SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
August 19, 2007
God Calls Us to Repent and Let Him Handle Our Past
Zechariah 1:1-6; 7:8-14; 8:16-17, 20-21, 23
Key Verse: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. – Zechariah 1:3
Zechariah may have been a “minor” prophet but he delivered a “major” message to the Israelites of his day. He urged them to learn from the past, repent of their sins, get busy rebuilding the temple, and have confidence in God’s plan for the ultimate redemption of the world. As much as any of the 12 minor prophets, Zechariah saw the big picture of what God was doing for the whole world.
Zechariah and Haggai, another of the Minor Prophets, were buddies in a sense. They were in the right place at the right time. The time was about 520 BC.
Fifteen years earlier the Jews had
returned from captivity in
Zechariah told the people to look back and observe the foolishness of their ancestors. When God told them to turn from their evil ways and return to him, the people ignored God’s call. It was for their disobedience that God allowed them to be taken into captivity and for their temple to be destroyed.
A backward look can be helpful or harmful. It depends on how you view the past. You can recall that in the “good old days” life was lived at a slower pace. These days most of are stressed out from living in “the fast lane.” On the other hand, was life really better in the days of our parents? Some of our parents used an “outhouse” because there was no toilet in their home.
When it comes to our sins, a look at our past sometimes can be paralyzing. Some of us feel such shame and guilt that we suppose there is no way God can forgive us or use us now. To think like this puts us in bondage to the past. This bondage renders us incapable of experiencing either the joy of God’s forgiving grace or the thrill of being able to use our little lives to honor Jesus today.
Pastors have the unique privilege often of helping repentant sinners embrace God’s sweet forgiveness. When we encounter a person bound up in the guilt of past sins, we can tell them the good news that their sins are forgiven. Often troubled sinners cannot really believe in God’s forgiving love until they hear Christ’s words spoken to them by a caring pastor or Christian friend: “Your sins are forgiven.” That can be a decisive, liberating moment for a truly repentant person.
Zechariah and Haggai are gone. They had their turn at bat. They did a good job of warning people and urging them to turn from evil and return to faith in God.
Today we have our turn at bat. Every day we have the opportunity to step up the plate and do our best to help people have hope that God can free them from their past sins and use them in kingdom work today.
Perhaps you can think right now of some troubled person to whom God may be opening the door for you to speak the words in love:
“Your sins are forgiven. God is ready to deliver you from bondage to your past. He has a plan for your life. He wants you to serve him in your home, and in your work, by living so that you bring honor to the name of your Lord Jesus Christ. Let me pray with you as you accept Christ’s forgiveness and embrace his grace to begin a new life. Let us walk together, in the here and now, the journey of following Christ and doing the work he is calling us to do today.”
There are many who are ready to heed God’s call to repentance and, set free from the past, begin a new life as servants of Jesus Christ. If they can hear a word of hope spoken in love from believers like you and me, surely their names can be added to the Book of Life.
Where shall we begin? Wherever the Spirit leads! Listen and obey him and he will multiply your joy!
It is your turn to bat. + + + +