Photo credit to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura.
“And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.” Zechariah 10:9
Sometimes we think the life of being redeemed in You is a life of ease. That’s anything but the truth. Here, Zechariah and Israel are getting to be a part of a great thing- the rebuilding of the temple. But let’s not forget that this is happening while being under the rule of a foreign nation. All of prophecy has not come to pass yet for Israel or for us. And even though this great thing was happening according to Your plan, God, there was more greatness to come. Only that greatness would come through and after many more great trials.
How would the people of Israel wind up sown among other people? Were they deliberately going out and sowing themselves of their own accord? I mean, You did tell them that they were to be a light unto the Gentiles and that all nations would be blessed through them. And if we go further back in Scripture to the very beginning, Your mandate to mankind was to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. How do you do that if you stay in one place?
Why were the people building the tower of Babel? Because they were ignoring Your desire. They wanted to accomplish their own greatness. So You confounded their languages. Was Israel doing the same thing for so long in their greatness? Was there something they were missing about how to be a light to the world? Is Your way of doing things radically different than the way we would choose for ourselves?
Israel didn’t sow themselves among the people. You brought persecution that sowed them all over the world as it is today. But You are still not finished. They have yet as a nation of scattered candles to remember You in those far countries and be witnesses and return to You.
But what about us? What do we do when our plans and desires are confounded? What do we do when the mountains in our life seem insurmountable? What do we do when the pain seems unbearable? It’s not that the pain isn’t real. Betrayal really hurts down deep. The death of a loved one leaves a deep and lasting pain. Losing everything leaves an emptiness. Watching everything ripped from your hands, suffering through cancer or MS, being defamed, abuse, addiction, disappointment, failure…The Israelites would experience things like this and have to continue living. So will we. But what will our choice be, to continue living by digging deeper into the God who can keep us? Or will we dig deeper down into our selves and our self-preservatory ways?
If “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction , for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,” (2 Timothy 3:16,17) then maybe we should take note of tough times more carefully. Because it’s not like we don’t have a God who understands now, is it?
We look at suffering and we think, “Oh, why am I being punished?” Or “They must have done something bad.” Or we just get really upset about it if we think it’s undeserved. Our attitudes about suffering haven’t really changed much since Biblical times and probably before. Jesus noticed the attitude. “You think these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things?” But Jesus said, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” And He repeated that twice. You know, that word repent, metanoeo in Greek, means to think differently, to reconsider. And I don’t think You are asking us to rethink what we think about the Galileans. I think that You are trying to get us to rethink about who You are and how our lives line up with You. Maybe we need to return to what is really important- our relationship with You and our focus on You. Maybe that is what sustains us through the ups and downs and tragedies of a life made chaotic by the entrance of sin.
I mean, why do we think that we should be able to avoid suffering? Paul suffered on numerous occasions. Wasn’t he God’s man? And God let him suffer? God let him be beaten? God let him be stoned three times and left for dead? God let him be shipwrecked? Where was God when he needed him? Right there all along. God is still God, even when our life is threatened or waining. You know, we don’t hear Paul complaining about these things. We here Paul telling others that this will be a part of our life so learn to suffer victoriously and well in the Lord.
Paul, a sufferer, and physical sufferer too, stated “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith…” Why? “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” (Philippians 3:8-10) Because by faith, one day, when the end did come, he would experience the resurrection of the dead unto eternal life. But the fellowship doesn’t start then. The fellowship is already.
The fellowship is already because Jesus suffered and we are not above our Master, are we? On the walk to Emaus, Jesus reprimanded the two disciples. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” Suffering was an imminent and necessary part of being the Messiah. Because Jesus suffered being tempted, He is able to relieve those who are tempted. By suffering, the Son learned obedience. He suffered as a sacrifice for others. So Peter tells us, “For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
What was His example? When he was reviled, He didn’t revile back. When He suffered, He didn’t threaten the one inflicting the suffering nor did He threaten God. But what did He do? He committed Himself to God, to the One that judges righteously. He trusted Himself and His outcome to God even though the results on this earth stunk, to put it lightly. He trusted God to make it right in His time and in His way. And that’s where our problem lies, doesn’t it? We don’t want to let God do it in His way or His time. We aren’t surrendered in that kind of trust. We want it fixed now, now, now! Who’s plan is it about anyway? Mine or God’s? Isn’t that what it comes down to?
But thank God that Jesus didn’t think like us or He never would have gone to the cross. But He obediently suffered for us and now, in Him, no matter what transpires in my life, I am able to think just like Him and experience suffering as victoriously as Him. But if I don’t finish the course, I can’t be victorious. And Peter again reminds all those who are living their trust in Christ, “But the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make You perfect, establish, strengthen, settle You.” (1 Peter 5:10)
How do I make it through this suffering? I trust. I believe that God understands the bigger picture. If Jesus believed that and obediently suffered all He did faithfully, and a mere man named Paul could have the strength to do so based on his trust in You, then what’s my problem? Doesn’t it boil down to a lack of trust? Because if You are the I AM, and You ARE the I AM, then it’s not an issue about You doing anything. Whether You do or You don’t, You are worthy and You are bringing Your will to pass the way You see fit that is right and pure and true and holy. And I need to trust You just because You are You. I need to trust You when life is rotten or when life is grand, because though my life changes, You do not. Am I striving for a good life or am I looking with all my heart at pursuing fellowship with You? Because the truth is, You are the only Good Life.