Then, on December 26th we awoke to the news of a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. As I was reeling at the magnitude of the disaster and countless souls lost, God spoke sternly to me: 'Mercy and judgment go together!' Though it may seem harsh, it is always merciful to sound the warning before judgment falls.
"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"
I posted the passage, reminding myself...Mercy and judgment... Judgment and mercy...
For the past several weeks I felt impressed upon to study the writings of the minor prophet, Zechariah. Once again, I have procrastinated. After all, it was CHRISTMAS, the season for 'tidings of comfort and joy!' Didn't the Lord know I was busy shopping and wrapping and baking???
But alas, Christmas is over. The New Year has begun. I finally sit down with my Bible, opening to the book of Zechariah....
It is early spring in the year 519 BC. After seventy years in Babylon, the first wave of exiles has returned to Jerusalem, to rebuild the House of the Lord. The altar has been constructed and set in its place. Sacrificial offerings are made as required by the Law of Moses. Though opposition from the locals was intense, the foundation of the Temple is completed at last! Exuberant celebration ensues! Trumpets blare, cymbals crash, and the remnant of God's people shout and sing:
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His steadfast love endures forever!"
Like many of those present, a young man named Zechariah (the grandson of a prominent priest) had known only a life of captivity. He revels in the moment as he witnesses God's promise fulfilled, thinking of his father, who had only dreamed of this day...
The noise of the festivities can be heard from a great distance! Unsettled, the adversaries of Judah soon begin to step up their efforts to stop the rebuilding. Reacting to carefully crafted misinformation, the king orders construction of the Temple to stop. The committed remnant is now confused, intimidated and discouraged. Their focus gradually begins to shift. Time, energy and resources are devoted to personal matters. Homes are embellished, gardens are planted, and farmers sow their seed in freshly plowed fields. It seems their efforts are wasted however, as drought descends upon the land. Seedlings shrivel in the dust and God sends a warning through the prophet Haggai:
"Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies in ruins?
You have sown much and harvested little...
you eat, but never have enough and drink, but never have your fill...
BECAUSE MY HOUSE LIES IN RUINS!"
Without much of an introduction, the Lord also begins speaking to Zechariah:
"I was very angry with your fathers!"
Perhaps Zechariah glances at the ruins that had once been Jerusalem...the rubble was a compelling testimony to his ancestors' unrelenting rebellion against God...
"Return to me, says the Lord of Hosts..."
"and I will return to you."
Zechariah's heart is broken up like the fallow ground in nearby fields! His ancestors ignored the merciful warnings of the prophets before him, and horrible judgment had overtaken them. He is determined NOT to follow in their footsteps! Repentant and humbled, he is now ready for the planting of the Lord...the first of eight Messianic visions would soon follow...
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver and precious stones,
wood, hay, straw--each one's work will become manifest (made public!),
For the Day will disclose it (literally 'peel it like an onion'),
Because it will be revealed (apokalupto-the cover removed) by fire,
And the fire will test (examine and discern) what sort of work each one has done.
If the work anyone has built on the foundation survives,
he will receive a reward.
If anyone's work is burned up,
he will suffer loss,
Though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Do you not know that you are God's temple???"
(1 Corinthians 3:10-16)
1. Am I building? Or have I become distracted, intimidated or discouraged?
2. Is Christ my true foundation, or am I trying to build in my own strength?
3. Am I building to last? Am I giving my best, or just building for show?
4. What will my work look like when the layers are peeled back on the Day of the Lord?
5. Am I laboring for things that will burn up in an instant, or for eternal reward?
6. Is my life a visible expression of gratitude for the foundation I have in Christ Jesus?
May the word of the Lord to Zechariah ring for us throughout the New Year:
"Return to Me...and I will return to you!"