Monday

07 December 2015

"I will dwell in your midst." (v.11)

Psalm: Psalm 141:1-5


Background

Zechariah was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. He had returned to Jerusalem when Zerubbabel and Joshua had led the Jews who had been  released from captivity by King Cyrus. Zechariah's grandfather Iddo, a priest, was listed among the other returnees in Nehemiah, and Zechariah went on to succeed him as head of a priestly family. The meaning of his name really resonates with the prophecies he records - it means 'The Lord (Yahweh) remembers'. The visions and prophecies of Zechariah keep coming round to God's perpetual faithfulness (verse 11), 'remembering' the people and setting out promises of deliverance (verse 8).

The chapter begins with an angel telling Zechariah that because of an immense increase in the population, Jerusalem (the 'new' Jerusalem) will be so large that there will be no city walls. City walls have two functions - to protect inhabitants from enemies and to confine inhabitants - but in this new Jerusalem, God's presence will surround it and the presence of God will inhabit it. God promises that "many nations" will be drawn to the city and will live as God's people.

Much of the energy in this passage comes from encouraging the hearer or reader to think ahead of the glorious future that awaits the whole community of God's people. Today, we see this return to the new Jerusalem in a very different light to Zechariah. Those who are drawn to the new Jerusalem are not necessarily drawn to a physical location but are drawn to be part of a community built around Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord. And we know that this community does not come from one ethnic group but is global, and all are before God in total equality.

In contrast to Haggai, who placed a lot of stress on the temple and its rebuilding, Zechariah has a slighty different perspective. The ancient Jewish community was taught to venerate the temple as the place where God's presence was experienced, but in reading Zechariah, we start to get the picture that it was really through the people's faithfulness to God, illustrated by their commitment to the building project, that God's presence was known. So, although he was also committed to the project, Zechariah saw it as a prelude to the eschatological age, or the end times, and that the bricks and mortar were of much less importance than living faithfully in light of the message of the Law of Moses.

And on both these counts, I think Zechariah presents a model of a contemporary faith community.
 

To Ponder

  • What does the new Jerusalem mean for you and the faith community you may be part of?
  • Throughout history (and sadly sometimes still the case) Christianity has been twisted into a defence of bigotry, sectarianism and exclusion. Perhaps you have experienced this or have seen it in action in your community? In what ways can you link this passage with the good news of Jesus and make it relevant to your experience, or to those who have experienced bigotry or exclusion?


Bible notes author: Emma Kennedy

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