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Evangel Tabernacle | July 16, 2019

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Do We Still Believe There’s A Future?

Do We Still Believe There’s A Future?

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Scripture Reading: Zechariah 8:1-23 (NIV)

Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me.

V2 – This is what the Lord Almighty says, “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”

V3 – This is what the Lord says, “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”

V4 – This is what the Lord Almighty says, “Once again men and women of ripe and old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age.

V5 – The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”

V6 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty.

V7 – This is what the Lord Almighty says, “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west.

V8 – 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.”

V9 – This is what the Lord Almighty says, “You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.

V10 – Before that time there were no wages for man or beast. No one could go about his business safely because of his enemy, for I had turned every man against his neighbor.

V11 – But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the Lord Almighty.

V12 – “The seeds will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of the people.

V13 – As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”

V14 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me,” says the Lord Almighty,

V15 – “So now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid.

V16 – These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true judgment in your courts;

V17 – do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.

V18- Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me.

V19 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”

V20 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come,

V21 – and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.”

V22 – And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”

V23 – This is what the Lord Almighty says, “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.”
1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, establish and strengthen you.

The good news I want to share with all of you today is God wants your bad memories of your past to fade and be replaced by an expectation of hope for the future. Our case in point is the children of Israel in Zechariah. They had disobeyed the Lord and because of that, the Lord chastised them by letting them go into exile in the land of Babylon for 70 years. 70 years is a long time but it is not permanent. After they had suffered a little while, which is 70 years, God had plans to restore them. God still had a future for them. That’s the way God works. The promises of the restoration for the children of Israel are delineated in the whole chapter of Zechariah 8. There God promises that Jerusalem shall be restored, reformed, replenished, that the country shall be rich, and the affairs of the nations shall be successful, their reputation retrieved, and their state in all respects undergo the reverse of what it had been for many years past. God then exhorts them to reform what was amiss among them, so that they might be ready for these favors designed for them. In the latter of these messages, God promises that their fasts should be superseded by the return of mercy and that thereupon they should be replenished, enriched and strengthened, by the accession of foreigners to them. Israel, no matter how dire they are at present has a future for them because God promises so in Zechariah 8.

How about us? Like the children of Israel, we all make mistakes and we commit sins at one time or another and because of that, God exiles us to a certain servitude or suffering for a period of time. Do we because of the dealing of God, allow our suffering to define us to the exclusion of any good future for us? Do we still dare to believe that something good will emerge at the end of our dark tunnel? To break through our melancholic outlook of our future, God reveals to Zechariah what He will do BEYOND THE PAINFUL REALITIES OF THE PRESENT. Ten times, God uses the phrases, “Thus says the Lord of host (KJV) or This is what the Lord Almighty says (NIV)” to emphasize the REALITY OF A FUTURE for us, despite our painful present. Ten times, God uses His own name to assure us of the certainty of a good future. Why? Because there is a tendency in us to disbelieve God for a good future.

Belief! That’s the missing ingredient in many of us. “Do we still believe there is a future for us despite our past or even our painful present?” That’s the important question we should all be asking ourselves this morning – ‘DO WE STILL BELIEVE THERE’S A FUTURE?’ And that’s the title of my message today.

For our future:

Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of God’s Care?

Zechariah 8:1 (NIV) – Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me. V2 – This is what the Lord Almighty says, “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.
God has announced His zeal for Jerusalem in Zechariah 1:14. He was zealous because He has given His covenantal promise that He would be faithful to what He had promised to do. Unfortunately, however, when the Lord was but “a little angry” (1:15) with Israel and used her enemies to punish her, her enemies exceeded their divine orders and showed no mercy on Israel. So that incurs God’s jealousy or zeal to care for Israel and to turn around and punish Israel’s enemies instead.

Application
Because of our sins, God many times allows Satan, a Pharaoh or a Nebuchadnezzar to punish us. God would allow them to ride over our heads for a while. But it is only for a season of time. When Satan or men exceed their divine order and show us no mercy, God will out of his zeal for us, step in and vindicate us. He will turn around to deal with our enemies instead. I told you that the time of our chastisement for our mistake concerning the land is over.


7 years have passed. It is enough. Yet Satan refuses to let us go and want to exact from us more than we are supposed to pay. Today, we have to stand up to this oppression and rise in our belief that God sees this injustice. He is jealous and zealous for our cause. He cares for what is happening to us and He will do something on our behalf.

Do you still believe in the promise that God cares for you or do you believe a lie that because Satan and men have continued all these long years in harassing you and oppressing you, your outlook for the future is – No man cares for me; God has abandoned me?. No! God wants to tell you in your future, you can be assured to see His care there. He is a jealous God. He won’t let the enemies touch you more than they are allowed to. So rise up.

Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of God’s Presence?

V3- This is what the Lord says,

I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.

As in the days before the exile, God’s special presence would rest upon Jerusalem, ensuring blessing, prosperity and protection for the nation. The phrase “I will return” is very emphatic concerning the future of the children of Israel. That means in the future, God would return to make Jerusalem a City of Truth and the temple mount will be called the Holy Mountain because God will dwell there. Spiritually, this prophecy was fulfilled by the restoration of the nation and the rebuilding of the temple during Ezra’s time but the prophecy would be literally realized at Christ’s return.

Application
In our present pain, it may seem that the Lord has left us. Isaiah 54:7-8 – “For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer. We all have to go through the valley of spiritual darkness, where God apparently disappears from us. But it is only for a brief moment that He “forsakes” us because in the future, He promises to gather you and to shower upon you His compassion. He will return to you. Do you believe that? Do you see in your future, the return of God’s presence and anointing upon your life again? He did that to the children of Israel, He will return to you again because He is the God who declares,


The mountain may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of Peace And Security?

Once again men and women of ripe and old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age.

V5 – The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.
Material blessings follow spiritual blessings. People will live safely to an old age and the land will be blessed with many children who play unafraid in the streets. Once more we find a partial fulfillment of the passage in postexilic Israel but perfect peace and security await Messiah.
As we look at Israel today, with the unceasing war between the Palestinians and them, it seems almost impossible to witness the reality of this future promise for them. Today, it is never safe for the Arabs and the Israeli people and kids to be living in the West bank and the Gaza strip.
Constant bombing and sabotage between these two countries are occurring. As we view the tragic events in Israel today, we can only pray that this prophecy will be fulfilled soon and it will surely be fulfilled.

Application
How about you? Do you believe in the future restoration of peace and security to the land of Philippines? I know many of you will say, it is very unlikely. You see, it is because Philippines has long been steeped in corruption and crime that we have allowed the painful realities of things to erardicate the possibility of a good future. That’s why, I ask you again, Do we still believe we have a future of peace and security for Philippines? I believe there is, if God’s people persist in their faith, prayer and godly living.

Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of God’s Power?

It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty.
The Hebrew word “pala” rendered “it is marvelous” is a magnificent word with a rich history of associations and a deep theological heritage. It is one of the titles Isaiah used for the Son who was to be born in the Davidic line. His name was to be “Wonderful”. It means the One who does “difficult things” or “miraculous” or “hard” tasks.

The same Hebrew word was used in Genesis 18:14 where God asked Abraham on why it was that Sarah, who was ninety years of age and in menopause, laughed when she and her 100-year-old husband were told they were going to bear a son? “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” The word was used too, in Jeremiah. Jeremiah was told to buy some land just as the Babylonians were about to close in on and capture the land. Jeremiah affirmed, “There is nothing too hard for the Lord” (32:17). Later the Lord asked Jeremiah:

Is anything too hard for Me?(32:26). V6a (NIV) – “Will it also be marvelous in My eyes [or too hard for Me?]”

LB- The Lord says, “This seems unbelievable to you – a remnant, small, discouraged as you are – but it is no great thing for me.”

The accomplishment of these amazing promises may seem impossible (marvelous) to human beings but not to the Lord Almighty. “For the one who creates and commands all the forces of heaven and earth, nothing is too difficult.” In Mark 10:27, Jesus proclaimed that “all things are possible with God.”

Application
Could it be that there are some things in your mind about your future that you find it too hard for God to fulfill? You look at yourself – small, a nobody, discouraged, overage, uneducated, poor, ugly and you look into your future and say to God – God this is too hard for you. This is too marvelous for you. You can’t fulfill my future. You can’t give me a good job in the future because I’m not in college or I did not graduate from UP; I can’t find a spouse because I am dark and ugly; I can’t marry because I am 30 and above already.

Nobody will marry me because of my bad family background. Some of you Chinese girls who want to marry Chinese guys might be saying, “I don’t think I can find one in Evangel.” You can if you believe that by sending a Chinese guy into a church is not a thing too hard for God. God wants you this morning to believe in His power for your future. He is able to fulfill everything good things He has promised you about your future even though you may be in an impossible situation to see it fulfilled, like Sarah and her menopausal state. You can because God is powerful. He is able. He loves to bring into existence things that were nothing.


Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of Israel’s Regathering?

V7- This is what the Lord Almighty says,

I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west.
V8- 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.”

The Lord promises to regather his people from the nations where they had been scattered. The phrase “the countries of the east and the west” refers to Babylon and Egypt respectively – the areas where most Jews had been exiled.

These directions represent TOTALITY because the passage indicates that all God’s scattered people will come home.

Application
In the future, I too see many of Evangelites who are scattered all over the world to return back to Iloilo to serve the Lord together with us. Recently, we have a few Evangelites from the USA and overseas who came back for vacation. Whether it is Collin, Annie/Gerry or Oscar, I hear the same thing from them – we don’t intend to stay abroad permanently. We have intentions of coming back. So in the future, I see a regathering of all our early fruits to return back to Iloilo City and that includes the backsliders too.


Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of God’s Blessing?

V9- This is what the Lord Almighty says,

You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.

V10- Before that time there were no wages for man or beast. No one could go about his business safely because of his enemy, for I had turned every man against his neighbor.

V11- But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the Lord Almighty.>

V12- “The seeds will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of the people.

V13- As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.

By this time (518 B.C), the people were in the middle of temple construction and needed encouragement. Contrasting their dismal past with their present improved conditions and bright future would be an incentive to keep up the good work.

Note the key phrases “before that time” and “but now.” Before the people were obedient to God, they were beset with problems – the Samaritans were bitter foes of the returned exiles in Ezra 4:1-5; then there was no stability, security or prosperity for man or beast. But in spite of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem and their conspiracies, God would “now… treat the remnant of this people as in the former days.” Now God promised to reverse matters and bless the faithful nations with economic prosperity, safety from enemies, abundant crops and honor (a blessing) among the nations. Previously, foreigners had wished the appalling desolation of Israel on their enemies (an object of cursing); in the future they would wish Israel’s prosperity (as a blessing ) on friends. Both at the beginning and end of this oracle, the people are exhorted to be courageous (let your hands be strong).

Example
When we first got the Tabuc Suba land in 2003, many of our people were unemployed (no wages). Neither was there safety in the land itself, as is evidenced when we put up the walls around the land and the whole barangay went against us, demanding we give them a bigger right of the way for their footwalk. I remember those times, we had to call in the Swat team. You will recall how Bro Felipe was chopped by a bolo at his back by one of the people there. Those were the conditions before (no one could go about his business safely because of his enemy).

But God today challenges me to believe that there is a future of blessing for us and our land. God spoke to me through this verse, that He will reverse the situation for us and our land. Instead of us being the byword, He will save us and we will be a blessing. There will be a sowing of peace in the land of Tabuc Suba, evidenced by our “Blessing Bugas,” where many Tabuc Suba residents came to our church last December; God will open up the heaven to give us the dew of heaven, blessing my people today.

Today, many of you have jobs. God told me that He will cause all of you to enter into Tabuc Suba to possess all the land and all the blessings (V12- “The seeds will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of the people.) But our hands must be strong – we must lay the foundation and build the temple. Because this future blessing will only follow activity on our part and not passivity.

Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of God’s Favor?

Just as God had determined to bring judgment on their ancestors, now He had determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. They need not be afraid because God was on their side. For these good things to continue, however, the people must live holy lives. God emphasize four specific commands:

  1. Speak each man the truth to his neighbor (v16a) – Since God is truth, He expects no less than truth from His people in their daily dealings with each other.
  2. Render sound judgments in the dispensing of justice everywhere (v16c) – Corruption in court corrupts God’s purpose in the world.
  3. Keep your hearts pure by not indulging in vindictiveness or hatred against your neighbor. (v17a) – Once the inner disposition give way, every conceivable act of violence and sin against our neighbor is possible.

V14- This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me,” says the Lord Almighty,

V15-“So now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid.

V16- These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true judgment in your courts;

V17- do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.

Application
As God purposed to do evil when we sinned against Him, in our future, we will see God revert that stand – He will purpose to do good to us. This becomes a comfort and hope for me. For the last 6 years, it seems God had purposed to do evil to Pas Toh Nee and me. But then God says now He will purpose to do good to us. That’s what God declares to me. It seems too good to be true but I claim this promise.

Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of Great Celebration?

The fast of the 4th month is the day the Babylonians broke the walls of Jerusalem and entered Jerusalem. The fast of the 5th month is the day the temple of the Lord was burnt. The fast of the 7th month is the day Gedaliah the governor of Jerusalem was assassinated. The fast of the 10th month is the day Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Jerusalem.
V18 – Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me.
V19 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”
These somber, sad fasts would become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. The fasts would become feasts. No longer were the people to dwell on their miserable past but they were to look forward to a bright and joyous future with God. What a motivation for renewed zeal in the Lord’s work! God’s people have a great future ahead and should serve the Lord with excitement and joy. Love truth and peace is a warning. To preserve joyful festivals rather than sad fasts, the people must obey God.

Application
Fasting is our annual practice in Evangel since our church was birthed. But juice fast came about only in 1999 and continued till present. How many prolonged juice fasts have we engaged in? I remember the frustration and hopelessness I felt during those prolonged full fast. Inside me was this voice, “Why am I doing this? Is it worth it?” The reasons we engaged in fastings were manifold- some were for the church growth; some for personal reasons or dire needs and besetting sins; some for divine intervention for blessings long overdue. But God spoke to me that all our fastings will turn into feasting soon. In my future, I will see celebrations and feasting.

Do We Still Believe In The Promise Of A Great Harvest?

V20 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come,

V21- and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.” V22 – And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”

Here we are told that people from all over the world would travel to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat his favor. Israel’s God would be recognized by the world as the only true God. Though these verses could be applied spiritually to Gentiles coming to know God in this age, the primary focus is on the future messianic age when all the world’s people will acknowledge Christ as Lord.

Application
Do you still believe in the promise of a great harvest for Evangel in the future? I do. I know that once we move into the new building, our church will double in its attendance. I believe in the near future, the number of people who would turn to the Lord in Iloilo City will be significantly large (many people v22a) and people would view the matter of turning to the Lord as urgent enough to demand immediate attention (let us continue to go or let us go at once v21) God has spoken to me about this promise and last week, He confirmed His promise to Pas Toh Nee. He gave the same promise to both of us at separate times. With two as the witnesses, it means the word of God is established as true.

Do We Still Believe In The Promise That Jerusalem Will Be The Center Of Worship?

V23- This is what the Lord Almighty says, “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”
In the future, people from every nationality will travel to Jerusalem to “seek the Lord of hosts” That Jerusalem will be the center of worship in that future day can be seen as well inIsaiah 66:20, Micah 4;1-2 and Ezekiel 40-44.

So intense will be the desire of all the people of the earth to join the revived Jewish nation in the worship of the Living God. “In those days, ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (v23). The number “ten” is used here as an indefinite number signifying a large multitude.

The Gentiles will clutch on to the robes of any Jew whom they can find and beg him to let them go along with him as they go up to worship God. The Gentiles will be this persistent and intense because they will have finally heard that the ancient promise that God made to His people is true.

Application
Look at the world scenario today. It seems that certain religion is the formidable religion. But don’t be deceived by what your eyes see today. In the future, you will literally see the collapse of all religions and the rise of our God as the only one true God for the world. Jerusalem will be established as the center of world’s worship.


Example

I know you may call me arrogant or proud. But God reveals the future glory of Evangel Family Church to me- that our church will be established by Him as one of the main centers of worship. It seems impossible for this to be true seeing that 90% of the population of Iloilo is Roman Catholic. But I believe there is a future glory in store for this church. One day, many contacts will grab the sleeves of Evangelites and ask you to bring them to our church because they know the Lord is with you. That’s a glimpse into the future of our church. Do you believe it?

Conclusion

What is the level of your belief for your future? Have you because of a bad past; bad experience, bad memories and a painful present been molded to think bleakly about your future? God wants all your past memories to fade away today and He wants to replace it with an expectation of hope for the future. The Bible is never wrong to declare that God “knows the plans I have for you…plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a FUTURE and a hope.” (Jer 29:11). But many of us miss this great future because we have allowed our prolonged suffering to define our outlook into pessimism and fatalism. God wants you to reorder your belief system and faith.

Despite your past and your present suffering, do you still believe in the promise of:

  • God’s care
  • God’s presence
  • God’s peace and security
  • God’s power
  • God’s regathering of Israel
  • God’s blessing
  • God’s favor
  • God’s great celebration
  • God’s great harvest
  • God’s center of worship?
The devil has overextended himself in our lives. We foolishly have also allowed evil men and evil circumstances to overextend themselves in our lives to the point we lost all belief for a good future. Christ did not die to give you a mediocre future. He died to give you a great future. Come out of the lies of the devil. Don’t succumb to the evil agenda of evil men against your life. Rise up and reposition your belief system and claim this great future that God has promised you.

End of Sermon
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