Dear church,

This is a chapter about good news. God not only was going to bring his people back to Jerusalem – out of their exile and back to the holy land – but God also was going to return to his people himself. His presence would once again be with them. This is good news all around.

In 520 BC, Zechariah had a vision of a man with a measuring line in his hand, apparently getting ready to measure the city of Jerusalem. But there was no need. The city would be immeasurable because it would be so populated, with people coming to it from all around.

And the city would be surrounded by the Lord’s “wall of fire.” Think about the pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22). And think also about the “chariots of fire” that surrounded and protected the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 6:17). Some images reappear over and over in Scripture. When you find them, spend some time pondering them.

God then called out to the Israelites, urging them to return from their exile. The time had come – indeed, it had started some 20 years earlier – for God’s children to return to the Promised Land. And they would come from all around, because they had been scattered in exile to nations all around. These people are precious to God, and the nations who enslaved the Israelites would enable them to come back to the Promised Land enriched – much like the Egyptians did during the exodus.

And here’s the good news that runs throughout the Bible and carries right to the time of Christ: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people.” This prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus Christ, walking in the midst of Israel – throughout Galilee and all the way to Jerusalem. He came and he taught the masses and he healed the sick and he cast out demons.

He is Emmanuel – “God with us.” So he dwelt in the midst of the “daughter of Zion” – or the people of Israel – and he drew the nations to himself. Jesus Christ did not just bring good news to Israel. He brought it to the world. Forgiveness of sins is for anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, we got a glimpse of what this looks like, in the flesh. People from “every nation under heaven” were in Jerusalem, becoming joined to the Lord (Acts 2:5).

This is also a passage about reverence. Just a few verses after we’re told to “sing and rejoice,” we’re told to “be silent.”

“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”

We live in a culture of noise. The noise and activity comes at us from all directions – from our families, our televisions, our phones, our workplaces, our brains. Sometimes, I think we’ve forgotten what it means to be silent. Some people, frankly, are uncomfortable with silence. They need to talk, and they need other people to talk to them. For some people, sitting in silence before God is a waste of time.

“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord …”

For Zechariah, God was about to do something wonderful. He was told to sit with a reverent anticipation, waiting for the work of God. Be silent and wait. Let’s face it, our culture isn’t good at either of those.

I spent some time yesterday in silence at the church building. The sanctuary was empty and quiet. And I just settled down. I sat. And I waited. And I listened for God. And a million thoughts raced through my mind. And I wondered if I would ever be able to “be silent” before God.

And I opened my eyes. And I saw a mouse, sitting in the middle of the church sanctuary, between two sets of chairs, spaced six feet apart. The mouse just sat there. And so did I. I suppose the mouse has gotten used to having the church sanctuary all to himself.

And he didn’t seem to mind me being there. After a few moments, he ran a few steps. And then he ran a few more steps. And I sat still. Silent. The mouse ran a few steps toward me. And a few more. Eventually, he ran right under the chair where I was sitting.

It was kind of crazy.

We need silence in our lives. We need to shut down the noise and sit still. We need to wait for God. We need to listen to him. The mouse reminded me that when we stop talking, when we stop moving, when we stop trying to create – when we just be silent – we make space for other things to thrive in our lives.

In silence, we can notice more about ourselves. We can notice where in life we feel peace and joy, where we are moved more toward faith, hope, and love. And when we are silent, we also can sense where we feel apart from God – and what things in our lives are driving a wedge between us and him. And we can attend to these things. We can bring these things before God, and we can listen for what he might have to say about them.

And in silence, we might be able to discern better what God is doing around us. We stop and listen and look and think. God is moving. Are we seeing it? I want more silence in my life, because I want to see God calling people into a limitless Jerusalem. I want to see those people come. I want to be a witness.

I’ve spent enough time in silent prayer to know God speaks quite often – if I will only speak less. Maybe today is your day to practice silence. Sit for a while in expectation of God acting. Don’t expect God to do anything in particular. (Don’t put him in a box!) Just know that he’s moving, and you may not see the fullness of his moving if you don’t stop moving yourself.

“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”

Chris

One thought on “Zechariah 2: Good news, and silence

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