8 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me.
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”
3 This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”
4 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”
6 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty.
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.”
9 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Now hear these words, ‘Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.’ This is also what the prophets said who were present when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty. 10 Before that time there were no wages for people or hire for animals. No one could go about their business safely because of their enemies, since I had turned everyone against their neighbor. 11 But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the Lord Almighty.
12 “The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. 13 Just as you, Judah and Israel, have been a curse among the nations, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”
14 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster on you and showed no pity when your ancestors angered me,” says the Lord Almighty, 15 “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. 16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.
18 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me.
19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”
20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”
23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”
(Zechariah 8:1-23 NIV)
A quick personal note on today’s text… it has taken several days for me to understand the application and implications of today’s text, the “what does it mean to me?” part where the Lord speaks to my heart so I have something to say and share with you as readers. The ironic thing is that this text is fairly straightforward – there are no deep mysteries or hidden meanings locked up in historical context, language, or customs. While it is my desire to write every day, sometimes the Lord tells me to wait on Him. So I wait. Thank you for your patience – I trust this is worth waiting for as the Lord speaks to your heart through today’s text and thoughts.
By way of review, chapters 7 – 8 are a question to the priests and prophets in Jerusalem from a delegation of Jews from Bethel (12 miles north of Jerusalem), and God’s response to them. They wanted to know if they still needed to keep the ritual of mourning and fasting on the anniversary of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple since the rebuilt Temple was nearly complete.
Before the Lord answered their question, He gave them a history lesson as to why the people were exiled and the Temple was destroyed, and a reminder of what He expected from His people.
As we walk through Chapter 8 today, the Lord switches perspectives:
- from the past to the present and future
- from wrath and discipline to jealous love and abiding joy
- from dysfunction and death to health and life
In verses 1 – 8, the Lord paints a portrait of what life will be like going forward. The current generation (even the elderly that had lived in Jerusalem before its fall) had only known pain, loss, enslavement, exile, death, and despair. God paints a word picture of what hope, vibrancy, love, relationship, beauty, and joy looks like:
- God will once again dwell among His people (v. 3)
- Generations of families (even the elderly) will live among them (v. 4)
- Children will play safely in the streets (v. 5)
(if you were with us through the study of Jeremiah, this was also a promise that the Lord had made to His people after the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews to nations all over the earth – see Jeremiah 30:19-20; 31:12-13)
God then asks a rhetorical question: “Is this too hard to imagine? Does it sound too good to be true?” (my paraphrase). The implied answer is, of course, a resounding “No!”, as if to say that it’s all in a day’s work for the Lord (v. 6). In fact, the Lord promises to bring back all the exiles to Jerusalem (v. 7) and to restore the covenant relationship between His people and Himself (v. 8).
After the Lord paints this picture of hope and restoration of relationship, He preaches a “sermon” through Zechariah to the people. This is clearly the Lord talking – notice how many times the phrase “This is what the Lord Almighty says” appears!
The Lord begins with the encouragement to “let your hands be strong” – signifying the Lord’s encouragement to continue the Temple rebuilding.
The Lord then contrasts the former hard days of their ancestors with the days of hope and promise to come (vv. 10-15). The Lord also reminds His people of their responsibilities to reflect His character in their lives – truth, justice, peace, and kindness must be central to who they are and how they live their lives before the Lord and with their neighbors (vv. 16-17).
In verses 18 – 19, the Lord now answers the question that the Bethel delegates asked back in 7:1-3: Do they still need to keep the rituals of mourning and fasting over the anniversary of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple now that the rebuilt Temple is almost complete? The Lord responds that the fasting and mourning are now to be replaced with feasting and joy to celebrate the renewed covenant relationship between God and His people.
As God’s people move from ritual to covenant relationship, God shares what impact this restored fellowship will have on the other people groups and nations around them:
- Others will actively travel to Jerusalem to seek the Lord (v. 20)
- These seekers will bring other seekers with them (v. 21)
- The Lord will draw many nations to Himself (v. 22)
- God will use His people to evangelize the world – they will beg the Jewish people to introduce them to God Almighty (v. 23)
Do these words sound familiar? Listen to what Jesus said:
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-15 NIV, Jesus speaking)
God gives us the message of hope and light from the despair and darkness that we formerly lived under. He then uses us to be beacons of hope and light to a weary and hurting world around us.
May we have the courage to hear the Lord’s word pictures of healing, of hope, of restoration, of grace, of relationship that He painted for the Jewish people in today’s text.
May we realize that Jesus painted those same word pictures for us – that death is defeated once for all by Him and through Him, that the days of mourning and fasting over sin’s eternal death-grip on us are done and replaced with joy and celebration of our new life with Christ. The blood and sacrifices of old are fulfilled; Christ now offers bread and wine to remember that we celebrate both now in this life as well as in eternity future with Him.