Summary: Everyone seems to value world peace, but the God who wants us to return to Him doesn't value it as much as our well-being.
Text: Zechariah 1:7-21
Title: When World Peace Isn’t God’s Will Type: Expository
Purpose: Show hearer God is overcoming their oppressors.
Main Idea: God is determined to overcome our oppressors.
Opening: World Peace. Sometime, somewhere, somehow I saw the Sandra Bullock movie Miss Congeniality. That’s not the kind of movie I would normally choose to see, so I’m not sure when/where/how I ended up seeing it (or why, for that matter), but I did. I really don’t remember much about the film except one scene. In that scene, Sandra Bullock’s character, a tough-nosed cop who has been put undercover into a beauty pageant to catch a potential murderer, is asked by Stan the pageant’s host, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?” Now all the other contestants answered that question, “World peace.” (I guess this is how most beauty pageant contestants answer that question in real life.) But Bullock does not. Instead, she says, “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.” Hearing this, the crowd goes silent. After waiting in that silence for a moment, Bullock then adds to her answer, “And world peace.” At that, the crowd goes wild with applause and cheers. (I thought that was the funniest joke in the movie.)
As we see in that scene/movie and in countless others I could tell you about this morning, and in countless songs I’ve heard, in countless real life statements and actions I’ve experienced, “world peace”, that is, the entire world being at peace, all nations/peoples of the world having absolutely no conflict of any kind with any other nations/peoples, is a value that a lot of people have. It is such a value that it even has its own Wikipedia page (show picture). A lot of people want world peace. A lot of people hope for world peace. A lot of people work for world peace (I don’t think as many people work for it as want it, but still). A lot of people think world peace is good, right, what ought to be (absolutely, inviolably so).
Interestingly enough, though, God isn’t one of those people. God doesn’t think world peace is good/right/ought to be, at least not all of the time. God doesn’t have world peace as an absolute, inviolable value. And He has good reasons for not having world peace as an absolute, inviolable value. We see that God doesn’t have world peace as an absolute, inviolable value and we see the reasons He does not when we return to the book of Zechariah.
Read Zechariah 1:7-21 (Church Bible page #939)
When World Peace Isn’t God’s Will. That’s what Zechariah is telling us about here. That’s what God is telling Zechariah about here (if you notice, Zechariah is about as confused about what is going on and what is being said as we are, so this is what God is telling Zechariah about here and what God is telling us through Zechariah here). When world peace isn’t His will. That world peace isn’t always His will.
Now that’s a weird thing for God to say (at least on the surface). That’s a (seemingly) weird message for God to be bringing to the prophet and through the prophet. Before we can get into that seemingly weird message, though, we have to get into the background of that message, the background of this text that we have read, this section (Zechariah 1:7-21). This text/section is the first quarter of what are often called Zechariah’s “night visions”. Sometime in Oct/Nov 520 BC, Zechariah received the thematic message “Return to me” and delivered that message to the postexilic/restoration community of his day. A few months later, on the night of February 24, 519 BC (the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, God gave the prophet Zechariah a series of eight visions which reflect and reinforce that message. The prophet is walked by an angel through eight very strange audio-visual revelations (not all revelations to the prophets were audio-visual, and not all of them were strange, but these ones are; these are Revelation-ish, very much like what we find in The Revelation). This series of eight visions takes up the first six chapters of the book (a good bit of it) and really is the most notable part of the book (before I started studying Zechariah a few months ago, this was all I really remembered about it).
What we have here in 1:7-21 are the first two of those eight visions (that’s why I called it “the first quarter”; we have not one but two visions here). The first and longest is the vision of “the man among the myrtle trees”, and the second is the vision of “the four horns” or “the four craftsmen”. And they really do go together; they have messages that build upon each other. In the first vision, Zechariah suddenly sees what he calls “a man” but what may be the Angel of the Lord or even a pre-incarnate Jesus. This man is on a red horse in a ravine filled with myrtle trees. Behind this man is a herd of other horses (red, brown, and white). Zechariah is told that these horses are the ones the LORD has sent to go throughout the earth; that is, they are angels or some sort of heavenly beings that God uses to monitor the world. These beings have monitored the world, they have come back from monitoring the world, and they report that it is at rest and in peace; the whole world is at rest and in peace. And that’s where we come to this idea I’m sharing with you this morning, this idea I’m calling “When World Peace Isn’t God’s Will”. Those words the whole world [is] at rest and in peace sound great to us; that’s the “world peace” we all love and long for so much. But the man/Angel of the Lord/Jesus doesn’t react to those words/that idea as if they/it are great. He reacts to them as if they are terrible. He cries out to God, LORD Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years. That’s how he/He sees the whole world being at rest and in peace. He sees it as mercy being withheld from Jerusalem and Judah, from God’s people. He sees it as God’s people (and thus God’s mission in the world) failing, losing, getting the short stick. He sees it as the ungodly people who have oppressed God’s people (which is what most of the nations were at this time) winning; winning and enjoying the spoils of winning. In the eyes of the man among the myrtle trees, this world peace is not right/good/what ought to be; it is wrong for these ungodly oppressors to be at peace while the godly/God’s people are not, are oppressed, are threatened, are weak and small and poor and vulnerable, are losing/have lost. And God agrees. God responds to the man with three comments, saying that He is angry with the nations and will return to Jerusalem with mercy and will bring prosperity back to His people (all of which will be discussed in the following visions). He tells the man that He sees the same thing, in other words, that the whole world should not be at rest and in peace and won’t be allowed to remain at rest and in peace.