Sunday School Lessons


Commentary by Walter Albritton


June 22


God Gives Us Hope for the Future


Zechariah 8.

Key Verse: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain. – Zechariah 8:3


            Haggai did not have to stand alone in speaking for the Lord. God sent the prophet Zechariah to stand with him. Together they encouraged the people to obey God and finish the task of building the new temple.

            An old camp meeting song includes this refrain: “God’s not dead, He is alive; God’s not dead, He is alive.” Zechariah wanted the Israelites to know that God was not dead, nor was he sleeping. As the prophet said, “the Lord …has roused himself from his holy dwelling…and he is “coming to live among” his people! (2:13, 2:10).

            Zechariah inspired the people by giving them hope for the future. The prophet shared a great vision of what God was coming to do. He persuaded the people that God had great plans for them and for the holy city. Soon the streets of Jerusalem would be “full of boys and girls playing in the streets.”

            Moreover, the prophet said, the day is coming when God will make all who are God’s people his people, “and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.”

            Essentially, Zechariah brought the people vision and encouragement. Their hope for the future was restored. God-given prosperity would be theirs again.

            The prophet’s words “Let your hands be strong,” mean much to me. Often when I write to others, I add a prayer that the Lord “will strengthen your hands as you serve our Lord Jesus.”

            Our hands symbolize work. We use our hands in almost everything we do. Even as I use my brain to compose these words, my brain is signaling my hands to punch the keyboard to enter these sentences on the computer screen. We are a people who believe in trained minds, warm hearts, and willing hands.

            The work of ministry is hard work. Pastors cannot inspire their people with pabulum from the pulpit. Sermons that are inspiring, and intellectually challenging, demand hard work. Serious study, careful preparation, and earnest prayer are required from the preacher who wishes to offer people a fresh word from the Lord.

            Pessimism, indifference, and discouragement abound in our churches. Some of our churches seem more like funeral chapels than a sanctuary of the living God. Little wonder, however, that there is no excitement in the pews when the one in the pulpit is mumbling insipid platitudes with the enthusiasm of a fence post.

            Lazy preachers cannot motivate people to believe the promises of God or to put their hands to the plow and use their hands to serve Christ. On the other hand, preachers who are willing to do “whatever it takes” to preach the Word with power and excitement can expect God to make their voices, as well as their hands, strong and effective.

            God still wants his people to care for the elderly, to offer help and hope to the poor, and to make life safe enough for boys and girls to play in our streets. He still wants his people to see the world as our parish, and to strengthen the hands of our missionary friends who serve him in faraway places like Ecuador and Zambia.

            Haggai had his day. Zechariah had his. Now it is our turn. This is our day to “hear” what God is saying to our people, and to offer them vision and encouragement for the work He has for us to do.

            Little will be gained by merely studying and reciting what we learn from reading the strong sermons of Zechariah. To do no more will be boring indeed.

            Much may come from our efforts, however, if after reading Zechariah, we plead with God to give us a fresh vision of the work He wants us to do where we live. To share this vision with conviction like that of Zechariah will give God a chance to awaken others to the joy of kingdom living.

            May God make us willing to settle for nothing less. + + + +