9 December 2015

Zechariah 8:1-8

"They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness." (v.8)

Psalm: Psalm 142


In this passage, the prophet Zechariah is speaking to a people who sense they have failed. They can look back on a history of prosperity and faithfulness, but now they understand their present predicament in theological terms. They have been faithless, and therefore they have been abandoned. Into this dark misery a prophetic word is spoken... "I will return to Zion".

With God's return, everything else follows. The city of Zion (another name for Jerusalem) will be a place of safety and life, with "boys and girls playing in its streets"; a place of healthy and elderly people - zimmer frames abound. Their despair, occasioned by their self-understanding of faithlessness, and by their theological interpretation of their predicament as abandonment, is confronted with the hopeful reality of a God who still loves them - "is jealous for her".

This is not an optimistic assessment by the remnant of despairing people; the situation is quite as bad as they sense it to be. This is instead an invitation to hope, based not on a positive perception of a harsh reality, but by a faithful response to a divine word. Hope comes because God speaks: "They shall be my people and I will be their God." Hope comes because it is God who speaks and who still loves them.

I wonder how such a passage is heard now? We do not usually interpret our difficulties in theological terms, and see what is now because of our own choices in the past. Our sense of abandonment as Christians, who also look back to a history of prosperity and faithfulness from a time of difficulty and challenge, is probably interpreted in sociological or political terms.

This is a postmodern society, so what can you expect? I wonder though, if the promise does not stay the same? Maybe God is still saying, "I will return to Zion." Is this where our hope lies?

To Ponder

  • How do you understand where we are now as a Church, and perhaps as individuals?
  • What do you believe God is saying into your darkness?
  • What response does God's speaking evoke in you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.