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R&V In the Word: The Unchanging Message

Image: Radu Andrei Razvan

Read Zechariah 7

“There’s nothing new to say on the subject. Don’t you still have the message of the earlier prophets from the time when Jerusalem was still a thriving, bustling city and the outlying countryside, the Negev and Shephelah, was populated? [This is the message that God gave Zechariah.] Well, the message hasn’t changed. God-of-the-Angel-Armies said then and says now:

    ‘Treat one another justly.

    Love your neighbors.

    Be compassionate with each other.

    Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor.

    Don’t plot and scheme against one another—that’s evil.’

Zechariah 7:7-10 MSG

Each December following Christmas, I look forward to the start of a new year because it means I get to make a list, and I love me a good list.

What will I resolve to do this year? How many books should I aim to read? How much exercising will I probably not do but aspire to? What will my “word” be this year? 

Time to put Jingle Bells and its one-horse sleigh away: Oh what fun it is to write a resolution list!

I could probably save myself a lot of time by pulling up last year’s list, and the year before last, and the year before last, because, like God reports through Zechariah, “There’s nothing new to say on the subject.” I have the old lists. I know what it is I want to do, what it is that God requires of me, like he spoke through the prophet Micah:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,

    what God is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,

    be compassionate and loyal in your love,

And don’t take yourself too seriously—

    take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 MSG

Zechariah’s prophecy was written over 500 years before Jesus’ birth. When Jesus taught his disciples, there apparently wasn’t much new to be said on the subject in that day, either:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.’

Matthew 25:34-36 MSG

The things the Lord requires of us haven’t changed in the last 2,000 years either. Jesus is still calling you and me to feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the poor, treat the sick, and visit the imprisoned. Jesus is still calling you and me to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. Jesus is still calling us to love one another and be compassionate towards each other. 

The message hasn’t changed. We’re just really, really slow to catch on.

The radical, compassionate, revolutionary love of Jesus Christ is still hard for most of us to believe, and yet it is the way we are called to walk, the different life we are called to live, the glowing witness of the love of God we’re supposed to be.

Maybe this year’s list ought to be informed by the prophets of old and the Son of God, who makes all things new. Even my resolutions.

Points of Reflection

  1. What are the ways your church, your family, or your community actively supports or engages with the populations God seems to care about in these verses?
  2. If you put together a list of resolutions this year, what could you add or revise that would help you walk closer in alignment with what God seems to expect of us in these passages?

For the Kids

  1. Who does God say we should be caring for?
  2. What similarities do you see in the verses that were shared today?

Action

The call to care for all of the world’s hurting can be overwhelming, but God doesn’t really call you to save the world. That’s God’s job, and he actually did that already, through his Son, Jesus, so stop fussing so much. Maybe just pick one of your heart’s passions—the widows, the orphans, the homeless, the immigrants, the elderly, the sick, the infants, the imprisoned, the abused, the addicted, the estranged, the outcasts, the planet—and give some of your time and energy to loving and caring for them. This year, make this small obedience an exercise of your trust in God, a response of gratitude and love.

Readings

If you grew up in the “Every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation” evangelical mission movement, like me, maybe you felt as if the only way you could make a difference and live for God was to go out there—somewhere—and save the world. In Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World, Amy Peterson shares what it was like to take up the charge and “set the world on fire” for Christ as a missionary, and what she learned along the way about obedience to Christ and her identity as a follower of God.

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