The all-powerful Lord of the universe sees and knows everything. King David in writing about the Lord stated this:
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
(Psalm 139:1-7 ESV)
Is it possible then that this same God would fail to hear or notice anything—that He would stop listening? The shocking answer is “yes.”
Here in Zechariah 7 we have recorded for us the account of God’s dealings with His people, the nation of Israel. It was a common problem. The people would slip into sin and idolatry, the Lord would send prophets to call His people back to the covenantal relationship, but they refused. So the Lord would send judgment just as He promised. Here in Zechariah’s prophecy, the prophet recounts God’s ultimate judgment in which He scattered the Jews throughout the nations. This isn’t too surprising because it is what He said He would do if they didn’t repent and return to their God. What is hard for some to understand is that there came a point that God refused to listen.
Those who were God’s people, in name only, had hardened their hearts. Prophet after prophet, sent by God, came to call Israel back to a place of trust, obedience and blessing. God also sent trials of plagues and famines to discipline the nation. However, they refused—they “made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets.”
Now as the hammer of judgment fell on the nation, these same people cried out to God, but it was too late. God, who is slow to become angry and is rich in mercy, is now executing justice and carrying out what He said He would do. Jews everywhere pleaded for mercy and at this point, there was none to be found. Israel failed to take to heart what one of her first kings, King Solomon, had given to them as the ground rules regarding seeking God:
Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
(Proverbs 1:20-33 ESV)
God is not to be trifled with and He will not be played for the fool. The Lord seeks to instruct, reprove and bless. He does all this in terms of His loving, holy, righteous, gracious, and merciful character. There is no other way. God cannot operate outside the nature of who He is. Israel was out on the highway of life playing chicken. Despite the warnings from God, she continued to play the game. When Israel saw she could not get out of the way of the oncoming 18 wheeler, she cried out to God for help, but God was not listening. And truth be known, this truck was sent by God Himself. Again, His actions are always consistent with His nature.
The lesson here for us is clear. As the Lord speaks through His Word, we are under obligation to listen and obey. To harden our hearts and disregard or devalue Scripture is a fool’s game. You can only dodge the cars and trucks for so long. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 ESV). If we are truly children of God, then there is only one response and that is to listen. The comfort in all this is that “whoever listens to [God] will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”