A Follower is Strong.
We are in this series Fan or Follower, and we have been talking about what makes someone a Christ-follower. Last week, I spoke on John chapter 9. This week we are in the book of Zechariah. That might seem odd. It might seem strange because if we are talking about Christ followers, why we are suddenly jumping to the Old Testament.
That is because a follower of Jesus Christ goes to all of Gods word to learn more about following Jesus. Even to the Old Testament. As it says in second Timothy 3, verse 16 and 17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
Today, we, as followers of Jesus Christ will turn to the Old Testament book of Zechariah to see what God's word can teach us- rebuke us- correct us-and train us in righteousness so that we will be thoroughly equipped for the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.
When Christ followers come to the Old Testament, we have to do a couple of things. First, we need to understand the passage in its context. In other words, what does it say, and why. Next, we take what it teaches us about God, mankind, and sin and see how that applies to us today, and we then allow the passage to show us, or encourage us or rebuke us.
The book of Zechariah is in the back of the Old Testament, in a section called The Minor Prophets, so-called minor not because of their importance, but their length.
At this point in history, God called his people out of slavery in Egypt, and He made them His people. They were a race, a religion, and a country. He even gave them a set of laws to govern the country. The problem is that the people did not obey God's word. You know it can be a challenge to stay on God’s path when the world around you is not, and this was a problem for the Jewish people. The did not follow God’s law.They kept straying from God. They did not treat the lower members of society very well. They did not care for the poor or the widows. The justice system was n’t always fair to everyone, and not always truthful.
Throughout this period of history God would try and call them back to following Him. He did this by sending men we call prophets to call the Jews back to obey God. Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel. But, in spite of hearing God's call to come back to Him, the Jews did not listen. They continued to do what they wanted. As a punishment and as a way for God to call them back He sent enemies to attack them. God's people were invaded, and defeated. They were taken out of their homeland, and into exile. They lost their homes, businesses, and land. The city was in ruins, and the temple was destroyed. The place where they worshipped was gone.
For 70 years the people lived in exile in Babylon. Then God, placed a King in power and that King allowed them to go back to re-build. In 538 BC the exiles returned to Jerusalem. Two years later they had rebuilt the temple altar and sacrifices began again, Then three years later approximately 535 BC, work on the Temple came to a halt. Opposition by people to this project and loyalty to old kingdom halted the progress of the temple. For 15 years, the project sat Idle. People were discouraged. God sent the prophet Zechariah to encourage them to continue on. Unlike so many of the other prophets who had a message of judgment, Zechariah’s message is one of encouragement. Encouragement that God has not abandoned his people and God will finish what He started.
You may already be able to tell where this headed. As Christ followers sometimes things seem to stall out. Our relationship with Jesus that started good, maybe is not going so good anymore. We lost the fire we once had. Or perhaps, things outside of ourselves, outside of our control have come against us, and it is taking a toll on us spiritually.
We can look into the Old Testament, and see the Character of God, see how God is toward his people and perhaps find some encouragement for us and our situation.
Let me pray before preachng God's Word.
Thomas read Zechariah chapter 7, and Zechariah 7 starts out, with some men coming in from the country to ask the priests if they should continue on in a fasting ritual.
In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat the Lord by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”
These people have been hoping, and praying and fasting for a long time. They have fasting for God to restore the nation. They wanted their country back, the temple back they wanted to be jews again in their homeland. God sent them back and things were looking fairly good, but then things seemed to stall. According to the date given in Zechariah 7:1, we know that project started back up. With the re-building once again under way they are wondering is this really it? Is the Lord restoring Jerusalem? Can we now stop fasting and mourning.
The fact that are asking, reveals their hearts, and their hearts ain’t right. I know that’s strange right? How can a fasting ritual be wrong?
Well, the Lord tells Zechariah.
Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?
God knows their hearts. And God knows that when they were mourning and fasting, it wasn’t because they were mourning their sin, it wasn’t because they missed having the Lord dwell with them, they just wanted out of their predicament.
They were supposed to mourning their sin and the broken relationship with God. They were supposed to mourn and fast because of their sin of injustice toward the downtrodden and oppressed, and their untruthfulness, and how they treated one another, instead they were mourning their consequences.
Let me give you an example. Suppose your young daughter punches her brother. And the parent sends her to her room until she tells her brother she is sorry. SO with gritted teeth, and no sign of remorse she says to her brother I’m sorry. And the parent says what? No, say it like you mean it. SO she puts on best fake smile and says I’m sorry. But we know in her heart she is still mad at her brother she just wants out of her predicament.
Christ followers sometimes do that exact same thing. They maybe have been involved in some sin, and life isn’t great right now and they want the external circumstances to change so they run back to God. Rather than mourning their sin, they are mourning their external circumstance and they hope that they can somehow make God happy and things will go better for them.
That’s actually not a relationship with God, it is superstition.
True repentance is mourning our sin, not the consequences of that sin.
There is a way that whole churches can get caught up in this as well. Sometimes, people in stuck churches do this. It is an easy trap to fall into. We want our church to be the best, and we want to be full of people, and have all the cool programs and stuff that the big churches have. Sometimes, people in those churches have this idea that it must be that they are not praying or fasting enough. What can happen is that the church is praying, and fasting and mourning for what they don’t have rather than praying or mourning the lost souls outside the doors who are going to hell, or praying and fasting for not helping those that are in need, the widows and orphans.
God desires a relationship with His people.
But what God wants is a relationship with His people, he wants to dwell among them. He wants them to be so full of Him that they reflect Him to the rest of the world. Not so that the churches will be full the programs plentiful and worship loud, but so that His glory may be revealed to poor in spirit, the blind, the brokenhearted, and the lost.
So what God does is that he gives us this picture of what it is like to have him dwell among us. And that is what we find in the next chapter of Zechariah chapter 8.
The word of the Lord Almighty came to me. This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”
God wants this relationship with Israel, He wants to be their God and He wants them to be with Him. He wants that for us too! That is why he sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins to bring us into a relationship with the Lord Almighty. I am very zealous for Zion, I am burning with jealousy for her. For God so loved the world, he sent His only and son.
This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”
He will dwell with them in the Holy City of Jerusalem, it may look like ruins, the building may have stalled, but He will return there. He wants to dwell with his people.
On screen not read
God in us.
Us in the Church.
The church full of us.
His desire is for us to be in relationship with Him. When we by repentance and faith trust in the Lord Jesus Christ the sinless one we enter into that relationship with Him. His very presence is in us, by indwelling us with the Holy Spirit. His very presence within us and us within the church. A church filled with those filled with the presence of God.
What does that look like?
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”
Peace, and harmony, people of all ages there. Children playing in the streets because there is no more war, there is peace, and that is what peace looks like. All generations are present, together in harmony. It is like where the Gospel Brings life to generations. It is like a fellowship hall filled with children running and playing, and parents and middle aged people and the older genration together in harmony and of one mind and of no doubt that Spirit of the Lord is dwelling among them because God burns with jealousy for his people.
Does it seem impossible for the people of Israel? I mean the temple project was stalled for 20 years, the city still had significant work to do. Could it be too much?
Zechariah 8:6 and the cover of the bulletin.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty.
Is there anything too great for the Lord Almighty? It will seem like a big thing to them. It seems to them like it is too big a thing to be overcome, but is there anything that is too great for the Lord of Angel Armies.
This is the God who gives sight to the blind this is the God who cures leprosy, this is the God who put the stars in the sky, and He is the God who raised Jesus from the dead. And He is the God has raised us from the dead and has given us new life-New life in Jesus, if that God can do that? What on earth is impossible for Him. To revive Isreal is a small thing
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.”
And in verses 7 and 8 God will bring the people back to Jerusalem. He will gather them back to the holy city, and God says I will Be faithful, and righteous to them.
We get our righteousness from Jesus.
This is where it is important for the Christ-follower to let God be God. What I mean by that is that we are to get our righteousness from God. He is our righteousness, we are not faithful, we stray, we sin, we stumble. We are not righteous, but Jesus is righteous. We find our faithfulness and righteousness in Jesus Christ. from romans 3:20-22.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,
God is going to do that, what will the people do? That is in verse 9.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Now hear these words, ‘Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.’ This is also what the prophets said who were present when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty.
Let your hands be strong, so that the temple may be built. God will be God, God will do what He does, He will be your righteousness and faithfulness, Do your part, be strong, and stay the course.Be Strong don’t waiver, this work is not to hard for God, attain your righteousness from Him, purify your hearts through genuine repentance and mourn not your circumstances but mourn your lost relationship with God. Be strong trust in God.
And Zechariah goes on showing what the restored relationship will look like.
Before that time there were no wages for people or hire for animals. No one could go about their business safely because of their enemies, since I had turned everyone against their neighbor. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the Lord Almighty. “The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people.
It is going to be good, a time is coming, look forward to that time. There will economic prosperity, the crops will good, good things are coming. Verse 13.
Just as you, Judah and Israel, have been a curse among the nations, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”
I will save you! You will be a blessing! Do not be afraid! God has this, let your hands be strong.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster on you and showed no pity when your ancestors angered me,” says the Lord Almighty, “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid.
I know things were bad in the past, but now do not be afraid.
But what should they do, what do the Lord’s people need to do? A quick reminder to stay the course.
These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.
Do this speak the truth to one another. Let the Word of God so dwell in your hearts, that out of your mouth proceeds truth. When dealing with people render true and sound judgement in the courts-treat everyone fairly- don’t plot evil against one another, and do not love to swear falsely.
Basically, be Kind to one another, tell the truth look out for the oppressed the widows the fatherless, those that can’t look out for themselves. Be fair-be a good loving community to live in.
The word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 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.”
The fasts, you won’t need them. You were supposed to be mourning your sin, but with your sin gone, with loving one another there will be no more need for fasting, instead it will be all joy! Love the good things, love truth and peace.
This kind of joyful, truthful, peaceful community will have an effect on the world around them.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 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.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people 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.’ ”
As this community with the Lord dwelling among them loves the good things they will be reflecting the glory of the Lord to the world people will see the community and it will contagious, they will want to come back to the temple.
Let us go with you because we have heard God is with you. That is the only church growth strategy that works. When people can see that God is with us then we will be a contagious community.
The only church growth strategy is God is with us.
We need to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we are willingly following God’s commands because we want more of God, Not because we want more of church. We have to so love another because Jesus first loved us. Then others will see the love that God has for his people.
Be strong, your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking to destroy. Be strong love truth and peace. If you stumble, repent. Repent with a heart fixed on Jesus Christ. Be strong because your righteousness comes from Jesus Christ and he is faithful and just. Be strong.
In Jesus name.