Zechariah 4:6 - Then he [the angel] said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts."
I'd like to tell you a story, a very old one. The children of Israel had returned to the Promised Land from captivity in Babylon and were trying to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. But on every side they faced seemingly insurmountable barriers. All the power and might seem to be on the side of their enemies. No doubt they longed for the armies that once had fought brilliantly under the command of their great King David, so that they might crush the opposition.
God, however, had a message for their governor Zerubbabel. It was delivered by an angel to Zechariah, the prophet. It was a message of hope. Zerubbabel was so discouraged that an attitude of defeatism threatened to scuttle the whole temple-building project. Nevertheless, time showed that there was a way through the difficulty, and that peace might prevail with the help of God.
Visions of universal and permanent peace are as old as the hills. They go back further into history than the night when the angel brought the message of peace on earth to shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem (see Luke 2:8-20). Even earlier, Isaiah, at the beginning of his book, speaks of the time when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4b).
But the perpetual conflict that seems to play out between individual nations, of course, extends to each of us on the individual level, too, right? There are folks in my town who are very hard to love. But when I have stood at the foot of Calvary and heard the Savior—who loved me enough to die for me-say to me as He points to every other human being: "These are My children for whom I died, love them, preach the Gospel to them, pray for them, help them in every possible way," then I see God's truth is brought home to me on a personal level.
When I contemplate how Christ suffered and died for all sins—mine as well as those of the meanest of sinners—it begins to soften my callous heart. In time, as God's Holy Spirit works inside of me, the dislike I've harbored against others begin to lessen; its vile grip on my mind and emotions weakens. Christian love does not spring into existence by itself; it's God's Spirit who shapes and transforms us to be more like Jesus (see John 16:12-15; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18; Philippians 2:1-18).
Put simply: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11). This is where we begin: generously demonstrating love toward others, wanting them to share in the hope of the Gospel and the joys of the Christian faith. We may find ourselves at odds with the world, but God's Spirit can shape us from the inside out, giving us the desire to love and be more like Jesus.
WE PRAY: Heavenly Father, help me to love my enemies. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From "Doing Your Part for Peace," a sermon from Rev. Dr. Armin Oldsen, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Have you ever been involved in a church's building project? How did that go?
2. Why was it so important for the returning Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem?
3. Do you pray for those you don't get along with? How has that helped?
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