Wakened from Sleep

Yesterday the “real Sensible Shoes Club” sat and prayed with Zechariah 4:1-10.

The angel who talked with me came again and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No my lord.” He said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'”

Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumbline in the hand of Zerubbabel.

It’s funny. I had intended to start the reading at verse 6: the “not by might, not by power” part. That’s the best-known portion of this passage. I expected that I would land there, as God frequently reminds me that I am to do His work by His strength.

Instead, I ended up meditating on the very beginning of the passage: the “wakened from sleep” part.

It occurred to me as I listened to the text that what we have in those first few verses is a picture of spiritual formation. God invites us to keep awake. And when we inevitably drift into drowsy spiritual dullness, the Spirit awakens us again–awakens us to see, perceive, and understand the movement and work of God.

“What do you see?” the angel asks Zechariah. But the question comes only after Zechariah is awake.

It brings to mind Luke’s account of the Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John have traveled to the top of the mountain with Jesus. Luke tells us, in language pregnant with meaning, “Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory.” (Luke 9:32) Some translations say, “Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw His glory.”

I’m comforted to know that Jesus’ inner circle, His close companions, struggled with drowsiness. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus poured out His prayer with sweat and blood, the three of them couldn’t stay awake.

I wonder, what glimpses of God’s glory have I missed because I was too sleepy to watch and pray and see?

Zechariah, awakened by God’s messenger, sees what God desires for him to see. But he doesn’t understand what it means. That’s the next movement of being awake in the Spirit. God enables us to see, and God invites us to ask the meaning of what we see. We wrestle, we chew, we meditate, we pray, and God in His mercy reveals His heart and plans and purposes to us as we wait and listen.

Advent. A season filled with temptations to drift into busyness and spiritual dullness. The Spirit longs to awaken us from auto-pilot, quicken our attention, and help us see Jesus’ glory, even in the ordinary circumstances of our lives.

Are we awake? Are we paying attention? Are we sitting still long enough to listen to the Word made flesh?

Lord Jesus, awaken us and give us eyes to see Your glory.

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2 Responses to Wakened from Sleep

  1. Excellent thoughts, Sharon. Glad for the Spirit who for the most part seems daily to pick me up. And yet I fear I am drowsy, too much so a good share of the time. But surely that awareness is from the Spirit as well. Yes, to really see something of God’s glory. And I think of the Examen as well. I wonder if you’ve posted on that. Just looked at your thoughts on that in the book.

  2. The examen is such a simple and profound way of paying attention. Life-impacting for me when I first encountered it a number of years ago. Being awake can be exhausting, though, can’t it? And yes, the Spirit is the one who awakens us. Thank God!

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