3–9 November 2019.
When ancient Jerusalem was destroyed, thousands of the city’s leaders and elites were dragged off to exile in Babylon. The prophets had warned the Israelites over and over that God would punish them for the way they had given up on love, given up on caring for the poor and needy – abandoning justice and fairness, and instead just abusing others for their own gain. God saw that evil and was determined to punish the Israelites for it. Now decades later some descendants of those Israelite exiles had been given the chance to go back home and start their lives over. And it’s especially to them that the prophet Zechariah wants to share God’s message.
Those exiles and their ancestors had once counted as Jerusalem’s elite; they were wealthy, powerful, and respected in society. But they sinned. They abused their power, and they were punished for it. So in vv. 2–6 Zechariah wants to know: Have they learnt from those old mistakes? Have they learnt from the way that God punished their ancestors? Have they learnt that when God demands fairness, justice, and goodness in society that God really means it? If the returning exiles have learnt this lesson then there is hope that they will be able to live good lives again back home in Jerusalem.
In vv. 7–17 Zechariah has a vision: He sees horsemen that have travelled all over the earth, and what they have found there is peace (v. 11). Yet in a whole world at peace, Jerusalem stands out as an exception. Jerusalem still carries the scars and suffering of God’s judgement against them, and they don’t yet have that peace. But the choice is up to them. Do they want this situation to change? God has helped the exiles return, God himself has also returned to Jerusalem and he wants to support the city and help it finally find its own prosperity and peace (vv. 16–17). But while the exiles have returned to Jerusalem, the question still remains: Do they also want to return to God? They want to rebuild their city, but more importantly do they want to rebuild their relationship with God?
Every day we also face this question in our own faith lives. None of us are perfect. We have all made mistakes and fallen away from the type of life God wanted us to live. But are we ready to learn from our mistakes? Are we ready to go back to God? We know that God wants each of us to have a life of goodness. But we can only find that good life if we constantly push ourselves each day to learn from our mistakes, come back to God, and try living again in the way he wants us to.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis