At first glance, an amazing video shows two male deer in head-to-head combat. Each has a large rack, and back and forth they charge. But soon the onlooker notices a white line stretching between them: They are caught in the top strand of a fence. Then two men emerge in the scene who take life-in-hand in an effort to set the deer free. Carefully and cautiously, armed with wire cutters, they are able to do so, but not without some scary moments (watch it for yourself later).
Is this not an apropos illustration of what the church faces today in our sin-challenged society? Doesn’t it feel like we are butting heads against the devil and we need Jesus to set us free from our culturally entangled mess?
The answer my friend is found in the first chapter of Zechariah, verses four to six: “Don’t be like your ancestors, who heard the earlier prophets preach to them, ‘This is what the LORD of Armies says: Turn from your evil ways and your evil deeds.’ But they didn’t listen or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. Your ancestors—where are they now? And the prophets—are they still alive? Didn’t my warnings and my laws, which I’ve commanded my servants the prophets to preach, finally catch up with your ancestors? Then your ancestors turned away from their sins and said, ‘The LORD of Armies has done to us what he had planned to do. He has dealt with us as our ways and deeds deserve.’” (God’s Word Translation)
Zechariah, God’s man for the hour in the repatriated Israel, is calling for revival. Here’s the big idea: the foundation of revival rests on personal repentance.
In earlier blogs we noted, first of all, that it means recovering from God’s displeasure, and secondly, it means changing our hearts.
Here’s the third issue: it means learning from history
Did you notice the warning Zechariah gives in verse four? What does it imply? If Israel doesn’t turn from their evil ways, if they don’t repent, they will face same fate as their ancestors: Exile–being held prisoner by others. The disobedient, obstinate behavior of their forefathers is not so much directed at the prophets, but at God himself.
They certainly are well aware of their fathers—sins of disobedience, rebellion and idolatry.
All they need to do is look around and see the results. History should have taught them to repent.
While their fathers and the former prophets are long gone, the legacy of their fathers’ failure to heed the prophets’ warnings is vividly before them. Jerusalem and the temple itself lay in ruins.
Notice also the power of God’s Word in verse six: God’s Word will accomplish all He designs, in blessing and in judgment. The multiplied warnings they receive finally come due. They are precisely fulfilled, and their fathers are overtaken and destroyed. The Babylonian captivity is positive proof that God punishes those who sin and reject his warnings.
A great American once wrote the following:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, the many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God who made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
This was written in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln in proclamation of a national day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.
The same could certainly be said today 154 years later. Beginning today, let’s put our mind and heart to work. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to search our innermost beings and reveal to us those ways in which we have displeased the Lord, in fact, may still be displeasing Him.
Have we truly repented? Is there anything going on in our lives we need to change? Perhaps there is a lack of respect for authority. Maybe we’re spending too much time in worldly entertainment—in the way of TV, the music we listen to, and the magazines and books we read. Perhaps it is some life-dominating habit we can’t seem to kick: tobacco, alcohol, pornography, lying, gossip, or gluttony.
Like the deer caught on camera in a struggle against a strand of wire, we only have one way to be extricated from a life that displeases God: repentance. Then calling on the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome those shortcomings.
We’ll pick up from here in my next installment.