Here’s a little quiz for you. Read through these three verses from Zechariah 1 and identify three ways that the Israelites sinfully reacted. Here’s a clue: each of the three ways starts with the letter “d.”
4 “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.
5 “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?
6 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.’”’” (NASB)
When I first read through these verses, even after several times, I skimmed over them not really able to delve into them to find any value. Yet, when I did some research, one source identified three ways that the Israelites sinned. In which verse would you link: disobedience, delay, and doubt?
The first and third one are most likely pretty obvious but the second one is more vague. Let’s look into them and let them be a warning so that we can trust God enough to not disobey, delay, or doubt.
Verse 4 refers to their disobedience and it does seem obvious because God is saying “You didn’t listen or give heed to Me.” That formed their evil ways and evil deeds. You and I do the same thing when we don’t follow God’s rules, guidelines, and directions. God wants only the best for us yet we think we know better.
The second word is delay, found in verse 5. This one is harder to identify. God asks about two groups of people: fathers and prophets. Of course, “fathers” refers to all the Israelites who came before them. God is saying, “Life is short. You don’t have time to delay obeying Me. Look at these people and prophets. They thought they had lots of time but they delayed. Now they’re gone and their opportunity is gone too.”
Delaying to obey the Lord, at least to me, sometimes seems less “disobedient” than good ol’ plain disobedience. I reason, “It’s not that I’m disobeying, I’m just holding off. I’m sure I’ll obey soon enough. God is patient.”
I’m sad to say how often I fall for this one. I have to remind myself that delaying is disobedience!
But wait that’s not all!
Verse 6 is about doubt. Read it again. God is saying, “I told you what would happen but you doubted me. You didn’t believe it would happen, therefore your actions revealed your ungodly heart.”
Did you notice the word “overtake” in the verse (NASB)? It’s a Hebrew word meaning catching up and taking hold of someone who is trying to flee. It’s a hunting term about how someone pursues and then catches up with their target.
The Israelites tried to get away from God. But God is too good at “catching up” and fulfilling the plan He had all along. He is sovereign and He knows all that He wants to do and will do. The Israelites’s non-cooperation didn’t change a thing except get them into trouble. Did they really think they could out-run the Lord God Almighty?
Of these three “reactions”–disobedience, delay, and doubt–which are most prone for you to fall into? Of course, they are interrelated and they are all “disobedience.” But sometimes it helps to be more specific about what we’re choosing to do.
The good news? It’s in these same verses. God goes to great lengths to try to bring the Israelites back to Himself. He sends the prophets to cry out, “Return to the Lord God Almighty who loves you and knows what’s best for you.”
Can you hear God’s heart in these verses? He cries out, pursues, and tries to convince them to mend their ways. What hope and joy to know God is reaching out to us in the same ways. There is always room for turning from our disobedience, delay, and doubt, and start afresh in fellowship and obedience to Him.