10 December 2015Zechariah 8:20-23
"Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favour of the Lord." (v. 22)
Psalm: Psalm 143:1-11
Zechariah was both a prophet and a priest. He lived and wrote when Jews were returning to Judah and Jerusalem having been exiled by the Babylonians. As part of the conquest by the Babylonian Empire the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (in 586BC), and now Zechariah is keen for it to be rebuilt.
Yesterday's passage (Zechariah 8:1-8) describes what the rebuilt Jerusalem will look and feel like. And now today's verses show how attractive the new city will be to others.
Tourism and sightseeing are big business these days. International travel is easy and relatively cheap. Pictures are posted on social media from friends on their latest trip. You don't even to wait until they return to see the photos. When we visit another city or country, we follow the tourist travel trail visiting the sights and sites, and may even sample the dishes in a local restaurant. But how much do we experience what life is like there?
Zechariah prophesies that people from many cities will come "to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favour of the Lord". They are not spectators, but want to experience all that Jerusalem, including the temple and the Lord has to offer.
The best adverts for the new city seem to be the inhabitants themselves. Verse 23 speaks about people taking hold of a Jew and asking to go with them, "for we have heard that God is with you". This picks up a recurring theme in Zechariah and other prophets, of Gentiles seeking the Lord (Zechariah 2:11; also Isaiah 4:2-4; Micah 4:1-5). However, the final irony is that the temple is segregated and the non-Jews can only go so far.
But with Jesus all barriers between Jews and Gentiles were broken down and God is the God of all.
- "I want to experience all that the Christian faith offers." If someone said that to you, what experiences would you think of? And if you chose to miss out anything, why would do that?
- What is it in your life and behaviour that might make other people identify that God is with you?
- In the temple in Jerusalem, Gentiles could only progress so far. At a time when the talk is about welcoming refugees (or not) and Donald Trump is suggesting that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States, how far should we welcome others?