The rambunctious bunch of prophets, eccentric and seemingly erratic, preach a message of repentance. Repent and return to the Lord. They preach the traditionalist party line, return to the ancient wisdom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Return to the Mount with Moses and follow the law of God. But the message is not an Israel first message. It is not a nationalist message to make Israel great again. Rather, as Zechariah, and others such as Isaiah, preach, the return to God expands the boundaries of national identity. “Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord…,” so the people of Israel will find themselves in the company of the many nations they have been embroiled with over the years. Again, this message is nothing but a conservative agenda to return to the roots of faith, to discover again the blessing that shall come through Abraham to all the nations, as promised by God in Genesis.
Zechariah came long before Jesus ever walked the earth. Abraham came long, long time before Zechariah. Yet, the promise of God, though delayed, came to fruition in Jesus. Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee so long ago but the promise of God fulfilled in him remains as fresh as the summer breeze. The theological word for this is hope. We have have hope because God has fulfilled promises in the past. We have hope because we have been promised heaven. The land of Canaan rests upon the horizons of our faith, the land we journey to everyday. It is the place where tears are wiped away, sickness is banished, and war is no more. The Spirit leads us, as through a wilderness, to the promised land. May we faithfully follow the Spirit’s leading.
The Daily Lectionary continues our reading of Paul’s discussion of both law and the Spirit. Notice that Sin is treated as a thing that influences us and coops things meant for good for evil purposes, in this case the law. Notice too that Paul treats the law as something that is not universally known. Many of a kind of Christianity would have it believed that the law, specifically the Big 10 commandments, are universally known, a kind of innate knowledge available to all people, in all places, at all times. Paul, however, says that we do not know covetousness until we know the law. We have to be taught what constitutes sinful action. We don’t know that lying is wrong until we read it as such. The law stands as God’s revelation to Israel. So it is revealed to those of faith what God desires and what constitutes as sin.
Many a tree has been cut down to produce literature that tells people how they are sinners, that they know they are sinners, because they have a shared moral basis upon a universally known moral law. These tracts litter hotel rooms, restaurant tables, and the sidewalk. This sort of evangelism is foreign to Paul and to the Gospel. God, by the Spirit, reveals to us that Jesus is God’s Son. In following Jesus, God reveals to us in Word and Table what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus. The moral life follows conversion, it does not precede it. Since conversion relies upon God’s revealed truth, evangelism depends upon testimony and giving witness to what God has done for you in Jesus Christ.