Many of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves further away from God’s presence than we desire to be. For me, my late teens and early twenties was this time. It was a period that I felt as if I was almost coasting on the faith my parents had invested in me early on in life. As I matured into adulthood, I found myself being called in to a deeper relationship with the Lord. My need for a relationship with Him became even more pressing as I began to struggle in my marriage and in a new and confusing battle I later recognized as postpartum depression.
In the book of Zechariah, the Israelites find themselves on a similar journey. Zechariah lives in the time following the 70 year Babylonian exile when the remnant of God’s people was returning to Israel. Because of this, Zechariah is known as the prophet of restoration, but he was not simply called to physical restoration (restoring prosperity to the land and rebuilding the temple). He was also called to restore the relationship between the Lord and his people, Israel.
Before we go any further in this study, I would encourage you to read Zechariah Chapter 1. To fully grasp God’s message, as we study this book together, you may need to read the chapter a couple of times. (I had to read it many times!) The symbolic language used throughout the book of Zechariah is sometimes easier to just skip or skim through. However, I would encourage you to read these passages with an open heart and mind, willing to work to see what God is trying to teach you as you dive deeper into his word.
Ok! Let’s dig in.
Ch. 1 Redirect: “Turn and Stop”
Zechariah 1:3-4, “Therefore, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Don’t be like your ancestors who would not listen or pay attention when the earlier prophets said to them, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.”
The first thing I would like to look closer at is the call to return to the Lord. The call to return, indicates that when we find ourselves distant from the Lord it is not because the Lord has distanced himself from us. It is because we have left the Lord and pursued the things of this world. James 4:8 says it like this, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” As much as God wants a relationship with us, he wants us to make the choice to intentionally turn away from the world and follow him. James gives us a call to action very similar to Zechariah, “wash your hands… purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided.” Just like Zechariah, James is calling us to turn and stop. I think for a lot of us it can be easy to turn to the Lord and say, “God I know I was wrong and I’ve decided to follow you.” But sometimes these promises are simply lip service and can even become a force of habit when we find ourselves continuing down the same wrong path again and again. This is why in both verses, the call is not only to turn away from evil, but to take a good look at your heart and see where you have given parts of your life to the Lord and held on to others. Make the choice to rededicate all of you to the Lord’s way and his purpose. Intentionally redirecting, turning toward God and away from sin (removing sin/distraction), is the first step to restoring the relationship.
Zechariah 1:7-21 documents another message from the Lord to Zechariah. This time it is in a vision. In the vision, Zechariah witnesses a group of riders who were sent out by the Lord to patrol the earth. They report back to “the angel of the Lord”, who in this context, many scholars believe to be Jesus Christ in human form. In their report, the riders tell the angel of the Lord that the whole earth is at peace. After hearing this, the angel of the Lord advocates for Israel in his prayer to God, asking how long until he will again show mercy to his people. Because although the world was at peace, God’s people were suffering in captivity. And even though the people had turned away from the Lord and ended up captives, the Lord still loved his people deeply and was disturbed that the world was enjoying peace while his people suffered. Today, we can find ourselves in a similar state of captivity when we align ourselves with the world instead of God. As slaves to sin we begin to live like captives in enemy territory. But the sinful choices that brought us here do not have to hold us back forever. The Lord loves us and wants us to return to him.
Zechariah 1:17, “Say this also: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: The towns of Israel will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem as his own.’”
Again, the Lord will comfort Zion and again Israel will overflow with prosperity. Again and again, God chooses us no matter how many times we turn our backs on him. All we need to do is make the choice, followed by the action. All we need to do is turn and stop.
Where have you felt God asking you to turn and stop in your own life?
In what ways have you seen God reveal his will in your life?