Would you believe them at face value? Would you trust them because you know they are good to their word? What if it was 10 people instead of just 1, would that make a difference? What if you knew they have integrity? What if they have good character? Would you just have to see it to believe it?
Well this morning’s reading starts on just such a topic…
Jesus and Thomas
24One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!”
–from John 20
How would you feel when you realize it was true? How would you respond to the reality of what they were telling you? Would you be humbled? Would you still stand too proud? Can you believe words without having to actually have seen it? So what if what was being told was something in the future rather than something in the past? Instead of the story being about what Jesus had done but instead it was about what He is about to do in the future? Could you make a decision and believe without seeing it? Can you take a hold of who Jesus is before each of the things happens? Will be able to make a choice before it is too late? Can you believe?
The Thousand Years
1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the abyss and a heavy chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent—that is, the Devil, or Satan—and chained him up for a thousand years. 3The angel threw him into the abyss, locked it, and sealed it, so that he could not deceive the nations any more until the thousand years were over. After that he must be set loose for a little while.
4Then I saw thrones, and those who sat on them were given the power to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been executed because they had proclaimed the truth that Jesus revealed and the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image, nor had they received the mark of the beast on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and ruled as kings with Christ for a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over.) This is the first raising of the dead. 6Happy and greatly blessed are those who are included in this first raising of the dead. The second death has no power over them; they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they will rule with him for a thousand years.
The Defeat of Satan
7After the thousand years are over, Satan will be set loose from his prison, 8and he will go out to deceive the nations scattered over the whole world, that is, Gog and Magog. Satan will bring them all together for battle, as many as the grains of sand on the seashore. 9They spread out over the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people and the city that he loves. But fire came down from heaven and destroyed them. 10Then the Devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had already been thrown; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
The Final Judgment
11Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sits on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence and were seen no more. 12And I saw the dead, great and small alike, standing before the throne. Books were opened, and then another book was opened, the book of the living. The dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13Then the sea gave up its dead. Death and the world of the dead also gave up the dead they held. And all were judged according to what they had done. 14Then death and the world of the dead were thrown into the lake of fire. (This lake of fire is the second death.) 15Those who did not have their name written in the book of the living were thrown into the lake of fire.
–from Revelation 20
Will you pick to be on God’s side before judgment day? Will you pick to turn back to God before it is too late? What would it take for you to believe? What would it take for you to trust in God? What would it take for you to stop leaning on your own understanding and putting your trust in God? Is there anything or are you doomed to have to deal with the consequences of your decision and life? There is a way out and His name is Jesus! Receive Him because He already paid the price when He gave His all — once for all — so that we can be reconciled to God.
1Can you catch Leviathan with a fishhook or tie his tongue down with a rope? 2Can you put a rope through his snout or put a hook through his jaws? 3Will he beg you to let him go? Will he plead with you for mercy? 4Will he make an agreement with you and promise to serve you forever? 5Will you tie him like a pet bird, like something to amuse your servant women? 6Will fishermen bargain over him? Will merchants cut him up to sell? 7Can you fill his hide with fishing spears or pierce his head with a harpoon? 8Touch him once and you’ll never try it again; you’ll never forget the fight! 9Anyone who sees Leviathan loses courage and falls to the ground. 10When he is aroused, he is fierce; no one would dare to stand before him. 11Who can attack him and still be safe? No one in all the world can do it.
–from Job 41
The details of what is yet to come isn’t something new! What is yet to come was called out by Daniel, by Zechariah, and then by John. So will you believe the Word of God as God’s Word? Will you believe it and listen to His instruction? What are you going to do? Will God’s Word be enough to get your attention and help you to change? If you do believe, don’t lose hope!
The Vision of the Four Chariots
1I had another vision. This time I saw four chariots coming out from between two bronze mountains. 2The first chariot was pulled by red horses, the second by black horses, 3the third by white horses, and the fourth by dappled horses. 4Then I asked the angel, “Sir, what do these chariots mean?” 5He answered, “These are the four winds; they have just come from the presence of the Lord of all the earth.”
6The chariot pulled by the black horses was going north to Babylonia, the white horses were going to the west, and the dappled horses were going to the country in the south. 7As the dappled horses came out, they were impatient to go and inspect the earth. The angel said, “Go and inspect the earth!”—and they did. 8Then the angel cried out to me, “The horses that went north to Babylonia have quieted the Lord’s anger.”
The Command to Crown Joshua
9The Lord gave me this message. 10He said, “Take the gifts given by the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, and go at once to the home of Josiah son of Zephaniah. All of them have returned from exile in Babylonia. 11Make a crown out of the silver and gold they have given, and put it on the head of the High Priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. 12Tell him that the Lord Almighty says, ‘The man who is called The Branch will flourish where he is and rebuild the Lord’s Temple. 13He is the one who will build it and receive the honor due a king, and he will rule his people. A priest will stand by his throne, and they will work together in peace and harmony.’ 14The crown will be a memorial in the Lord’s Temple in honor of Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah.” 15Men who live far away will come and help to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. And when it is rebuilt, you will know that the Lord Almighty sent me to you. This will all happen if you fully obey the commands of the Lord your God.
–from Zechariah 6
The Lord Condemns Insincere Fasting
1In the fourth year that Darius was emperor, on the fourth day of the ninth month (the month of Kislev), the Lord gave me a message. 2The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regemmelech and their men to the Temple of the Lord Almighty to pray for the Lord’s blessing 3and to ask the priests and the prophets this question: “Should we continue to mourn because of the destruction of the Temple, by fasting in the fifth month as we have done for so many years now?” 4This is the message of the Lord that came to me. 5He said, “Tell the people of the land and the priests that when they fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during these seventy years, it was not in honor of me. 6And when they ate and drank, it was for their own satisfaction.” 7This is what the Lord said through the earlier prophets at the time when Jerusalem was prosperous and filled with people and when there were many people living not only in the towns around the city but also in the southern region and in the western foothills.
Disobedience, the Cause of Exile
8The Lord gave this message to Zechariah: 9“Long ago I gave these commands to my people: ‘You must see that justice is done, and must show kindness and mercy to one another. 10Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners who live among you, or anyone else in need. And do not plan ways of harming one another.’ 11“But my people stubbornly refused to listen. They closed their minds 12and made their hearts as hard as rock. Because they would not listen to the teaching which I sent through the prophets who lived long ago, I became very angry. 13Because they did not listen when I spoke, I did not answer when they prayed. 14Like a storm I swept them away to live in foreign countries. This good land was left a desolate place, with no one living in it.”
–from Zechariah 7
The Lord Promises to Restore Jerusalem
1The Lord Almighty gave this message to Zechariah: 2“I have longed to help Jerusalem because of my deep love for her people, a love which has made me angry with her enemies. 3I will return to Jerusalem, my holy city, and live there. It will be known as the faithful city, and the hill of the Lord Almighty will be called the sacred hill. 4Once again old men and women, so old that they use canes when they walk, will be sitting in the city squares. 5And the streets will again be full of boys and girls playing. 6“This may seem impossible to those of the nation who are now left, but it’s not impossible for me. 7I will rescue my people from the lands where they have been taken, 8and will bring them back from east and west to live in Jerusalem. They will be my people, and I will be their God, ruling over them faithfully and justly. 9“Have courage! You are now hearing the same words the prophets spoke at the time the foundation was being laid for rebuilding my Temple. 10Before that time no one could afford to hire either men or animals, and no one was safe from enemies. I turned people against one another. 11But now I am treating the survivors of this nation differently. 12They will plant their crops in peace. Their vines will bear grapes, the earth will produce crops, and there will be plenty of rain. I will give all these blessings to the people of my nation who survive. 13People of Judah and Israel! In the past foreigners have cursed one another by saying, ‘May the same disasters fall on you that fell on Judah and Israel!’ But I will save you, and then those foreigners will say to one another, ‘May you receive the same blessings that came to Judah and Israel!’ So have courage and don’t be afraid.” 14The Lord Almighty says, “When your ancestors made me angry, I planned disaster for them and did not change my mind, but carried out my plans. 15But now I am planning to bless the people of Jerusalem and Judah. So don’t be afraid. 16These are the things you should do: Speak the truth to one another. In the courts give real justice—the kind that brings peace. 17Do not plan ways of harming one another. Do not give false testimony under oath. I hate lying, injustice, and violence.” 18The Lord Almighty gave this message to Zechariah: 19“The fasts held in the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months will become festivals of joy and gladness for the people of Judah. You must love truth and peace.” 20The Lord Almighty says, “The time is coming when people from many cities will come to Jerusalem. 21Those from one city will say to those from another, ‘We are going to worship the Lord Almighty and pray for his blessing. Come with us!’ 22Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord Almighty and to pray for his blessing. 23In those days ten foreigners will come to one Jew and say, ‘We want to share in your destiny, because we have heard that God is with you.’”
–from Zechariah 8
Judgment on Neighboring Nations
1This is the Lord’s message: He has decreed punishment for the land of Hadrach and for the city of Damascus. Not only the tribes of Israel but also the capital of Syria belong to the Lord. 2Hamath, which borders on Hadrach, also belongs to him, and so do the cities of Tyre and Sidon, with all their skill. 3Tyre has built fortifications for herself and has piled up so much silver and gold that it is as common as dirt! 4But the Lord will take away everything she has. He will throw her wealth into the sea, and the city will be burned to the ground. 5The city of Ashkelon will see this and be afraid. The city of Gaza will see it and suffer great pain. So will Ekron, and her hopes will be shattered. Gaza will lose her king, and Ashkelon will be left deserted. 6People of mixed race will live in Ashdod. The Lord says, “I will humble all these proud Philistines. 7They will no longer eat meat with blood in it, or other forbidden food. All the survivors will become part of my people and be like a clan in the tribe of Judah. Ekron will become part of my people, as the Jebusites did. 8I will guard my land and keep armies from passing through it. I will not allow tyrants to oppress my people any more. I have seen how my people have suffered.”
The Future King
9Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion! Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey—on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10The Lord says, “I will remove the war chariots from Israel and take the horses from Jerusalem; the bows used in battle will be destroyed. Your king will make peace among the nations; he will rule from sea to sea, from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.”
The Restoration of God’s People
11The Lord says, “Because of my covenant with you that was sealed by the blood of sacrifices, I will set your people free—free from the waterless pit of exile. 12Return, you exiles who now have hope; return to your place of safety. Now I tell you that I will repay you twice over with blessing for all you have suffered. 13I will use Judah like a soldier’s bow and Israel like the arrows. I will use the men of Zion like a sword, to fight the men of Greece.” 14The Lord will appear above his people; he will shoot his arrows like lightning. The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet; he will march in the storms from the south. 15The Lord Almighty will protect his people, and they will destroy their enemies. They will shout in battle like drunk men and will shed the blood of their enemies; it will flow like the blood of a sacrifice poured on the altar from a bowl. 16When that day comes, the Lord will save his people, as a shepherd saves his flock from danger. They will shine in his land like the jewels of a crown. 17How good and beautiful the land will be! The young people will grow strong on its grain and wine.
–from Zechariah 9
Can you learn from the experiences of others? Do you need to experience yourself? Will you learn from the past so that you don’t repeat it? Will you deny the past and be doomed to repeat it?
Take God’s Word to heart! Be transformed!