God’s Word for You
Zechariah 1:12-13 Comforting words to the angel
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, June 14, 2022
12 Then the angel of the LORD said, “LORD of hosts, how long will you withhold compassion from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, with which you have been angry these seventy years?” 13 So the LORD answered with kind and comforting words to the angel who was speaking with me.
Here is a prayer on Israel’s behalf. The whole world is at peace, but Jerusalem is not at peace. The whole world is resting, but Judah cannot rest. God had been angry with his people for seventy years; he had let them return from Babylon, but when would his wrath come to an end?
The number seventy was prophesied by Jeremiah (25:12 and 29:10). Those prophecies were not only about the duration of the seventy years. In chapter 25, the Lord told Jeremiah that Babylon would be punished for their guilt. In chapter 29, the Lord told Jeremiah that he also had good things in mind for his people: “I have plans,” he said, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Now, Babylon had been punished; Babylon had collapsed and had been conquered. But what about God’s plans to prosper his people, and to give them hope and a future?
We are told that God gave his messenger kind and comforting words. This is the way he speaks with all of his servants, angels, prophets, archangels, teachers, authorities, parents, young mothers, children—all. We see this when Jesus meets the leper in Capernaum. His guts churn and spin in anguish for the plight of sinful mankind. His compassion goes out, not only as a feeling he has, but as an act of his will.
When God looked for the very first sinners, confused and hiding under the eaves of the forest in the garden the Lord had made for them, he did not come thundering and crashing through the trees; he is neither a tyrant nor a tyrannosaurus. He came walking, calling, asking questions. “Where are you?” “Did you eat from the tree?” He knew the answers. But his heart went out to Adam and his wife. He did not shun them or stay away from them because they had sinned. His heart went out to them because they were lost without him.
And here we see the Lord offering comfort to his angel. We do not have the words he spoke, but we can consider the act that had been carried out, and what he had ordered his messengers to go and do. He had ordered them to go all throughout the earth with their back-and-forth, back-and-forth, systematic search of humanity and all creation, and they found no one who was not at rest; no one at all who did not have peace. Since almost all of the world was and is filled with unbelievers, what can we say about this peace? It was not a godly peace. It was not a spiritual rest. It was a description of sinners content in their sins. No one was repentant. No one was agonizing over their sins, praying behind closed doors, kneeling, sprawled on their bed, calling out to God to have mercy. The angels who witnessed this were dwellers of paradise; their place was kneeling before the Father in worship, standing in the army of heavenly singers shouting out his praise, or flying all around the throne with feet and eyes covered by extra wings, with no need to say anything more than, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!” But now, having gone into the sinful world to witness sin and wickedness like the angels who were ordered into Sodom to see if it was as bad as it was reported to be, these angels were distressed by what they saw. Remember that Paul, describing something as seemingly insignificant as a woman’s attitude and appearance in worship, asked the Corinthians to remember that this was also a matter we should consider “because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10). And here the Lord himself comforts his angel with kind words and compassion.
He has kind words and compassion for us, too. When we are troubled by the sins of the world around us, whether disgusted, distracted, disturbed, or distraught, we must not think that there is some scale of relative sinfulness in God’s eye, that he might say, “My servant here commits sins, but not as bad as that sinner over there.” No, for the sake of our eternal souls we must first consider the plank in our own eye and the offense we might give to the angels if not to anybody in the fallen and sinful swamp in which we live. The condition of my soul is not contingent on the condition of my neighbor’s soul. I sometimes look at my lawn in the early summer, when the grass grows faster than I care to think, and I know that I should mow it, but I think, my neighbor’s looks even longer. As long as it’s not as bad as my neighbor’s grass, then it’s still okay. That might be true with grass, but not with sin. We take our sins to the cross and confess them, and we grab the legs of the one who died there. His words bring us comfort over the wretched things we have done. His rasping, “Finished” from up on that cross was the verdict of God. The empty tomb was the Father’s response: “It is finished indeed, and my Son’s work on earth is finished and complete.” For the same one who had kind and comforting words for his distressed angel has kind and comforting words for his distraught and repentant child. Ask, and it will be given. Seek, and you will find. Listen, and you will hear.
Pastor Timothy Smith