I am coming and…

If you’re anything like me, then you often get confused between the books of Zephaniah and Zechariah. Maybe I’m just intellectually challenged (okay, so strike the “maybe”), but I frequently find myself forgetting which comes first in the Bible and which is the last book of the OT, let alone what they say. Yesterday, though, I discovered in my ongoing study of joy that Zephaniah is primarily about coming judgment. Zechariah, on the other hand, was written to the Israelites in exile to tell them about the hope which was coming: when they finally returned to the Lord so that He could return to them, they would be restored. It was only a matter of time now.

I think of all the things that probably came to the exiles’ minds along with the promise of restoration. A rebuilt Jerusalem, home, national identity and honor seem to top the list, but I also think about the grain and wine and oil and all the other things that would finally be provided once more. Israel would be restored to its height of glory, and so it makes sense that we should find the word joy in Zechariah 2:10. Who wouldn’t rejoice at such prospects?

But it wasn’t the restoration of Jerusalem, the reconstruction of their homes, or even the rebuilding of their nation and food supply that God thought should compel them to rejoice. No. In fact, it was far simpler than that. Instead, we see this: “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst.”

Did you catch that? Rather than celebrating the return of stuff or even safety, the exiled people of Israel were bid to rejoice at the notion that God was coming and would soon dwell, once more, in their midst.

What do I rejoice about? Do I reserve my joy for moments when I know that I’m about to get all the stuff of my wildest dreams, or is my biggest source of joy found in the presence and power of the Lord Most High? I hope that it’s the latter, but to be honest, I know of many more instances where I fail on this front.

God promises to do amazing things for me as His follower. But He doesn’t want that to be the basis of our relationship. Instead, He wants us to be more excited simply to see Him than any of the gifts that He brings.

I suppose it’s like a conversation that our family had in the car the other day. Andrew, at four years of age, is really looking forward to Christmas, and he and Bekah were talking about how excited they were to get presents when my wife told them that Christmas wasn’t about getting presents. It was about Jesus coming to live on earth. And if we didn’t get any presents at all on Christmas, it would still be about Jesus. Well, my son took that to mean that he wasn’t going to get any presents, and so he started to throw himself a little tantrum. Because for him, though he can tell us that Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, he is really interested in the presents.

It’s easy to think that Andrew is just a kid. He doesn’t understand. He’s not mature enough to “get it” just yet. But how often do I act the same way toward God? I rejoice when He showers me with blessings and gives me stuff (aka presents). But when He Himself shows up, with no real presents in hand, I’m disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong. Blessings and stuff are nice. But I should be far more excited – far more joy-filled – at the opportunity to hang out with Him which I have on a daily basis. No, I don’t have to wait until church on Sunday to spend time with the Lord. I should – I must – spend time with Him daily. And that time shouldn’t be like when I was a kid and we went to visit my great grandmother, whose house was stuffy and toy-less, and so we all sat on the couch, quiet and still, resentfully, while Dad and Mom and Great Grandma talked. It should be a time of joy.

I need to rejoice in the presence of God, not just the stuff that He brings to amuse me, impress me, or even just occupy me


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