Friday, December 29, 2006

God does give second chances

Having taken a few days to celebrate Christmas and just enjoy being with my family, I’m now back at the computer.

In my devotional time this week, I’ve been trying to read through the prophecy of Zechariah. At first I was feeling a bit discouraged because, honestly, the book didn’t make any sense to me. I grabbed a verse here and there which seemed understandable and from which I could draw some personal application, but the majority of the text was just simply confusing. Believing in the perspicuity of the Scriptures and the priesthood of believers, I trudged on, yet I wasn’t getting anywhere, as far as understanding the message of Zechariah. I felt like the Ethiopian eunuch when Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” That’s where I was.

Finally, I decided to turn to someone for help and went to Mark Dever’s book, The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made (Crossway Books). I hoped Dever might provide me with a general overview of Zechariah (At this point, I didn’t care if I got any of the details!). To my relief, I found Mark Dever's message on Zechariah very helpful in making the message of this prophecy much clearer (Thank God for His gift of theologians and teachers "to equip the saints"!).

I was almost immediately encouraged when I read (p. 906) that Zechariah was “the most obscure minor prophet. Old Testament professor Douglas Stuart had said that most people find it ‘an especially difficult read, even for a prophetic book.’” Well, at least I was not the only one! In his message/chapter on Zechariah (“The Message Of Zechariah: Does God Give Second Chances?”, pp. 905-923), Mark Dever focuses on Zechariah’s message that God would give His people, recently come out of Babylonian captivity, a second chance.

God says, through Zechariah, “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD” (Zechariah 1:4). After all, the Jews had been sent into exile because of their sin and disobedience:

“They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. ‘As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.’” (Zechariah 7:12-14).

Yet, despite their past, God entreats the people, “Return to me…and I will return to you…” (Zechariah 1:3). Notice how God takes the initiative to bring His people back:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness” (Zechariah 8:7-8).

“I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them” (Zechariah 10:6).

Aren’t you grateful that God takes the initiative? Look, again, at Zechariah 10:6. We come to God because He has acts first: “I will bring them back…” Not only does God act to bring us back, but he restores us: “…they shall be as though I had not rejected them…” He not only will restore, but God will strengthen us: “I will strengthen the house of Judah…” Zechariah 10:12 adds, “I will make them strong in the LORD, and they shall walk in his name”.

All these blessings are made possible because of the “fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1). Of course, this prophecy finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains."
(William Cowper)
Through Christ, we can be brought back, restored and strengthened. We can receive a second chance!

Do you feel far from God? Have you failed to follow God obediently as you know you should? Because God takes the initiative, you can respond to Him. Please, heed God’s voice; respond to His call:

“Return to me…and I will return to you” (Zechariah 1:3).

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