In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
An unexpected reversal of fortune. Four fasts were called in Israel: one at the murder of a man named Gedaliah, which was the beginning of the end for Judah; one at the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem in 588 BC; one when the walls of Jerusalem were breached in 586 BC; and one at the burning of Jerusalem and the temple (see 2 Kings 25:1-3, 8, 9, 25). These fasts, says Yahweh, will become “seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts” (Zechariah 8:19, ESV). A people in love with false oaths and untruth will become a people who speak the truth and who love just judgments. Nations who had no share in the worship of the one true God will be begging to come to the temple with the people of the Chosen Nation. These are the things that happen when the intention of Yahweh is to bring upon His people good rather than evil. Note clearly: Yahweh’s punishment upon His people was just. The people of Judah had not listened to the prophets and they refused to repent of their idolatry. But note just as clearly: Yahweh’s decision to bring good upon the remnant of that people was based in Himself, without any merit or worthiness in the people. Thus, having been reclaimed by God’s mercy, this people was to act in particular ways, reflecting Yahweh’s righteousness: “These are the things you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares [Yahweh]…Therefore love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:16-17, 19b, ESV).
These people—Yahweh’s people—were very small; a remnant of the once great nation under Solomon. But Yahweh has greater things than that in mind. This people will not remain small: “Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of [Yahweh] and to seek [Yahweh of the heavenly armies]; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek [Yahweh of the heavenly armies] in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of [Yahweh]” (Zechariah 8:20-22, ESV). The people of God, amazingly, will be expanded to include all people and all nations, even the uncircumcised masses. “For you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…” (Revelation 5:9, ESV). Something greater than Solomon is here (Matthew 12:42).
This prophecy has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled even as you sit here now. You were not of the chosen people. You had no share in the inheritance of the people of God. You are not descended from the people Yahweh brought back from Babylon. And yet, here you are, seeking Yahweh where He has promised to be found, in the One who is greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6). Salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22); indeed, in a Jew of Jews. And there is no hope outside that Jew of Nazareth. Take hold of the robe of that man of Judah and cry out to Him: Let us go with You, for we have heard that God is with You (Zechariah 8:23). It is true: God is with Him, because He and the Father are one. Even more, in Him God is with us, Immanu-el. You are here, entreating His favor, and He is here, looking in favor on you for the sake of the Judean, Jesus. You, you are part of the fulfillment of Zechariah 8! You, who were not a people, have become the people of the only true God.
But there are more. There are peoples who have yet to come, even the inhabitants of many cities. You, the inhabitants of the Wenatchee Valley, you come here to seek Yahweh, to hear His Word and seek His favor; but there are more. Do you know anyone who is outside the people of God, even some who are on the membership list of this congregation? Go to them and speak the words of the people of Judah: “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of [Yahweh] and to seek [Yahweh of armies]; I myself am going” (Zechariah 8:21, ESV). You are coming. Will you bring them to the dwelling place of Yahweh in all His mercy and grace, even Jesus Christ? Even though they touch the least part of the hem of His garment, they will be healed (Matthew 9:20-22). Here is Jerusalem, here is the temple, here is Yahweh, general of the heavenly armies, here is the God who was born a Jew to save. Here He resides, for His people and for those who are not yet His people. Here He is to turn the long fast of this life into the resurrection season of joy and gladness. Take firm hold of the fringe of His garment and bring others along also, as together we pray with the nations of every language: “Let us go with You, for we have heard that God is with You.” And He will lead us, finally, into the cheerful feast of the Lamb in the new creation, which has no end.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
–Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/21/17