As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, so will I save you and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong. NIV
This verse is interesting when you bump it up against Zephaniah 3:20 — “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.”
The Message translates Zechariah 8:13, ” You’ve gotten a reputation as a bad-news people, you people of Judah and Israel, but I’m coming to save you. From now on, you’re the good news people. Don’t be afraid, keep a firm grip on what I’m doing.” MSG
When I was a new Christian, so I was nine or ten, my dad got a new Bible. It was called, “Good News for Modern Man,” and it was the cutest Bible I had ever seen. It was very compact, with a smooth black cover, that had the title embossed in lovely orange-gold letters, and the edges of the pages were dyed to match that embossing. It was only the New Testament, which was, of course, the genesis of its title, and, also what made it so petite.
I remember thinking that since I was a new Christian, I should read the whole Bible, and that starting in the New Testament would be a good idea, and that it would be especially fun to read that cute little Bible.
So, I asked my dad if I could borrow it, and I dug right in … to Matthew. I didn’t get very far. Matthew starts out with “so and so begat so and so …” on and on, establishing the entire lineage of Christ. Such good news! Christ came to fulfill all the prophesies of God! But, as a kid, I didn’t get that. I remember trying a couple of times to stay focused enough to make it through that first chapter, and then giving up in frustration and returning the cute little Bible to my father.
But, the fact that I could not absorb it does not change the message … God sent His son. That’s good news!
Keep a firm grip on what I’m doing …
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending a retreat where a very talented young minister led a series of sessions for the children of our church. In one memorable session, he asked the oldest girl, Elizabeth, to join him at the front of the room. He sat Elizabeth on a tall stool, and he gave her his Bible to hold in her left hand.
He then asked her to hold up her right hand, with all her fingers extended and her palm facing the audience. He told the children that he would give them a mnemonic for studying God’s word. First, he pointed to Elizabeth’s thumb, and he said that stood for hearing God’s word … as we do in sermons. Then, he pointed to her index finger, and he said that stood for reading God’s word, as we do when we look up individual verses.
Next, he asked Elizabeth to hold up the Bible, using only her thumb and her index finger. He began to make another point, but, in the midst of it, he surprised all of us by moving swiftly and knocking the Bible out of Elizabeth’s hand. He noted how easy it was to do. The point was not lost on Elizabeth, nor on anyone else in the room.
He went on to describe the rest of Elizabeth’s fingers. In addition to hearing the word, and reading it, we must study it, meditate on it and pray over it. Now, he gave her the Bible again and asked her to hold it using all of her fingers. The visual here was precious. Elizabeth is a tall, athletic, competitive 12-year old, and the teacher was, well, not. Needless to say, he couldn’t have gotten that Bible away from that kid … not that day.
It’s good news. Keep a firm grip on it.
That’s what I’ll think about today.