How do we maintain faith in God when the future looks bleak?
The answer can be found in what is considered the “major” of the Minor Prophets—the 14 chapter Old Testament book written by the Prophet Zechariah.
I believe if you read the following excerpt from my new book, co-authored with Steve Howell, titled 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets (available on our website and on Kindle and Nook), you will marvel at the similarities between the people of Israel in the Prophet Zechariah’s time and God’s people today when asking that very same question.The #ProphetZechariah asks 'How do we maintain faith in #God when the future looks bleak?' Click To Tweet
Let’s begin with an introductory story, an elaborations on Scripture, an imaged scenario that the text hints at but doesn’t necessarily describe. We ask that you take this story as intended—as historical fiction to illustrate historical fact. Then we’ll dive directly into the book of Zechariah and learn what the prophet has to teach us concerning having faith when the future looks bleak.
The Little Boy
With a squeal of delight, the little boy raced in-between and around the wooden carts at dizzying speeds. His round, cherub-like face, was red tinged from playful exertion. He laughed out loud as he proudly evaded yet another oxen’s pointy horn. The animal pulling the battered wagon on which his mother and grandfather rode replied with a loud snort through its drippy nose.
So caught up in his daredevil antics that the boy barely heard his mother calling out yet again for her son to, “Stop screaming around and just walk alongside the wagon like a normal boy.” With an “Oh, Mom!” and a deep sigh of resignation, he resumed his place alongside the meandering cart. Quickly bored, for the billionth time on their journey he asked his mother, “Are we there yet?” He was expecting yet another grouchy, “No! And don’t ask me again.” But this time his mother’s reply surprised him. “Yes, Zechariah, we’re finally almost there.” He just couldn’t believe his ears. “Really? Really?!?” The only response was his grandfather’s long beard waggling as he softly chuckled.
Zechariah, being an intuitive boy, realized the spirits of his family had risen a notch, together with all those others who were traveling along with them in the long, winding caravan. The travelers’ eyes gleamed. They all sat up a little straighter, as if better posture could help them see over the next Judean hillside. Zechariah had to pick up his own pace a little to keep up as the whole wagon train unconsciously accelerated. Taking a skeptical side glance at the one remaining ox still pulling his family wagon, the boy wondered if that bag of bones could keep up the speedier pace much longer. He’d half expected the poor animal to keel over, and that was well over a hundred miles ago!
Four months and nearly 900 miles hadn’t just taken its toll on the animals, but on all of the weary travelers. Food stores had run low weeks back, and he’d cringed at just how thin and emaciated his friends had become. His sandals were worn frayed. Quite a number of wagons had fallen apart from the wear and tear. Beloved animals had been butchered into enough food to enable their owners to make it to the next trade caravan. His grandfather’s money sack was about as empty as the boy had ever seen it, thanks to the constant raids by bandits. And, the never-ending, broken-down road was always empty and lonely when it wasn’t dotted by the ever-hostile Samaritans watching from just above the ridgeline. They scared Zechariah the most with their angry faces.
And yet, despite the hardships of the road, the travelers had never complained. Well, other than that crotchety old prophet, Haggai, who was friends with his grandfather, but that was only now and then. Zechariah had long given up hoping his people would turn back, for they rode ever onward, driven by the high expectations of their ultimate destination. That magical place—that Jerusalem—his mother had said was what “put the smile” on all their gaunt faces.
His mother’s imagery puzzled the boy only for a nanosecond, for having a child’s hummingbird-like attention span, he’d already moved his sights onto something new. This time it was a donkey “hee-hawing” at the front of the pack, being ridden by the newly appointed governor. Grasping an official edict from the king, which Zechariah thought his leader carried protectively as if it was made of pure gold, the governor had led the people of Israel on what was to be a fantastic voyage. From Babylon on the plains of Shinar, up north along the Euphrates River, and then back south towards the city of Jerusalem, the remnant of Hebrew people were returning “home” after nearly 50 years.
Well, really, only some of the people had set out, Zechariah amended. He’d heard stories from his grandfather’s time about how the old Babylonians had taken his people by force from a far off land called Judah to the only city he’d ever known all his short life—Babylon. The Hebrew people had tried their best to make a life there, but his grandfather had complained that they were merely second-class citizens, or something like that. He didn’t quite understand what his family whispered about among themselves. Despite their troubles, though, most of the Hebrews didn’t want to leave. Shoot! Zechariah hadn’t wanted to leave. How was he going to visit his father’s grave now?
But, finally, they were supposedly there! As the governor’s donkey reared up over the crest of the final hill, it brayed hysterically and refused to go on. The ramshackle wagons began to pile up around the animal. Zechariah’s own family in turn reached the pinnacle and also stopped. Men and women, young and even old, were leaping off and running ahead of their carts to get their first view of that famed city from what looked to potentially be a fantastic overlook. The excitement was palpable.
In just a heartbeat, their enthusiasm evaporated. The cheers of arrival were replaced by the sound of sharp intakes of air, then squelched to a murmuring of disbelief. Looking up at his grandfather’s lined face, the boy was amazed to see tears running down his aged cheeks. Zechariah was just old enough to know the difference between tears of joy and tears of sorrow, and these were no tears of joy. Crying broke out among the elderly. Even that old prophet had gotten off his camel and began tearing at his clothes and wailing. “What’s wrong with these grown-ups?” Zechariah wondered aloud. “Just what were they seeing?”
Zechariah dodged his way up to the front of the crowd in order to get his very own first look at the legendary Jerusalem. His jaw dropped open. This was “legendary”?! A “rock pile” best described this dump, rough and heaped about and blackened by soot. Mountain goats jumped from crumbled walls to weed splattered, collapsed rooftops. Birds ducked in and out of nests perched in the charred remains of what could only once have been the mightiest building in all of Israel’s history—the Temple. Human life was present, though barely, wearily dotting the rubble or hiding behind sheets pulled over makeshift entrances to tumbled-down dwellings. These ghosts stared up blankly at the swelling crowd of pilgrims. Zachariah’s mood darkened, “This was what they’d traveled all this way for? This?!”
And then, from the opposite ridge, the Samaritans began descending.
Discover what Zechariah learned about how to maintain one’s faith when the future looks bleak in 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets!