How Long, Lord?

Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” (Zechariah 1:12). It may surprise you, but the Angel of the Lord asks this question, doing so in the Prophet Zechariah’s night vision. Israel had been exiled some 70 years by the Babylonians, shackled and hauled away in disgrace to their oppressor’s land. Jerusalem was in shambles; the wall was full of holes and the temple leveled. Henceforth the question from the angel, a question every Jew wondered to himself: “How long will You withhold mercy…?” Have you ever asked God that question?

The Lord answers the inquiry in the next verse. Zechariah over hears and records it for us: “[T]he Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel…” (verse 13). His “kind and comforting words” promised this: “[T]he Lord will again comfort Zion” (verse 17).

I was blessed devotionally a few days ago, when reading from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening:

History shows us that whenever God uses a rod to chasten his servants he always breaks it afterwards, as if he loathed the rod which gave his children pain. He feels the smart far more than his people. ‘Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear him.’ God has not forgotten us because he smites. His blows are no evidences of want of love…You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars and calls them by their names is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made or the only saint he ever loved. (Morning and Evening, evening devotional for February 24)

None of His children are immune from difficult providence. There is a season for us all; for most there are multiple seasons. In Zechariah, the question “How long, Lord?” is asked—did you note that the question isn’t chastened? God is not offended by the inquiry. In fact, it is His angel who asks. In reply, God offers “kind and comforting” words. We would hear similar if we would ask and listen.

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning,” sings the psalmist (Psalm 30:5). The Christian is never told the length of his night; but he is always promised a morning.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

May 3, 2012

1 comment

  1. I received some difficult news today and sat down at the computer and opened this message. Again God works in ways that I do not understand, but I do know He is working these out for my growth. Thank you for these “kind and comforting” words.

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