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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. In the lord's Prayer each Sunday many Christians petition the lord with
Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In the lord's Prayer each Sunday
many Christians petition the lord with
the prayer: 'Thy kingdom rome, thy will be
dOlle on earth as it is in heaven."
But then
too many leave it at that: they utter the
prayer with their mouths as a litua!, but
care little about its implementation in
their lives as dULY. Are we numbered
among them? And what can be done to
correct this?
1. The Necessity of Hope
From the 1500s through most of the
1800shopewasaprevalentfeatureofthe
Zechariah 8:1-13; Romans 4:13-22
A leading interpretive prindple of
prophecy is: All prophecy has an ethical
purpose . That is, God does not grant
!mowledge of the futureasasupernatural
version of "Trivial Pursuit." He grants
glimpses of the flow of future history so
that His people might be moved to serve
Him more diligently and faithfully.
back and forth between the historical
and the spiritual application, as I have
done in other places.
In this chapter we come upon the
second portion of the prophetic answer to
the question of the Jews from Bethel,
which is recorded in Zechariah 7:3. Inour
last message we noted that the first pan of
the answer was in the form of rebuke for
their sinfulness inattempting to gain God's
favor through mechanical, ritualistic
worship. But in this section, he moves
beyond the rebuke, to offer a much more
cheering answer to the inquiry.
I do this because we liveina time that
has witnessed the rising tide of infidelity
in our once-Christian land. The retreat
of Christians from cultureisevidencedin
such phrases as: "The darker the night
gets the lighter my heart gets" (R A.
Torrey); "You don't polish brass on a
sinking ship' O. Vernon McGee); "We
are to be fishers of men, not to clean up
the fish bowl" (Hal Undsey).
Christian faith and ministry. That time
peliod covered Western history from the
Protestant Reformation until the rise of
the modem prophecy movement, which
was dominated by an historically
pessimistic dispensationalistn. That era
ofQlUrchHistorywaswidelyin!luenced
byan optimisticpostmillennialism, which
taught with fervency that "the Gospel is the
power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1: 16)
Because of this retreat there are
precious few Christians in Amelica who
have any real hope for the futurein terms
of the advancement of Christ's cause in
contemporary history. (Though by the
grace of God, theirnumbers are just now
beginning to show some increase.) Even
more lamentable, there are many who
call themselves Christians, who really do
not even care about the decline of
Christian values and infiuence.
that would conven the world to Christ.
Postmillennialists were persuaded that
Christ is now at the right hand of God
reigning until all of His enemies would
become a footsto ol for His feet (1 Cor.
15:20-25). It unflinchingly held thatthe
Kingdom of Christ would penetrate the
entire world like leaven, until the whole
was leavened (Matt. 13:33).
Thus, that was an era characterized
byagreathopewhichcausedgreatstrides
for Western culture. From the
Reformati on ,
which antedated the
In this message we will seek to draw
forth imponant spiritual plinciples for
our own lives. Whereas in the next
message we will return to the sameverses
toconsidermoredirectlyhowthispassage
applied to the Jews and the outworking
of history under God's decree. I do this
because as I studied this passage I was
struck with how universal an ethical
message may be gained from this
prophetic revelation. I determined to
deal with that universal message in a
separate message, rather than shifting
In both cases, these Christians have
solitdeBible-basedhopethattheirprayers
and\aborstoward the advance ofChrist's
kingdom are either non-existent or are
altogether hindered by pessimism.
The
spiritual plinciples involved in this
passage speak to just such a state of
affairs, and urge us to persistence in our
faith against all odds.
secular, atheistic Enlightenment, we see
the dramatic spread of Christianity
throughout much of the world. Thlswas
seeninthegreatforeignmissionsoutreach
from William Carey on down. In order
to enhance the spread of the Gospel and
the promotion of Scripture truth, the
Reformation prompted th e furtherance
of mass education and the industrial
revolution, which joined to raise the
standard of living for the common man.
It generated the rise of a free and
prosperousAmetica, of which historian
Sidney Ahlstrom and others note that

October, 1992 l' TIlE COUNSEL of Chalcedon f

21

75% of those claiming independence in 1776 were of rerormed persuasion (and hence were largely postmillennial).

All of this hope-filled activity and more, ultimately is traceable back to a God-centered, Bible-based optimism. It doesnotdrawfromsomeethereal, poetic longing of fallen man or some mindless, smiley-face optimism. But that God-centered hope, though largely lost today among evangelicals, was charactedstic of the prophets and the aposdes, thus of biblical faith. And itis the evident backdrop for ourpassage.

We must remember that in the preceding chapter, God rebuked Judah rorhersinful, empty formalism in worship. There she was chastised with words for her ritualistic response to God's freeing her from the Babylonian Captivity. But in this portion of God's responsetoJudah, wefind:

hope(Zech.8:4-5,12,l3).

And this hope is based on nothing less than the presence of God with His people.

have undergirding the reality of the

message of hope: "Thus saith the Lord."

This authoritative statement occurs ten rimes, or in almost every other verse (Zech. 8:2,3,4,7,9,14, 19,20,23). Though the prophetic voice of God was silent inJemsalem for the whole seventy years of captivity, now it has returned in force.

Does not God inform us who are His people throughHisWordthatwe are the temple of the Lord (2 Cor. 6: 16), because

of Christianity. Forwithin us dwells the Holy One of God.

How can it be that the people of God coUld have no hope? How could it be that there would be any problem too big for His Church to overcome? Earlier in Zechariah 4:10 we heard the command

"do not despise the d£!Y oj small things."

Herewe hearitscounterpart, given pardy as a rebuke to Judah, but intended ultimately as an encouragement: "If It be

marvellous in

the

eyes

oj the remnant oj this

people in these d£!Ys, should italso be marvellous in mine

eyes?"

 

Notice that this

statement is introduced and closed with "thus saith

the Lord."

The word

"marvellous"heremightbe

translated

today

by

"incredible"

or

"too

difficUlt." Consider what God is saying. The small number of

Jewswhocame back from the Babylonian Captivity are buta "remnant.' What is worse, they are a fearful remnant, for they focus on their own smallness rather than the largeness of God. Just becauseitistoomarvellous for them, why should that mean it is too

75% of those claiming independence in 1776 were of rerormed persuasion (and hence were largely postmillennial).

we have the Spirit of Christ in us (Rom.

 

8:9)?

Are we not encouraged by the

 

Theheartthrobofthiswholecheertng passage is contained in the few words of

prospect ''La, I am with you until

the endoJ

the age" (Matt. 28:20)? Do we not hear

promise, "I will never leave nor Jorsake

Zechariah8:3. TheLordofhostsdec1ares:

the apostle inform us of "Christ in us, the

difficult forthe Lord of hosts? ,

the Lord

''! am returned unto Zion." Despite Israel's tribulation at thehandsofBabylon, when

hopeojglory" (Col. 1:27). DidChdstnot

of thousands upon thousands of angelic hosts?

she was forsaken of God, despite her

you' (Beb. l3:5)? Can we not, then, cry

WhydidJudahhaveno hope? Why

current frailty and poverty, these words

with Paul,

"I can do all things through

do modern Chdsrians have no hope?

resound with hope: "I am returned unto

Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:l3)?

Because they look at the largeness of the

Zion."

This is the heart of the biblical hope:

opposition. They lookin thenewspapers

We have Godwithus. ThatiswhyJesus iscalledin prophecy, "Immanuel,"wbich

regarding current trends. But they ~ looking from their finite perspective, not

The truth of the presence of Godis so important thatitintroduces the cheerful

prospect in the following verses.

like

Jolm's vision in Revelation, which opens withChdstwalkingamongthechurches,

here Zechariah and the people learn that the Lord is ''returned unto Zion."

means"Godwithus"(Isa.7:14;Matt.l:2l).

Themostimportant element for blessing and prosperity is the presence of God. Hence, the cheering prospect: I am returned unto Zion.

God's infinite perspective. They are looking at what currendy is, not what God has ordained shall ultimately be. ThisisquitereminiscentofthetenJewish spiesinNumbers l3:31-33, who shrank from the God-given task.

The evidence of His return is so necessary that over and over again we

Wecanworkoutourproblems. We can have success in our lives. We can have a confidencein the future prospects

Do you think God is troubled by communism or Islam or secular

  • 22 ~ THE COUNSEL of Chalcedon ~ October, 1992

humanism? These are but dust to be

The importance of truth for the hope

It should not pass our notice that a

In the Jewish situation in Zechariah's

sweptawayinHis own good time,justas God swept away the sons of Anak in the Promised Land. These are giants requiringbutonegoodstone.JesusChrist

of the progress of the human race lies in the nature of reality. This world is the world that God created. Consequently, it operates according to His divine plan

day, there was the matter of building the dty of God, buildingtheirculture, around the worship of God. This required the temple, which had been so long delayed

(Dan. 2).

and functions in terms of His divine

in rebUilding.

The remnant felt their

They are nothing before the grace of

Doesnot God promise ofus: "theyshall

principles. Adam was given thernandate

own weakness against the opposition.

God, which is the very power of God,

by God to develop the world's resources

But God's hope, God's truth, urges

which as we noted earlier will make a

(Gen. 1:26-28). As an unfallencreature

otherwise, Zechariah 8:9, 13.

Despite

plain of all the mountainous opposition (Zech.4:7). Why should Christians be embarrassedattheprospectofpromoting a Christian worldview, or of urging the implementation of Christian prindples, because of the flash and glitz of the secularists? "With God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26).

bemypeople, andlwillbe their God" (Zech.

created in the image of God, He would have done so according to divine principles - not in opposition to them. He would have done so according to the truth.

decline in faith in God and commitment to His Law as our standard today has givenrisetoanincreaseindrugaddiction. God created man with an inner longing

the opposition before them, the Jews were to "let their hands be strong." The task of rebuilding the temple and the godly culture that would flow from it was to be undertaken in strength. They were to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Faithis ofteneasieron the hypothetical level. But on the practical level it becomes a different thing: "I have hope in my

8:8b)?

for Him; we need to have a meaning outside ourselves. It is no acddent that

mind, but my life is another story." We

2. The Necessity of Truth

can offer words of comfort to

others who

But it is incumbent upon us to know that we cannot just formalistically claim

sexual promiscuity generates all sorts of dreaded diseases. Godintended faithful, monogamous marriages. Itisnowonder

may be suffering around us. But sometimes we do not so easily live by the words of hope when we ourselves suffer.

the name of God.

We cannot merely

that atheistic communism is bankrupt.

show up at church and expect all to fall

We must build a Christian culture

God intended human freedom and the

Though we are

the children -of

into place. That was Israel's problem; it must not be ours.

right of private property and free exchange. It should not surprise us that Islam is noted for its terrorism. False

Abraham by faith, we too often do not imitate his mith. According to Paul, Abraham had a sure hope: "against hope

basedon truth and righteousness.

Having

gods always generate evil actions.

he hoped" (Rom 4: 18.) And because of

a naked hope is not enough in itself. Let us notice how truth and righteousness are urged in the context of the hope of the

God's truth, God's Law, God'sWord, God'swisdomisnecessaryforthesmooth functioning of society and the proper

this Abraham was fully persuaded God was able to perform (Rom 4:21). To 0 manyChristiansaredoubtingThomases.

presence of God. Our hope is based on truth; hope is confirmed by the application of truth in righteous living.

Zechariah 8:3 speaks wondrously of the prospects for Zion. But because of the presence of God their dty must be known as a dty of truth; their mountain must be characterized by holiness. This draws a fundamental distinction between the reformed, postmillennial hope for

development of human culture. Those that hate the wisdom of God, love death (Prov. 8:36). God created an orderly universeoperatedbyorderly, predictable law. This allows for scientific inquiry. But modem sdentists believe in the ultimate irrationality of the universe and the randomness of reality -- despite the necessity of order to explain such!

We do not bother laboring for the promotion of Christianity, because the opposition is so strong against us. But hope, like faith, reqUires diligent labor. The Lord commands us to pray in faith and hope: "Giveus this day aurdaily bread" But then rnaywe sit back and expect it to come miraculously? Or do we not rather hear: "He that does not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thess. 3: 1O)?

And God's

truth is

to

sanctify us

We must be diligently involved as

history and that secularistic optimism

Oohn 17: 17). Which leads us to note:

promoted by liberal Social Gospel advocates. The secularist view is based

3. The Necessity of Labor

Christians. We must seek ways to letthe voice of Christ speaking in the Word of

on the myth of evolution. Our hope is based on beliefinand life lived according to the truth in God's Word, and nothing less. Zechariah 8:8 harkens back to that same concept.

Because of the setting fotth of divine hope, because of the call to establish righteousness on the foundation of truth, there is a consequent obligation to labor toward these ends.

God be heard in our culture. We must, as Christ said in another context, "endure to the end" (Matt. 24: 13). God's Word still speaks hope and truth today. It still commands faithful obedience and labor.

October, 1992 ~ THE COUNSEL of ChaIcedon ~ 23

As in worship, ChIistianity is not a "spectator sport" for "armchair Chrtstians." Ourfaithca1Isus to stand up . for Jesus. There is a false theology that urges us to "let go and let God." Maywe not fa]] for it. Rather, may we occupy until He comes (Luke 19:13).0

As in worship, ChIistianity is not a "spectator sport" for "armchair Chrtstians." Ourfaithca1Isus to stand up
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