A New Jerusalem, Again
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, “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. Zechariah 8:14-15
Look at a timeline of Jerusalem, and you’ll see a city that’s been fought over and changed hands many times. It has been destroyed twice (once by Babylon and once by the Romans).
King Nebuchadnezzar had brought people from Israel to Babylon. While exiled there, the Israelites heard about the destruction of Jerusalem. Devastating news—even though the prophets had foretold it would happen if the people didn’t repent. After seventy years, the people were permitted to return to Jerusalem and restore the temple (Ezra 1:1-2). What they found was discouraging. Not only was their beloved city in ruins, they also encountered severe opposition from enemies (Ezra 4:1-24).
God commissioned the prophet Zechariah to encourage the people. He promised, “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…. I will save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong” (from Zechariah 8:12-13).
However, the promise was conditional. “‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you…. Do not be like your ancestors…. Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices…. they would not listen or pay attention to me” (from Zechariah 1:3-4).
Zechariah’s message included conditions: plant seeds and tend the vines. And God told them, “‘Speak the truth to each other and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the Lord” (8:16-17).
What message could God have for us? We’re facing numerous disasters and asking God to help us. We also have problems with the way we handle truth and justice. We can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and turn from our own evil ways and practices.
How have you handled truth and justice? Do not be afraid. Return to the Lord—he’ll return to you.
Read Zechariah 2:6-13. The exiles had grown comfortable in Babylon (often used as a symbol for worldliness—the world and its enticements). What did God promise the ones who returned? What future promises did God make?
Zechariah 12:1-14’s prophecy refers to a future, worldwide attack on Jerusalem. Why will the Lord defend the inhabitants and destroy all their enemies? Which side will you be on?
Apply Micah 6:8‘s requirements in relation to justice to today? What can you do to bring peace and justice?
Nancy J. Baker
This devotion is part of our “Do Not Be Afraid” series.