Summary: Zechariah emphasizes God’s desire to renew his people through a process of repentance and refining, even as he points to the coming of Christ.
I once read about a young man who had run away from home because he could not get along with his parents. Somehow, his parents were able to get a message to him, inviting him back home. He wrote back, saying that he was coming home and if they were sure he was welcome, they should hang a white handkerchief in their apple tree which he would be able to see from the train. As the train neared his home, the young man became apprehensive and told the person sitting next to him, “I can’t bear to look because I don’t know if they will welcome me. Please watch for me.” And he put his hands over his eyes. His seatmate watched and then said, “Hey. You have to look.” And when the young man opened his eyes he saw not just one handkerchief, but a tree completely filled with handkerchiefs fluttering in the wind. His parents wanted their son to come home.
The overarching theme of the Bible is about God’s burning passion to keep his people in a close relationship with him and he has gone to extraordinary lengths to make that possible. Even though God made a covenant with them and demonstrated his love in many ways, God’s people wandered off the path like sheep that don’t want to follow their shepherd. They didn’t seem interested in keeping the relationship going. Still, God kept trying to bring them back to him.
The way God’s people behaved then and the way you and I behave now, makes one wonder why God didn’t just forget about this project a long time ago, rather than make all that effort to bring us back to himself.
While cleaning out an old notebook last week I ran across a poem that expresses a similar idea. I read it to the Leadership Team last Tuesday and they suggested I share it with the rest of you, so if you don’t like it, you can blame them. Just to warn you, it starts out in a familiar sort of way, but the ending might surprise you.
BUTT PRINTS IN THE SAND
One night, I had a wondrous dream;
One set of footprints there was seen.
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
“Those prints are large and round and neat,
But, Lord, they are too big for feet.”
“My child,” He said in somber tones,
“For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.
You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk-of-faith you would not know.
So I got tired and fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt.
Because, in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand.”
The point of all this is that a relationship with God requires effort, not just on God’s part, but on ours. It is a two-way relationship and God has come toward us more than half way. So, my question for you is, “How far have you come?”
Today we arrive at the final message in our series from Zechariah who preached to God’s people back in 520 B.C., trying to awaken them out of their spiritual apathy. After they had lived 50 years or more in a foreign country, God made it possible for them to go back to their homeland, 900 miles away, where they began to rebuild their lives. According to the prophet Haggai, instead of building a temple where they could worship the God who made their return possible, they built fancy houses for themselves. So, the prophet Haggai first, and then Zechariah, challenged them to get off their duffs, so to speak, and to get their priorities straight.
Our scripture for today comes from Zech. 12 & 13. When I began to study these chapters, I didn’t see how I could ever make sense out of them, much less preach a sermon about them. But as I studied and prayed, I began to see that this passage is rich in images and truth. The only problem I have now is how to share it with you in less than two hours! But, I will promise to stop on time if you promise to show up on Wednesday evening so we can dig a little deeper. Well, I won’t ask you to promise, but I want to challenge you to take a radical, new step towards growth.
One commentator has called the verses in these chapters a montage, an artistic term for the process of bringing together a number of pictures so that they make a blended whole.(I wasn’t able to achieve that effect on the screen, but I hope you get the idea. There are nine images in these verses, one right after the other, each of which is introduced by the words “On that day.” You already saw the individual images a few moments ago, but if you stay with us, you will see all of them on one screen by the end of this message. (A new image every 2 minutes.)