Sunday, 26 April 2015

Intro to Zechariah - Zechariah 1

We are taught at school to write letters with our address and date at the top. Thankfully the person who wrote down Zechariah's words was taught similarly, and gave us the information that locates these words quite precisely in history to 520BC, when the Persians had control over the whole region including Israel. It had been around 70 years since Israel fell to the Babylonians - the land was in foreign control, hence the date reference of Darius, a foreign king.

Zechariah speaks into this situation - prophecy acts as a kind of political commentary. The difficulty for us can be the language and imagery - maybe it is lost in translation or it made more sense to the original hearers? Nevertheless it shows that God reveals, remember the whole of Scripture is God interacting with people, in their lives and situations.

That interaction goes on, and in fact even more abundantly. After Jesus was raised the Spirit was poured out, to enable men and women to prophesy, to perceive and speak out the things of God (see Joel 2/Acts 2). That will raise various questions for us, such as 'how does that work?', 'what should that look like?'. After all the Old Testament prophets had whacky and long-winded visions of big stuff - see in verse 8 Zechariah has a night-time experience that leads to six chapters of text!

Hence this series 'The Prophetic Voice' to help us answer these questions. Through it all we should keep in mind that it is what God speaks that endures (see v5-6). Prophecy today is not about special people, or only whacky encounters, nor is it pumping up certain experiences. No! It is the grace of God making Himself known through ordinary people. Those people can then fade into the background, allowing God's purpose to rise to the fore.

So when God speaks we don't have to make it happen - God is perfectly capable of doing that Himself. It is not about our might, or insistence, or how even loudly/boldly we speak. If He has truly spoken (it has not been our imagination or presumption), He will do it!

Zechariah's first words are (v2) 'Return to me'. To hear God's voice starts with stopping, being still to desire Him and His voice. Through this series we should ask the following:

Key Qn: [IN] What might God be saying to us?
Challenge: Stop & Listen

The challenge chimes with the discipleship habits we encourage:
  • The Discipline of OFF - deliberately clearing distractions, to make room to listen
  • Ever Closer to Jesus - God revealing comes through intimacy with Him, so draw close.
The things we hear will need weighing and making sense of. Thats best done with with others, so the other habit comes into play too:
  • Share the Walk - work closely with another to discuss/pray what God is saying to you
Zechariah's closing words in this chapter remind us that God is in charge. V16-17 has God returning to Jerusalem, the temple being rebuilt and God restoring. Note that timescales aren't given - often the way with prophecy! The point is re-assurance: v18-21 are about international power and God being in control. Words worth us remembering as a general election is upon us and turmoil continues around the world.

We began with dating based on a foreign king. Yet what date system do we have around the world now? 2015 A.D. - Anno Domini - the year of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, God is indeed in charge!

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