Zechariah 8 paints a beautiful picture for the people of God. The nation was moving toward restoration – restoration of the city of Jerusalem and restoration of the blessed nature of the people of God.
This chapter has 10 sayings of God – 10 times where Zechariah says, “Thus says the Lord …” See if you can find them. I think they are worth breaking down one by one.
- God had great “jealousy” for Israel. He was passionate toward his people and desired them only to worship him and him alone. The God of the Bible doesn’t let us fall into the trap that God doesn’t have any feelings toward humanity – that he is a distant, aloof, and uninvolved God. Our God has deep desire for his people – for you!
- God was returning to Jerusalem to dwell with his people. This was the plan all along. Adam and Eve were familiar with God’s presence with them (Genesis 3:8-9), and their sin broke up their connection with God. So God’s saving mission was to bring people back into relationship with him and to dwell with them (Revelation 21:3). We enter into relationship with God through faith. You can have God’s presence with you today by trusting in Jesus Christ.
- God described what his presence would mean for Jerusalem. The very old and the very young – the most vulnerable people in society – would live joyfully and freely. God’s presence brings security and life. Imagine the sound of children playing. There’s no better sound than that!
- The restoration of Jerusalem would seem like a miracle – a marvel – to the people. Nothing is impossible with God. I wonder whether sometimes we expect too little out of God. Can God bring even the most “lost” person into a relationship with him? Can God root some clingy piece of sinfulness out of your life? Yes and yes.
- Our God is the God of salvation. He “saves” his people out of the hand of their enemies. For Israel, this meant bringing his people back from exile from the east and west. Again, God would dwell with his people. And he gave them a covenant promise, “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.” Spend some time thinking about what God means by “faithfulness” and “righteousness.”
- The sovereignty of God is in view here. God disciplined his people. He set “every man against his neighbor.” We ought not to lose sight of the sovereignty of God. He is in control. He was in control to discipline his people for their sins, and he was in control to allow for a “sowing of peace.” God would turn things around for his people. At one time they were mocked by the nations. Eventually, he would make them into a blessing.
- Again, God’s sovereignty is in view. God was in control, and he demanded obedience from his people. He gave them four commands. They were to speak truth to “one another,” to render true judgments, to not devise evil against “one another,” and to refrain from making false oaths. You’ll notice two of these were commands for the people to do certain things, and two of them were commands for them NOT to do certain things. And two of them were “one another” commands. One another commands are important. How the people of God live with each other is important to God (John 13:34-35).
- God redirected the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months to become fasts of rejoicing. These fasts likely had something to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple decades earlier (2 Kings 25:1, 3-5, 8-10, 22-25). In Zechariah 7, the people of Bethel had asked about how they were supposed to proceed with these fasts. Here’s the answer.
- People would come from other nations to Jerusalem to seek the favor of God. This seems to be a prophecy that points, in part, toward Pentecost, which took place in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5-6).
- People from other nations would seek out the Jews, grabbing hold of their robes, almost begging them, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” You can sense the urgency here.
This chapter is a joy to read because we can see the blessing God had in store for his people – indeed, for the blessing he still has in store for his people. The return of Christ will bring all of this to fulfillment.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'” (Revelation 21:3-4).
The picture of God dwelling with humanity is a compelling one because he is the Creator of the universe. If you have the Creator, what else do you need? The difficult stuff tends to drop away because the Creator is with you.
God’s presence went along with Israel during the exodus from Egypt and was highlighted during the years of the first temple. After that temple was destroyed, the longing of the nation was that God’s presence would return. The prophet Ezekiel, about 600 years before the time of Christ, had a vision of a new temple and new city of Jerusalem. But the city would have a new name: “The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35).
It’s pleasant to look forward to the End, when God’s dwelling place will be with humanity. But it’s also good to remember God already has begun – again – to dwell with humanity as the Holy Spirit lives in the church. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
And I keep coming back to that image Zechariah gives us of men from other nations grabbing hold of the robes of the people of God. “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”
The people of God have something that others do not have. And it is appealing. Are we living out our lives as the people of God in the way God intended?