Today’s reading is Zechariah 1-6 and Psalm 148.
New years are a strange thing. We celebrate the good that happened while saying goodbye and good riddance to the bad. We remember fondly that which we enjoyed and look ahead to what’s next. And, obviously, New Year’s resolutions and are often a part of this process.
One resolution many Christians often have is a resolution to “return to the Lord.” They realize that had become lax in their Bible reading – if they had one at all – and know they need to resume some sort of pattern. For others, it is a call to attend church more often – again, if they had been attending at all – which might translate this year in to tuning in to online church more often. And for still others this call to return to the Lord may involve prayer, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines.
But one thing we need to remember, just like we don’t need to wait until January 1 to renew our commitment to healthy eating, healthy relationships, and healthy emotions, we don’t need to wait until January 1 each year to return to the Lord. Whenever we notice that our Bible habits, church attendance habits, and spiritual discipline habits has lulled, we can start anew each day and return to healthy habits.
One thing we learn from the prophets about returning to the Lord is that when we return to the Lord, the Lord returns to us. This doesn’t mean God had turned His back on us or had ignored us while we ignored Him. His love, affection, and attention to us did not lapse or lull even if our habits did. But we are told that He will return when we return.
Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Return to me,” declares the Lord Almighty, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.Zechariah 1:3
We know, from reading our Bibles, that throughout Israel’s history the chosen people of God, the Israelites, waxed and waned in their relationship with God. When things were good and that felt a sense of pride in their work, they tended to turn from God, they leaned into their evil ways and evil practices, and followed idols. But when life got tough, when they were beings swarmed by enemies, when their crops failed, and their water ran dry, they would often cry out to God to be rescued.
Then they repented and said, “The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.”Zechariah 1:6
Zechariah is after the Babylonian Captivity and most likely occurs while the Temple is being rebuilt (Zechariah 4:9). The book involves prophecy for the time as well as future prophecy of what is to come. It seems Zechariah is concerned with the Temple being rebuilt because God tells him that not only have “the hands of Zerubbabel” “laid the foundations of this temple,” but “his hands will also complete it” (Zechariah 4:9). For those who were faithful and had returned to the Lord, having a completed temple was important as it was a sign that God’s favor had returned to the people.
Prior to God’s words about the temple, however, a man with a measuring line measures “Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is” (Zechariah 2:2). An angel informs Zechariah that
“Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” declares the Lord, “and I will be its glory within.”Zechariah 2:4-5
We know from the book of Nehemiah that the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, but this doesn’t mean that Zechariah 2:4 is false. Instead, it is telling us of a different Jerusalem – another Jerusalem.
We know from the book of Revelation that the gates of Jerusalem were never to close and that there would be no sun because the glory of God was within the walls. What if that is part of returning to the Lord? That when we – we as a collective community, not just individual believers – return to the Lord, the glory of God comes into our midst. That when we return to the Lord, the walls around us fall down, that we no longer need to keep up barriers between ourselves because we have returned to the Lord and He has returned to us.
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”Zechariah 2:10-13
I believe this passage does speak about the physical, but it is a physical after Jesus’ return and the New Heavens and New Earth are established. But I also believe it is a spiritual reality that we can inhabit now in the already-not-yet-here kingdom of Heaven. When we allow the walls around us to come down so that everyone can come in to the Kingdom, so that everyone can see the glory of the Lord, we return to Him and He to us.
So make a new year’s resolution. Start a new Bible plan. Pick up a new prayer journal. But don’t allow your returning to God – our returning to God – to be a once year activity. Return daily so that we may enter the not-yet Kingdom and experience the glory of the Lord. Together.
Join me in finishing this year by reading through the Bible through a Psalm a Day. Find my reading plan here.
All Scripture used on Oregon Christian Girl comes from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Unless otherwise noted.