Worship this morning was taken by Dr Innes Visagie. He read from Zechariah 1: the riders who survey the earth. Their report to the LORD sounds reassuring: we have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet. But it's not good news - this is an uneasy peace, the peace of subjugation under the Persian empire, the pax persiana. This is not the shalom of God. The angel of the LORD asks: O LORD of armies, how long will you have no compassion on Jerusalem? Yahweh's answer is one of comforting and gracious words; He loves His people, He has heard their cries and He will return with compassion. Just a few days before Zechariah's vision, the prophet Haggai had received a word from Yahweh: I will shake the nations. The LORD will act.
Dr Visagie reflected on the theology of these verses but then applied them in considering three situations:
- His own experience of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Under a state-controlled media, many whites were unaware of those suffering in their nation - everything seemed to be peaceful and quiet. But God heard their cries, shook the nation and removed the apartheid regime.
- A man once came to Innes when he was a minister and confessed he had been a street angel but a house devil. On the outside he was the perfect father and husband, but in reality he ruled his house through abuse. God heard the cries of his family, the man was converted and the family released from abuse. Those suffering, or who have suffered, abuse can know that God hears their cries, even when they have been threated into silence and all seems to be peaceful and quiet. Those of us on the outside need to be aware of the superficial peace that presents in these circumstances.
- In our churches we are often peaceful and quiet, going through the traditional rituals of church life Sunday by Sunday. But it is an uneasy peace; outside voices are crying out for meaning and for salvation. God hears them. But, do we? Perhaps the LORD, who hears the crying voices, will shake the Church in his compassion. So that we begin to hear.