Turning a Cold Shoulder
One of the most frustrating things about parenting is when a child won’t listen. I was talking with two moms last week who are in the throes of raising teenagers, and each shared a story about their kid not listening. It is hard to know if it is due to inattention, selective hearing, rebelliousness, stubbornness, distraction, or a combination of all those things. If you have raised a teenager, you know the struggle!
I know a mother of a four-year-old who contends with the same issue. She has developed a unique strategy that seems to work. She gently takes her son’s chin in her hand and gets down to his eye level. Then she says, “Ryan, look me in my eye.” Works every time. Unfortunately, that won’t work with your teenager when she is walking away from you, and it definitely won’t work when they are taller than you, but it does point to the necessity of ensuring that you have the child’s full attention.
I bet there are many times in my life when God wishes he could stoop down in front of me, hold my chin gently in his mighty hand and say, “Betsy! Look me in my eye.”
Our passage from Zechariah is a cautionary tale about what happens when we don’t look God in the eye and pay attention to what he is saying. His law, his instructions, and his will for our lives are clearly spelled out multiple times in Scripture. But too often we are walking away and not listening.
Zechariah 7 (Common English Bible)
8 The Lord’s word came to Zechariah:
9 The Lord of heavenly forces proclaims:
Make just and faithful decisions; show kindness and compassion to each other! 10 Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other! 11 But they refused to pay attention. They turned a cold shoulder and stopped listening.
Neglecting to show mercy the way God shows mercy to us has negative consequences. As we talk about God being our refuge and our deliverer, we sometimes forget that we can anger God if we don’t offer those same things to other people who are hurting. When we steel our hearts against his Word and do things our way, there indeed is “hell to pay.”
12 They steeled their hearts against hearing the Instruction and the words that the Lord of heavenly forces sent by his spirit through the earlier prophets. As a result, the Lord of heavenly forces became enraged.
13 So just as he called and they didn’t listen, when they called, I didn’t listen, says the Lord of heavenly forces. 14 I scattered them throughout the nations whom they didn’t know. The land was devastated behind them, with no one leaving or returning. They turned a delightful land into a wasteland.
Modern readers, take heed. God distanced himself from Israel when they gave him the cold shoulder. Left to their own apostasy, the beautiful Promised Land they had been given turned into a wasteland whose borders are still in dispute today.
This warning from an Old Testament prophet is a wake-up call. What is God calling you to do today that you are resisting? Pay attention. Look him in his eye. Ignoring God comes with a great price, so listen, trust, and obey.