“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the LORD of hosts, so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not'” (vv. 14–15).
In the midst of rebuilding the temple during the late sixth century BC, it was somewhat natural for the people of Jerusalem to become discouraged. Though the exiles were back in their homeland, the conditions of exile continued and the great restoration foreseen by the prophets was not yet evident. Of course, we know that this was not due to any unfaithfulness on the Lord’s part but rather the failure of the old covenant community as a whole to fulfill the conditions for restoration—true faith and repentance (Deut. 30:1–10; Dan. 9). The prophet Zechariah was sent to this discouraged people with a message of warning and comfort. As we saw in Zechariah 7, the prophet warned Judah that it had not yet learned the lesson of exile and that hypocritical piety could lead to their destruction just as it had for the pre-exilic Judahites. Today’s passage records Zechariah’s words of comfort. Despite His people’s unfaithfulness, the Lord did not abandon Judah but remained jealous for Zion and for Jerusalem. He had, in fact, come back there with His people and would make it a faithful city on a “holy mountain” (Zech. 8:1–3). These words foresee the complete purification of God’s people and their land. He will not fail to sanctify His true children fully, and He will give His people a final dwelling place that is clean and fit for habitation. John Calvin writes, “God is never idle while he dwells in his people; for he cleanses away every kind of impurity, every kind of deceit, that where he dwells may ever be a holy place.” Verses 4–15 of Zechariah 8 feature imagery that confirms and develops this promise. People will live to a great age because they will be at peace and have nothing to fear. The full remnant of Israel will return. Great agricultural productivity will follow and there will never again be the crushing poverty wherein people and animals are unable to earn anything for their labor. Moreover, the nation will be a blessing to the rest of the world. Note that this prophecy is both unconditional and conditional. It is unconditional in that the Lord will surely accomplish His promise. The final restoration is as sure as His promise to destroy Jerusalem for its unfaithfulness in 586 BC (vv. 14–15). However, the prophecy is conditional in that having Jewish blood is not enough to secure participation in the restoration blessings. Verses 7–8 echo the promise to Abraham in Genesis 17 that Yahweh would be God to His faithful children. We will experience the glories of restoration only if we trust in our Creator’s promises alone and show forth that true faith in obedience (James 2:14–26).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
God has promised to bring full restoration in the new heavens and earth. This is an unconditional promise—it is certain to happen no matter what individual men and women do. Yet this does not mean that all men and women will enjoy this restoration. Our participation in these blessings is conditioned upon faith and repentance. Only those who trust in Christ alone will inherit the earth. Do you place your hope in life and in death in the person and work of Christ alone?