“These are the things you must do: Speak truth to one another; make true and sound decisions within your city gates. Do not plot evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and do not love perjury, for I hate all this” — this is the Lord’s declaration.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been offered a gift with conditions? Those are always hard to accept. On the one hand, the gift may be really good, but, on the other hand, the conditions may be really hard to live with. While God offers us unconditional love, the gift of His presence does come with conditions. The decision we have to make is whether or not we are willing to live with those. It was the decision Zechariah was offering to the Israelites here.
I watched a movie with Lisa the other night about a woman who was offered a gift with conditions. She lived in California. Her great aunt had died in South Carolina. In her will she left her amazing house to her niece on the condition that she would live in it for a year. Well, the niece was at a place in life when everything in California had fallen apart and so she accepted the condition. It was a romantic comedy so of course she fell in love, stayed in the small, South Carolina town, and lived happily ever after.
Sometimes, though, gifts come with conditions that are too big to accept. I know a pastor who was once at a church where a man offered to write a $250,000 check for the church to use however it pleased. He also happened to be having an active affair and his one, albeit not directly stated, condition was that the pastor not say anything about the affair. Courageously, the pastor refused and said goodbye to the money.
God wanted to restore His people Israel. His heart was broken over the destruction He had allowed to come to them (even though He knew He was just in having done it and would have done it again had the circumstances been the same), and He wanted to see them whole and thriving once again.
In this chapter, Zechariah offers a powerful promise from God to see this very thing happen. Three different times in a row He paints a contrast between how things were and how they would be in the days ahead. The people were a curse. Life was hard. He had resolved to treat them badly because of their sinfulness. But now, He would give them peace, He would make them a blessing, and He would do good things to them. Do not be afraid, He tells them.
Quite a gift, yes? For a people who were broken it was a potent picture of the life they wanted to have again. There was just one thing they needed to do. Well, there were several things, but they all fit under a single heading. “These are the things you must do: Speak truth to one another; make true and sound decisions within your city gates. Do not plot evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and do not love perjury, for I hate all this.” In other words, for them, keep the Law. They needed to obey God’s commands.
This was the thing their ancestors had not done and which led to the trouble they had experienced. God wanted to lift them up once again, but His conditions for blessing were still the same. Keep His commands. If you want the gift, you’ve got to accept the conditions.
The same thing is true today. Now, again, this gift and its conditions were not given to us. This was for Israel. But, our faithful God still offers us a gift. In fact, He now offers it to all people. He offers the gift of eternal life—something far greater than what He set before them. If we want to be able to enjoy this gift, though, we’ve got to be willing to accept the conditions. If we want the blessings of God’s kingdom, we must live out the commands of God’s character.
Now, we don’t have to do it. We can refuse this gift. If we do, though, we will have to be ready to accept the alternative. And the alternative isn’t good. The alternative is life without Him which is eventually death. Doesn’t it seem better to accept life even if it means doing it His way? The choice is yours as it was for the people of Israel as well. Choose wisely.