MAKING A NEW START
Lord, You are the architect of the new beginning.
Read ZECHARIAH 1:1–6
A Call to Return to the Lord
1 In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:
2 “The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. 3 Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. 4 Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. 5 Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6 But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?
“Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Can you remember having to make a new start, perhaps after failure, or because of a change of circumstances? How did you respond to the challenge?
Zechariah’s ministry begins a month before Haggai’s ends and follows up on Haggai’s encouraging word to the despondent (Haggai 2:1–9). Zechariah’s message is both challenging and encouraging. He challenges his hearers to learn from history. The covenant-breaking of their ancestors and their disregard of repeated warnings given by prophets has made God very angry. Anger is as much an attribute of God in the New Testament as it is in the Old (eg., John 3:36; Romans 1:18; Ephesians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). But unlike human anger, God’s is never arbitrary or disproportionate. In Israel’s case, it triggers the covenant curses which they have signed on to and is proportional to their evil ways and practices (4, 6). God’s anger expresses his holiness, which cannot condone evil, and also his love, which cannot remain unmoved by the self-abuse of his people as they surrender to evil.
The destruction of the temple and the subsequent exile have shown that God keeps his word. This is a basis for encouragement, because the prophet brings a promise from God, “‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you’” (3). It is a reminder that the covenant is not just a code of conduct, but a personal relationship. Here is the offer of a new start, but it requires an act of “turning,” a complete reorientation of one’s life, an act of repentance. My father, a soldier, once compared this to the three parade-ground commands, “Halt! About turn! Quick march!” Jesus will begin his ministry of the new covenant with a call to repentance, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). He will express the relationship aspect of the new covenant in a way that echoes Zechariah’s promise, much like the father running to meet the returning prodigal son (Luke 15:20).
Lord, show me if I have strayed away from You and help me to turn to You, trusting Your promise that You will be ready to welcome me back.
Lord, we know by experience that You say what You mean and mean what You say.