How do you deal with setbacks and disappointment? For Christians, there are three options: you can do everything you can to improve your situation; you can be overwhelmed by your situation and let it rob you of joy and peace; or instead of focusing on your situation, you can focus on God, learning to trust and depend on him more strongly.
This Sunday, we’re starting a new sermon series in the Book of Zechariah. This prophet’s task was to speak to people who were experiencing deep disappointment. They’d just returned from exile in Babylon. They were surrounded by enemies, economically impoverished, and ridiculed by neighbours. They were weak and pitiful. Their eyes were focussed on their dire circumstances. They couldn’t see the larger plan that God had for the whole world.
Zechariah’s ministry was to bring words of purpose and comfort to God’s people. He pointed them towards God’s great plan: his solution to the problem of sin, his promised King, and the coming day of salvation and judgment. Zechariah sought to lift God’s people’s eyes away from their poor circumstances, their “day of small things”, and instead to see God’s sovereign plan. They needed help to look away from their “present day” to look to “that day” when God’s plan will come to fulfillment.
We need the same reminder. How often are our eyes fixed on our own agenda rather than God’s agenda? We forget that God is sovereign over our circumstances and uses our difficulties to teach us to lean on him. God is more interested in our faithfulness and obedience to him than our present worldly successes.
When we’re dealing with disappointments, what we need most is not for our circumstances to improve, it’s for us to be comforted in the sovereign goodness of God. Zechariah gave God’s people a picture of a coming King who would bring victory for his people and give them what they most need. Many of us are familiar with this prophecy, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). We know that these words were fulfilled when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, a few days before he was crucified. In Jesus, we see the fulfilment of God’s plans to bring us forgiveness, comfort, and peace.
A few words of explanation before we start this sermon series. This book is full of incredible apocalyptic visions and decidedly difficult passages. However difficult this book is to understand, chapters 9-14 are quoted more often in the passion narratives of the Gospels than any other Old Testament book. Structurally, this book is divided into eight visions (chapters 1-6) and two oracles (chapters 7-14). To draw greater benefit from this sermon series, read the whole book through on your own.
Zechariah challenges us, as it challenged God’s people 2500 years ago, to let the visions of God’s kingdom fire our hearts, to worship and serve God with all that we have.