Overtaken By God's Word
520 B.C. was a propitious year for the Jews in Jerusalem. Two prophets of God
appeared among them to urge them to complete God's work. Sixteen years before,
49,897 Jews returned to Jerusalem and the next year began rebuilding the Temple.
(Ezra 2 & 3) But the people soon lagged in their diligence to complete the work.
Only the foundations of the Temple had been completed before they stopped
working. For fifteen years, the people and priests were content to worship in
tents on the foundation of the grand building to be. So God sent prophets to
stir them up. "When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of
Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the
God of Israel, who was over them, then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and
Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is
in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them." (Ezra
Zechariah got right to the point. "The LORD was very angry with your fathers." (Zech. 1:2) That fact was obvious to all who saw the ruined city and Temple that they had to rebuild. But the lesson of God's anger and wrath is not one just for the history books, it applies to all who aren't presently doing right. Zechariah's generation also had a number things that they also needed to make right with the Lord. "Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Return to Me," declares the LORD of hosts, "that I may return to you," says the LORD of hosts." (vs. 3)
God will come to all that come to Him, but experience shows few truly come. Zechariah pointed his contemporaries to the actions of the generation before: "Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.'" But they did not listen or give heed to Me," declares the LORD." (vs. 4) They had been told and told, yet they never did. They received the wrath of God instead of His welcome because they would not repent.
Those that went to captivity may have thought there would be a place for repentance in the future, just as many always think that there is "time, time enough yet." But the longer we postpone repentance the more difficult it becomes, and finally we are out of time. "Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?" (vs. 5) Their fathers were gone, perished by the sword or gone to captivity. Also gone were great men like
Jeremiah who had preached repentance. The father's time to repent and change was gone. But God's word still remained. "But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers? Then they repented and said, 'As the LORD of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us." (vs. 6) God told them what He would do then did it. Later, when they repented, they acknowledged that it was just. Notice two great truths in this verse:
1.) God's word overtakes all men and
2.) God does as He purposed (and
predicted) with sinful men.
The fathers of those who returned from captivity had run from God's word and run to every idolatry and unfaithfulness. Then they acted like God wouldn't see their sins. Jeremiah tried to warn them, "Can a man hide himself in hiding places, So I do not see him?" declares the LORD. "Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?" declares the LORD." (Jer 23:24) But not until God's word ran them down sending them to death or captivity did some repent.
Others have run from God's word with an equal lack of success. Adam and Eve hid in the bushes. Jonah booked passage on a ship going the other way. All who think they can run or hide need to learn from the Psalms:
Ps. 139:7-12 "Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Thy hand will lead me, And Thy right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,"
12 Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee."
Too many, even if they don't express doubts about the power of God directly, show by their regular daily actions that they don't think God sees, hears, instructs or warns us. But His word and its judgments will run man down every time.
God's word will overtake all who do not believe or obey the gospel.
2 Thess. 1:7-9 "and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power"
God's word will overtake all who serve in a way not faithful to what is written.
Luke 6:46 "And why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"
God's word will overtake all who do not maintain a pure heart.
Eph 5:5 "For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God."
Some will learn only when God's word overtakes them in judgment.
What part of God's word will overtake you? It will be the part that you are not faithful to apply. Do you ever think to yourself that even if God's word speaks against it, you can still safely practice it? Whatever excuse, rationalization or unbelief you hold in your heart that lets you believe this needs to be driven out by closer examination of God's word. Examine what God has actually said and done in generations past and what He has promised to yet do. Does not all history prove Zechariah's words? "Did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers?" And "As the LORD of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us."
Conduct yourself so that your final meeting with God will be a victorious one and the words that overtake you are "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord," (Matt. 25:21 KJV) and "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Tim. 4:7,8).
By Jay Horsley
From Expository Files 9.3; March 2002