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Return to Me: A Meditation on Zechariah 1.1-6

27 Apr

The apostle Peter made an amazing statement in his second letter. He talked about so looking forward to the second coming of Jesus that we should be “hastening its coming.” It might be helpful to read the word in its full context.

8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3.8-13 ESV)

The Greek word translated “hastening” means to “to desire earnestly” and “to urge on.” Knowing what great things will happen when the Lord returns ought to make us “urge it on” by longing for it and by living holy and repentant lives.

One of the ways that we can “hasten” the Lord’s coming is to study the prophecies in the Bible that speak of His return. But to be accurate handlers of the Word, we should not just rip out these prophetic words from their context, but we should study them in context so that we can fully understand the full message of the prophet.

For anyone who wants to study the prophetic words that speak of the second coming, Zechariah is the prophet to study. He has been called the most Messianic, apocalyptic, and eschatological prophet of the entire Old Testament. Those long, fancy words simply mean that he speaks more about the first and second coming of the Messiah than any other writer in the Old Testament. Consider all that he prophesied about the first coming of Jesus:

  • Christ coming in lowliness (6.12)
  • The humanity of Christ (6.12)
  • His rejection and betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (11.12-13)
  • His being struck by the sword of the Lord (13.7)
  • His deity (13.7)
  • His priesthood (6.13)
  • His kingship (6.13, 9.9, 14.9, 14.16)
  • His second coming in glory (14.4)
  • His building of the Lord’s temple (6.12-13)
  • His reign (9.10, 9.14)
  • His establishment of enduring peace and prosperity (3.10, 9.9-10)

Or consider all that he prophesied about His second coming:

  • The final siege of Jerusalem (12.1-3, 14.1-2)
  • Initial victory of Israel’s enemies (14.2)
  • The Lord’s defense of Jerusalem (14.3-4)
  • The judgment of the nations (12.9, 14.3)
  • The topographical changes in Israel (14.4-5)
  • The celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Messianic kingdom (14.14-16)
  • The ultimate holiness of Jerusalem and her people (14.20-21)

Of course, to understand each of these above prophecies, we will have to look at them in context to grasp their full meaning, but seeing them in list form simply demonstrates the Messianic nature of Zechariah. Or to put it another way, if you love Jesus, you are gonna love Zechariah.

Unfortunately, many Christians are surprise to find out that there is a book in the Bible called Zechariah because we don’t give much attention to the so-called “minor prophets.” Zechariah was born in Babylon during the exile. After centuries of prophetic warnings by the likes of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Hababbuk that the Lord would remove His people from the Land of Promise if they continued to worship other gods and ignore His commands, the warning came true when Babylon conquered Judah in 609 BC. For a few years, Judah remained a vassal state of Babylon, but after several rebellions, Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC and deported most of its leading citizens, the most famous of which was Daniel. Zechariah was born to one of those who were deported from Jerusalem and who lived in Babylon. Much like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was a priest who turned prophet when the word of the Lord began to come to him.

In 539 BC, the kingdom of Persia conquered Babylon and things changed dramatically for the exiles. Of course, this was the hand of the Lord, and the King of Persia, Cyrus, allowed the captive peoples to return to their homeland. Zechariah joined about 50,000 other Jews in 538 BC who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild. Those who returned laid the foundation for the Temple in 536 BC, but further worked stalled out due to various obstacles. By the time Darius had succeeded Cyrus as King of Persia, God was using Zechariah and the prophet Haggai to encourage the people to finish the rebuilding of the Temple, which they did. The Second Temple was finished in 516 BC.

The prophetic ministry of Zechariah can be dated quite accurately due to the dates supplied by the prophet himself and by comparing it with Haggai. His first sermon was in October 520 BC. He receive eight night visions on February 15, 519 BC (chapters 1-6). The sermon of chapter 7 was given on December 7, 518 BC.

In the first six verses of the book, we meet the prophet Zechariah and get a fairly good summary of his prophetic message.

1In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 2“The Lord was very angry with your fathers. 3Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. 4Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. 5Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.” (Zechariah 1.1-6 ESV)

We rarely pay attention to names, but I am sure the prophet wanted us to. Zechariah means “The Lord Remembers,” Berekiah means “The Lord Blesses,” and Iddo means “Timely.” If we put all three names together we can hear a good summary of the prophet’s message: “The Lord will remember and bless at the right time.”

As the people stood in the ruins of Jerusalem and amid the ruins of the Temple, Zechariah reminded them that all of this destruction and disaster came upon the Jews because  they did not pay attention to the warnings of the “former prophets,” a reference to Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Hababbuk. Though the prophets encouraged them to return to the Lord, they refused to listen and paid the consequences. And now, as they stand on the ruins of their forefather’s choices, they were hearing the same call: return to the Lord.

Two things stand out to me about the initial words of Zechariah. First, the people’s confession was brutally honest: “the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us” (Zechariah 1.6). They did not try to blame their forefathers, or they did not try to justify their choices and behaviors. They simply confessed their sins and admitted that the judgment of the Lord was righteous upon their lives. When standing on the ruins, the only healing choice is to confess the sins that brought destruction and to agree that the judgment of the Lord is right and just, and to trust yourself to the grace of the Lord. Consider the words of Micah:

 I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7.9 ESV)

The people who heard the words of Zechariah simply said: we have sinned and God has brought His righteous judgment against us. But we will trust Him to bring us out of darkness and into the light.

The second thing that stands out to me is the call of the Lord: “return to me and I will return to you.” The call was not to return to the Law or to return to the sacrificial system or to return to the Temple. The call was a call to a relationship, and that same call remains today. When we stand on the ruins of our lives, we need to hear the Lord call us back to Him, not back to a set of rules to follow.

In closing, consider again the words of Peter. What kind of people ought we to be as we wait and hasten the return of the Messiah? We should repent. We should be holy and godly. And we should remember that we are awaiting the return of a personal God, not a list of commands.

Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord.

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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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