When The Lord Comes
1. To begin, please look at verses two and three. "Thus, says the Lord of Hosts. I am pouring out fervent passion on Zion. I am pouring out my passion with severe anger. Thus, says the Lord. I am coming again to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is called a city worthy of trust and is called a holy mountain of the Lord of Hosts," (verses two and three). This prophecy from the book of Zechariah was from the time the re-building of the temple was nearing completion in the sixth century B.C.E.
Joyous Land To Wasteland
2. I said "the re-building" of the temple because the impressive temple of God that was constructed in the former time of Solomon was once completely destroyed by the Babylonian army. The country was torn, the fortress was broken down, the people were scattered or otherwise taken captive and transported to a foreign land. In the previous chapter, it puts it like this: "I have scattered them into countries which they have not known. Then, the land become waste and no one was coming or going. They made their land of joy fall into ruin," (Zechariah 7:14).
3. Why did something like this ever happen? Let's go back to chapter seven and keep looking at this. The message which the Lord repeatedly used to give through the prophets has been summarized in verses nine and ten. "Thus, says the Lord of Hosts. Judge with righteousness and truth, be kind to one another, be deep in compassion, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the alien, or the poor and do not connive evil in your hearts against one another." What if we turned the words around to the complete opposite of the Lord's words? "You will not judge with righteousness and truth, but judgment is to be done based on narrow-mindedness and your relationship to the advantages and the disadvantages [in a situation]. People will think only of themselves among one another. The widow, the fatherless, the alien, the poor and those who are powerless unable to keep their rights on their own will be driven into a corner, oppressed, and be the prey of those with power. Everyone will live as they connive evil in their hearts against one other." Indeed, by reversing his words like that, it is a truly dreadful kind of society. But that, more or less, is the real situation among the Israelites.
4. God sent the prophets to them when they were like this and kept speaking to them. But, they wouldn't give ear. It says, "Instead, they refused to open their hearing, stubbornly turned their backs, wouldn't listen but dulled their hearing, made their hearts hard as stone, and would not listen to the law and the messages which the Lord of Hosts had given by his spirit through the former prophets," (verses eleven and twelve).
5. The details of their evil deeds are not condemned here. The fact itself of their not having judged with righteousness and truth and the fact itself of their having oppressed the widow, the fatherless, the alien, and the poor is not even brought out here. Their problem preceded even that. It was that they hardened against God. That's right, the problem is never in the individual actions that people do. It is in a way of living that refuses to incline one's attention to the word of God. It's in that kind of stubbornness. It's in a heart that's like a rock that would live turning its back in stubborn rebellion and in stopping up one's ears.
6. The anger of the Lord came against such incalcitrance and obstinance. God judged them righteously. The nation of Judah perished and the people scattered. The land became desolate and no one came or went. But the Bible speaks here choosing its words very carefully. It says the wrath of God did not lay waste to Jerusalem. The scripture says, "They made their land of joy fall into ruin," (verse fourteen). What God gave them was supposed to have been a land of joy at the start. It was not God's original intention for them to lay it waste. It was neither God nor the big Babylonian army that really brought it on. It was themselves that did. God would give them life in a land of joy. But, the sin of us human beings who won't quit rebelling against God winds up ravishing the land of joy we are given.
I Am Pouring Out My Passion On Zion
7. But, God did not make an end of their history with ruination. God progressed in his relationship with the people. God did not only look at the past of the people that brought on the ruin or their current wretched situation. God looked at their future. God recalled the scattered Israelites back together, made them rebuild the temple, and spoke to them as follows: "I am pouring out my fervent passion on Zion."
8. The hill of Zion would no longer remain with its former visage. The temple, though it was built there, but when compared to the marvelous structure built back in the Solomonic period it was an eyesore. For, the fortress of Jerusalem was broken and the gates to it were burnt down. Its condition was truly equivalent to ruins. If you compared the people who were repatriated back into [the ruined land] with the people who used to live in Jerusalem at the time when the monarchy once flourished, to tell the truth, they amounted to no more than a small handful of a flock. Everything about Zion was miserable. But, the Lord says he is pouring out his fervent passion on Zion. The Lord holds his eye on Zion.
9. In The Bible Society Version that I used before it goes like this: "I am having a great fit of jealousy for Zion. And I am jealous with a great anger for it." What is translated as "passion" in The Common Bible Translation is "jealousy" in another translation. The phrase "God is jealous" stands out a great deal. But such an expression occurs in the Bible a lot.
10. God is a jealous God. What is expressed here by translating
it either "passion" or "jealousy" is the zeal of God that would perfectly
make the people of God as his very own. The Lord, a jealous God,
is looking for the people of God to live totally as
God's. The Lord, as a jealous God, will not let the people of God go to another. The people of God are not allowed to turn their backs on him. He won't allow them to stop up their ears to the word of God. He abhors the sin of humanity that rebels against God's love. He is angry against sin.
11. The phrase "I am pouring out my passion with severe anger." may sound strange to us. But, when the wording is changed, it means that God in no wise is unconcerned for humanity; he always cares. It is nothing but a passion of God which will soon appear in Zion by means of a single individual. It will come to pass that the anger of God for sin and the passion of God which won't quit seeking for humanity will be perfectly manifested by Jesus Christ on the cross. The Lord is stating here that he will pour out that kind of passion.
Renewal By God
12. The Lord, who pours out his passion like this, also goes on to say, "I am coming again to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem." The Lord wants to dwell among the people. God wishes to be with the people personally and to live together with them. The Lord says he will live in the midst of Jerusalem. But, in order for it to become a place God can live in, the capital city must be destroyed once. Solomon's temple must be destroyed once. The prosperity when they turned their backs on God must be taken away this once. The Lord says regarding the capital city which will thus be laid to waste for once that he will live in it. When the Lord comes the wasted city will be renewed.
13. When the Lord comes and dwells with them, what will the renewed city be like? It is put like this in verses four and following: "Thus says the Lord of Hosts. In the open spaces[*] of Jerusalem, the old men and the old women will sit again. Both will hold a cane in hand due to their long lives. The plazas of the capital will run over with children and virgins, they will be in the broad ways laughing loudly," (verses four and five). This is what the city will look like under God's renewal and recovery. Here we are given one detailed image related to what the world that God wants to give humankind will be like and what the kingdom of God under God's rule will be like. It is the image of wide streets or plazas or open spaces for gathering together.
14. When the Lord comes and dwells with them -- This passage is not stating that prosperity as in the former time period of Solomon will be restored. The Lord is not intending to just make everything like it was before. When the Lord comes and dwells with them -- It is not saying that it will become a kingdom that will outdo the other nations either politically or economically. The Lord is not wanting to give them anything like that. It is one plaza that the Lord is looking at. There are old men and women sitting in it. They will be sitting holding on to their canes because of their longevity. We, too, should turn our eyes upon them as they are to be.
15. When the Lord comes and dwells with them, the aged will rest at ease and sit in happiness. They will never be threatened by anything any more. They will never be weighed down by future unrest or fears of death. They will never lose sight of the meaning of existence claiming they were busy and couldn't work it out. They will never be neglected by anyone claiming they couldn't do something. There is no need to live alienated from others and be bitter. When the Lord comes and dwells with them, people can have a peaceful and restful existence with him. The Lord is telling us of an image of the kind of world in which people will be able to acknowledge their own personal lives and even rejoice in being alive.
16. Furthermore, children will fill up that same plaza. The plaza will be filled with their voices laughing loudly. When the Lord comes and dwells with them, children can live there as children. Children can play without worrying. There will be no adults to harm them. They will never be badly treated by parents or other adults. They will never be used as dolls for the parents to show off or as tools for the fulfillment of the parents' dreams. They will never be pushed into a comparison or into competition with others or made to go against their will. If they never fall victim to [the three year torturous pressures of] the college exam industries [so prevalent in Japan and their after school night classes], they will never become the prey of the sex industries. When the Lord comes and dwells with them, they can respond with joy without worry to the future that awaits them. Life can be responded to by them first of all as a more wonderful gift than anything and not as a mere subject of study. As a result, the children can again be very happy and take great pleasure in the present times. The children will be able to laugh from the heart.
17. The eyes of the Lord already see these such plazas of the city of God. But, in the eyes of Zechariah, who stated this, those plazas could not have been visible at all. In his panorama was probably only a Jerusalem which was still laid waste by humanity's sin and its consequences. It is probably the same with us as well. What spreads out before our eyes is a world laid waste in a similar way when all is said and done. Visible to our eyes is only the ruin which the sin of our generation has produced, a generation that refuses to incline their ears to God, turns its back stubbornly on him, will not listen but dulls its hearing, and has hardened its heart like a rock. The world doesn't seem to be a world where people whether when infants or aged can truly live together in joy. Isn't it a world not filled with voices laughing out loud but filled with groaning voices looking more for death rather than to be alive?
18. But, the prophet still had another word to say, which was, "Thus says the Lord of Hosts. When that time is here, the Lord of Hosts says Will I see and be surprised at the remnant of my people seeing and being surprised?," (verse six). God says that I am not surprised even though the plan of God which goes beyond our imaginations was fulfilled. Although it might be surprising for us, it was a very natural and expected ending from God's perspective. Because God is loyal and true, what God has promised will come to fulfillment. Our hopes are not in the various potentials humans have, but lie solely in God who has so spoken. It lies in this very God who has already revealed his passion in Zion through one person. Our hope lies in God that with his passion he might come to live in our midst and grant us the coming of his kingdom.
19. Osaka Nozomi Church assembled together today for "a service for the blessing of children" and prayed with our hearts in unison for the children in particular. If we don't turn our hearts to God, we have nothing to say to our children. If we could speak it might only be, "We have made a ruin of the land of joy. You are stuck living in this mess. We're really sorry." But, we can turn our eyes on God who will come and live in our midst with passion. We depend on him and adoringly worship this Lord. Because of the very fact that he is Lord, we can face the future with hope along with our children. Because of the very fact that he is Lord, we will not lose our wills, but we can instead live seeking for a world which the Lord wants to give us. Keep praying with the children "Thy kingdom come, they will be done in earth as it is in heaven."
*.Hebrew for broad place, open place, plaza, usually near the city gates as a place of gathering and the center of the social life of the city from rechoboth, plural for rechob listed as #7339 page 932 in The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, Hendrickson Press, USA 1979.