SATURDAY: JOY by Pastor Steven Grosvenor
SCRIPTURE: Zechariah 8:9-19
This message of Zechariah declares the Joy of the LORD for people who were restoring their homes and cities after 70 years of exile in a foreign land. Their homes and cities had been completely destroyed by the Babylonian army and their grandparents and parents had been taken as captives to Babylon. Then God raised up another emperor to defeat the Babylonians and release the current generation of Israelites to return to their homeland in Israel.
This generation faced hard work as they returned “home” to the land of their ancestors; the land they had been taught that God had given them. They had to remove the rubble, reconstruct their homes, plant gardens for food, restore some form of governance and rebuild the temple. Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah reveal opposition from surrounding tribes and conflict among these women and men encountering this hard work of restoration.
Zechariah drew word pictures of restored cities where the elderly and the children could live in peace to encourage and keep these hardworking focused on their purpose (8:1-8). He proceeded to give them instructions for ways of cultivating hope and joy in their work: Do not fear (13, 15). Be strong so that the temple may be rebuilt (9, 13). Be honest with your neighbor (15). Render true and sound judgment in your courts (16). Promote justice for all and love honesty (17). Love truth and peace (19).
Zechariah then identified blessings they would experience in addition to cities where families would peacefully live (1-8). Their religious holy days would become genuinely joyful, glad occasions and happy festivals (19). More of their displaced citizens would return home and all of them would worship the LORD together (21). Moreover, “many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts and pray before the LORD” (22).
The instructions to that generation of Israelites are equally valid for us in this 2017 season of Advent as we wait and prepare for the Advent of Christ Jesus to come.
God, teach us the joy that comes from living according to Your will and Your ways.
Help us to live lives free of fear, lives of strength and honesty, lives of justice, lives of truth and peace.