I don’t know about you, but when I do my devotions (that’s churchy-speak for a time followers of Jesus set aside each day for Bible reading and prayer), sometimes – not every day, but sometimes – there’s something that stands out for me among all the things I read. One day last week, something stood out for me in a profound way. My Bible reading for the day was Zechariah 2.
Zechariah’s book is among the 12 ‘minor’ prophets – so-called because their books were smaller, rather than because their writing was less important than others’. Zechariah prophesied during the time that the people of God were coming back to the promised land from captivity in Babylon and Persia. And in chapter 2, a chapter reminiscent of the writing style of John in Revelation, Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line in his hand. He was getting ready to measure Jerusalem to build its new walls.
Through one of his messengers, the Lord said that there wasn’t any point in building a wall around Jerusalem, because its population would be too great to contain it. And then he said this, which so struck me: “’And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within’” (Zechariah 2.5, NIV).
I shared this with our elders last Tuesday night, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if the Lord himself were our wall of fire? Wouldn’t it be great if God were the source of glory within the church?” For our gang, I meant it as encouragement, because I believe, in so many ways, that this is true for our church. And my heart wishes it would be true for every church.
Some churches seek their glory from the amount of money they can amass in trust, to save for a rainy day. Others seek their glory from community service, being the go-to place for whatever ails you. Still others seek their glory from a prominent radio or television ministry. I believe Zechariah’s prophecy had it right: let the Lord himself be the glory within the church, and that glory will shine through the church.
Easy to say, but how does that happen?
First, understand that God wants to be the glory of the church. If the people are willing, and will submit to the Lord in worship and seek to follow his will, God will be the glory of the church.
Second, when our focus is on pleasing God, rather than satisfying the desires of others or on seeking community prominence in other ways, God will be the glory of the church. We can focus on pleasing God through our study of his Word in Scripture, and through our application of what we study in prayer and service.
Let me challenge you: first, if you are in leadership, to lead your church around that great statement in Zechariah 2.5. Second, if you are not in leadership, to pray for your church’s leaders, to the end that Zechariah 2.5 would be true in your church. God can do better than serve as a hedge of protection around your church; he can be a wall of fire around it! And he will be its glory within. Let it be so!