July 1, 2011

Saturday after the First Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 44, Dt. 34, Lk. 4:31-41
Evening - Ps. 46, 47, Zech. 8:14, Acts 10:34

Commentary

Zechariah 8:14-23 continues the wondrously good news that God has returned to Zion. Because the Jewish people had forsaken Him He withdrew His grace and protection from them, and allowed them to be devoured by their enemies. But now He has returned in grace to accomplish His purpose for His people. As He did not turn back from His wrath, He also will not turn back from His mercy (14-15). As surely as His words of wrath were fulfilled, His words of mercy will also be fulfilled. He will do good things for Jerusalem and Judah, thus, they can have confidence in Him. They may draw near to Him in faith, rather than run from Him in fear.

He calls the Jews to return to Him as He has returned to them. The call is not simply to rebuild a landmark and re-institute religious activity. The call is to turn their hearts to God as He has turned His to them. The call is to live in fellowship and peace with one another and with God. It is a call to come to God with sincerity and truth in worship. God does not tell them to dispense with liturgy in order to worship Him with their heart. He tells them to put their heart into the liturgy. The Temple worship is formal, but it is not dead formalism, and it means nothing if the heart of the people is not in it. Let the service of God in worship and in everyday life be joy to the house of Judah (8:19). When the heart is in it, it will be joy to worship God.

This will cause many to want to return to Jerusalem and to the Covenant (8:20-21). Many Jews did not return to Jerusalem at the end of the Captivity. Many found new lives in the lands where they had once been prisoners. They did not want to return to Jerusalem, a land of poverty, hardship, and danger. They enjoyed the looser approach to the faith that was allowed in the Gentile lands. In short, they had no intention of returning to Jerusalem or making the sacrifices required to become the people of the Covenant again. The joy of the people in Jerusalem would be an invitation to them to return to God.

It would also induce Gentiles to seek the God of Israel. "Many people, and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord" (8:22). This will be fulfilled in greater glory in the New Jerusalem. Christ's Church will gather many people and strong nations into it in a way the old Jerusalem could never do. Verse 23 is also a picture of the day of Christ and the era of fulfillment in which we live. The first Christians were Jews and through the grace of God working in them, Gentiles have come to their God. May they also come to us, the spiritual children of Abraham, because they have heard that God is with us.