I love working in the garden.
There’s something therapeutic about it, working the ground, harkening back to the old, old days when people raised everything they need. We’ve only just moved, but already I’ve mapped out in my mind’s eye our future garden plot.
One visitor is chatting with a farmer: “I see that you raise hogs almost exclusively around here. Do you find that you earn more money with hogs than corn and wheat?” The farmer responds, “Well, not necessarily, but you see, stranger, hawgs don’t need no hoeing.”
It’s quite apparent that farmer has chosen the easiest way for a profitable spread without exerting much energy. We might even say he’s a bit lazy.
This might also be said of today’s Christian culture when we consider the idea of revival. I believe there is a great need in America for revival, spiritual renewal, another “Great Awakening.” Our nation seems to be on a downhill slide, heading for the abyss. And it’s up to me and you to bring about revival, led—of course—by the dear Holy Spirit. We cannot sit back and say, “Well, that’s up to Harry.”
I believe Zechariah was one of the greatest revivalists in the Bible. He comes on the scene in Jerusalem at just the right time. The repatriated Jews are in great need of inspiration to resume their work on restoring the temple. You might remember that Nebuchadnezzar and his armed forces destroyed the temple in 586 BC. A number of Israelis have returned to Jerusalem with specific instructions from King Cyrus to rebuild the temple. But there has been no progress for sixteen years. The Hebrews have drifted into indifference with regard to their temple. Opposition has brought the work to a standstill.
So God commissions two men, Zechariah and Haggai, in an effort to stir the Hebrews to action. In doing so, Zechariah receives several visions of revival. In this post and in those to come, we will explore these visions and see how they relate to the Christian church today.
Indifference in church is a major difficulty. Where there is indifference, people aren’t reading their Bibles, they’re not praying, and they’re not sharing their faith. Not only is there a lack of progress in the spiritual temper in an indifferent church, there actually is regression.
This issue must be considered on an individual basis: Have we become lackadaisical with regard to God’s word? Or going to Lord in prayer? Or sharing our faith? Or slipshod in attendance?
Is God trying to stir us up through a Zechariah in our lives? Are we listening or falling asleep?
These messages from Zechariah are still important. They’re intended to rouse us to carefully consider the plight of the church of Jesus Christ in our society today.
Let’s consider, first of all, the first two verses of Zechariah’s message to Israel:
In the eighth month of Darius’ second year as king, the LORD spoke his word to the prophet Zechariah, who was the son of Berechiah and the grandson of Iddo. He said, “The LORD was very angry with your ancestors. (God’s Word Translation)
Here’s the big idea: the foundation of revival rests on personal repentance.
This opening paragraph provides an introduction to the entire prophecy in which Zechariah calls upon the people to repent and never again repeat the sins of their ancestors. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that these things happen as examples, written for our admonition.
It means recovering from God’s displeasure (Zechariah 1:1-2)
The word “angry” is greatly emphatic in verse 2, according to the original Hebrew construction. Literally, it reads, “Angry Yahweh has been with your ancestors angry.” So, it is translated as “very angry” in the God’s Word Translation. Other translations have done something similar in an effort to show the emphasis. This word is the strongest usage in the Old Testament for anger and is frequently translated as “wrath.” The focus is on the relational damage caused when one party has done or said something that causes deep resentment.
Why is God “very angry”? Because the Hebrews refused to listen to His message through previous prophets. They refused to turn from their evil ways.
Are there ways in which we have displeased the Lord? Sure. Here’s a short list: our worldliness, our bitterness, our ill-timed anger, our spiritual indifference, our fractured relationships, our refusal to accept blame, our sporadic and begrudging offerings and tithes, our life-dominating habits.
We’ll pick up from here in my next installment.