“First Secure Your own Oxygen Mask”

Zechariah 8:20-23


            “First secure your own oxygen mask.”  This directive is familiar to anyone who has traveled on commercial airplanes.  In the event of an emergency, like a sudden loss of cabin pressure, we’re told by the flight attendant that an oxygen mask for each person will drop from the overhead compartment.  In such an anxious moment, parents might instinctively try to get air to their children.  Adult children, for their part, might focus on preserving the life of elderly parents seated next to them.

            Such kindness might be instinctive, but it isn’t wise.  If we pass out from the lack of oxygen, our helpless seatmates won’t survive.  “First secure your own oxygen mask.”

            Let’s be realistic, we’re in an emergency situation!  The airplane of our life is in turbulent airspace!  The oxygen masks have dropped!  We’re all gasping for air.

            It’s called immorality, isolations, loneliness, depression, anxiety.  We’re gasping for help and hope.  We are all searching for some sort of stability and strength.  What should we do?  “First secure your own oxygen mask.”

            That’s what Zechariah says.  We’ve been in this series called “Your Kingdom Come.”  As we’ve said, God longs for his kingdom to come us, then through us.  To us.  Then through us.  That’s the movement of Zechariah 8.  To us, large amounts of spiritual, Gospel-saturated oxygen.  Then through us, clam in the midst of chaos; peace in the midst of all the panic; truth in the midst of great turbulence.

            Here they come.  Oxygen masks are dropping from Zechariah 8.  Massive blasts of Gospel-saturated power.  What should we do?  First secure your own oxygen mask.

            “I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem” (Zech. 8:3).  God dwells with his people.  God isn’t only up there.  God is also down here!  God isn’t something abstract.  God is physical, God is concrete in the person of Jesus.

            “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zech. 8:4-5).  What a compelling picture of harmony and happiness, sharing and shalom!  People will live in peace.

            “I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness” (Zech. 8:7-8).  God brings the exiles home and makes them his through his faithfulness and righteousness.  Notice, not our faithfulness and righteousness, but His!

            “The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew” (Zech. 8:12).  The days is coming when the creation is renewed.  The day is coming when God will make all things new.  Vines and produce and dew from heaven!

            “The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts” (Zech. 8:19).  Fasting will give way to feasting.  God changes mourning into music, sackcloth into singing, deep sighs into hearts full of endless Hallelujahs!

            Talk about Gospel-saturated oxygen.  God’s presence, God’s protection, God’s salvation, God’s renewal and God’s celebration.  These come to us freely and abundantly through Jesus.  “First secure your own mask.”  But what if we don’t?

            Well … then this all becomes ho-hum, cliché, useless jargon.  If we don’t breathe this in, then we downplay the Gospel’s most alarming details.  An innocent man died so we don’t have to?  A murdered man whose heart started beating again?  We have God’s presence, protection, salvation, renewal, and celebration?

            When we don’t breathe in the oxygen of the Gospel … we forget it’s freshness, it’s utter and unexplainable joy.  What’s meant to be vibrant comes across as blasé, it’s no big deal.  We all need to be jolted again to life, so God’s kingdom comes to us.  Then through us.

            “First secure your own mask.”  Once we’re spiritually revived, then we’re generous towards others.  Once we’re spiritually revived, then we reach out to people.  Then we pray for others who are experiencing hardships.  Then we go out of our way to love people in the name of Jesus.

            Zechariah 8 shows us how the Gospel comes through us.  “Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD” (Zech. 8:20-22). The gospel is universal, it’s for all people.  As it says in the hymn, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, “red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight.”

            Just as Bethelites came “to entreat the face of the LORD” (Zech. 7:2), so now nations are described in the same way.  The people come in waves.  First in line are Gentile leaders, then the city dwellers and finally many people and strong nations.  A small trickle becomes an overwhelming flood!  Zechariah envisions God’s redeeming mercy for people from every tribe and people and language and nation.

            The Gospel is also personal.  The Gospel is the answer to my pain and my shame, it’s the answer to my fear and anxiety.  It’s the answer not just in a singsongy way, but with italics: “Jesus loves me, this I know.”  The Gospel is personal.  “Those days ten men from the nations of every tongue will seize the robe of a Jew” (Zech. 8:23).  Ten people seizing the garment of one Judean.  The Gospel is personal.  The verb “seize”, it frequently appears in contexts where action is fervent and impassioned.  We want unbelievers to seize us and ask us what we have that they don’t.

            A recent survey of 8,000 people who became believers indicated that 5% walked into church and stayed; 7% came because of the pastor; 3% came because the church had a program they liked; 1% came through door-to-door visitation; 4 % came through Sunday School; 80% came through invitations from friends or relatives.  So … who can you reach out to?  Who can you help?  The Gospel of Jesus is universal; the Gospel is personal.  It’s one on one.

            The Gospel is also vocal.  “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:23).   This is how Zechariah 8 begins.  God dwells with his people.  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:23).

            Paul in Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing.”  When you speak kindly to your children on the playground, you are demonstrating the Holy Spirit’s power for other parents.  When you refuse to participate in office gossip, you are bringing honor to Jesus in your job.  Even in your response to your own sin, admitting wrong and asking forgiveness, you are testifying to the truth of the Gospel you confess.

            To those wrestling with struggles of school, work, family, or life … we can say, “Jesus conquered this.”  To the coworker burdened by frightening financial fears … we can say, “Jesus died to redeem this.”  To those afraid of disease and death … we can say, “Jesus stepped fully into death and demonstrated ultimate victory even over this.”

            Sadly, the opposite is true.  If we’re unkind to those around us, if we speak harshly to our family members, we continually freak out over material things … we are telling the world that Jesus is just a cliché, that Jesus is just an afterthought, that Jesus is no big deal.

            Friends, the Gospel isn’t black letters on a white page.  The Gospel is vibrant and neon and in living color!  The Gospel provokes wonder and amazement.  The Gospel can be applied from a thousand different angles, and it invites people to have confidence and hope.  The Gospel breathes life into dead hearts!  Do you see the need?  Do you hear the cries?  Our plane, our world, is bouncing around in turbulent airspace.  “First secure your own oxygen mask.”  Amen.

            The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, guide your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.


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