Encouraging Words

Today’s reading:  Zechariah 8

Do you ever find yourself in need of encouraging words?  Do you always know when you need them?  Yesterday, I had coffee with a leader I’d worked with in the past.  I saw her in the hallway last week and scheduled time to connect just because I hadn’t seen her in a few months.  For about 30 minutes, she caught me up on her kids, her studies, and her job.  It was so good to talk with her.  Shortly after I returned to my office, she sent the following message –

“Thank you for the conversation.  I feel better just talking.  Your spirit is contagious!”

I didn’t realize my friend was in need of such encouragement until after we were together.  These are tough times.  I am convinced that day after day God continues to put me in the path of people who need encouragement.  I am not a prophet or a trained therapist, and I don’t have answers to most people’s problems, but somehow God puts encouraging words for others on my heart.  The result over the past couple of months has been a steady stream of visitors with whom I get to share messages of hope.

Our text for today, Zechariah 8, is about encouraging words.  This chapter was written in about 520 B.C.  God’s people had returned from captivity in Babylon and were supposed to be rebuilding the temple and re-establishing their nation.  Their work, however, had stalled because of the opposition they faced from hostile neighbors and complacency (which Shelly talked about yesterday).  Like the prophet Haggai, God’s prophet Zechariah’s job was to encourage the people to persist.  Zechariah’s approach was to motivate God’s people by giving them a vision of the future when the long-awaited Messiah would come to rescue his people and reign forever.  The messages he shared are still relevant and should be sources of encouragement for us today.  Let’s take a look at a few:

  • God will protect his people from their enemies.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west.  I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God” (Zechariah 8:7-8).

  • God will provide for his people.

For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you.  The grapevines will be heavy with fruit.  The earth will produce its crops, and the sky will release the dew.  Once more I will make the remnant in Judah and Israel the heirs of the blessings (Zechariah 8:12).

  • God keeps his promises.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster on you and showed no pity when your ancestors angered me,” says the Lord Almighty, “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid (Zechariah 8:14-15).

God’s promises come with expectations for his people – to tell the truth, exercise justice, and live peacefully.  In reality, if we consistently met these expectations, I expect we would need far less encouragement than we often do.

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord (Zechariah 8:16-17).