Zechariah 2:6-13 “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord.
“Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in Daughter Babylon!” For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you — for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye — I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”
Reflection These verses break into the series of visions in a more traditional form of prophetic oracles. The intended audience is not made clear, although they seem to be directed at those still living in the diaspora – those who had been scattered among the nations and exiled in Babylon. God hasn’t forgotten them, they are very precious too. This is where the concept of being ‘the apple of my eye’ originates – and we understand what this means even if it is a rather strange analogy! It is interesting to note that it is applied to those who, for whatever reason, have not yet returned to Jerusalem and not to the mainstream community who are currently engaged in doing God’s will. Are they akin to Jesus’ lost sheep?
God’s judgment continues to be meted out, in a measured way, on the nations; but God’s people are urged to make haste and return to Judah and Jerusalem. Now is a time for rejoicing, says Zechariah, for that is where God has chosen to dwell in the midst of the new community being established there. Again the message is working on two levels, with a literal focus on the physical Jerusalem but also looking forward to a more spiritual idea of Zion, an eternal Jerusalem, in a holy land. Along with the reunion of God’s chosen people there will come a pilgrimage of all the nations – on that future day.
So the prophet is looking beyond God’s work of judgment on human history to a time when God will draw all peoples together into a realm made holy by God’s abiding presence. But there is an imperative to respond to God’s call in the present moment, to become part of what God is doing now in preparation for that ultimate day.
Living God, we are amazed when you remind us how precious each of us is in your sight. We thank you for reaching out in love to call us back to you, especially if we have become settled in a worldly context and its ways. Help us to respond with urgency, so that we may play our part, now, in preparing this world for the coming of your kingdom. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister living in Cambridgeshire; she is a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.