interval”. The middle isn’t generally the fun part, wouldn’t you agree? Wouldn’t you rather be there in the beginning – when the vision is new and exciting, and you get to shape it and be captivated by the charismatic leaders who have a great dream and inspire by their words and actions? Or wouldn’t you rather be there at the end – when the vision is accomplished, when the results are seen and celebrated, when the sacrifices are recognized and honored, and when the party is in full swing? What is in the middle?? A whole lot of hard work, that’s what. Times of discouragement. Seasons when we get distracted from the grand vision, when we get caught up in other things that while not as important seem more urgent, when we get tired and sometimes even question the entire vision.
And yet, like it or not, we are in the middle. Between Jesus’ first coming, when he began the kingdom of God, and His second coming when the kingdom of God will reign completely. That can be a hard place to live.
So I wonder… where can we find some help with how to live in the middle? Are there any resources, and stories, any peoples who have been here before that can help us?
The Grand Story:
Last week we talked about how as Christians, we have a better story. Our understanding of history being the result of a creative God who loves us and wants to be in relationship with us is far better than thinking that we evolved by chance and without design. My goal was to help us reconnect to the grand story, to know we are part of something bigger than ourselves, which began long before us and which will carry us into eternity. And so last week I sketched the story in very broad terms. This week, and in the weeks ahead, we are going to narrow in to one particular time in the grand story, and allow God to speak to us through it. A time with many parallels to our own time, with a people who understood what it meant to live “in the middle”.
I have a question for you: how many of you have ever read the latter prophets? How many of you even know what they are? For those who have read them, what did you think… honestly…
There are 12 books, right at the end of the Old Testament, that are grouped together and often called the “minor prophets”. That sounds to me like they aren’t very important, so I prefer to call them the “latter prophets”. They are short books, and probably the group that was hardest when you tried to memorize the books of the Bible. I know I can’t recite them in order… can any of you – I’ve got a chocolate bar here for anyone that can get all 12 in order.
My experience in reading these has generally been difficult. They can be hard to understand, perhaps feel inaccessible to us. We aren’t sure, when we just open the Bible and start to read, what on earth they are talking about! They can seem far away, and unrelated to our times and our lives.