Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, the inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Come, let us go to entreat the favour of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favour of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’
The final oracles look forward to the coming of God’s reign, centred on Jerusalem. They describe a pilgrimage of peoples and nations encouraging one another to journey towards God’s dwelling place and to seek God’s favour. The first speaks of gathering in God’s faithful people.
Verse 23 projects this hope into an unspecified, more remote future and it may be a later addition. It is explicit in its universal scope and ten from each nation represent the whole population. It contains the first scriptural usage of ‘Jew’ (rather than Judean etc), to signify someone’s religious commitment as distinct from indicating ethnicity. The reference to a garment relates to the distinctive clothing (see Matt.23:5) that made such a person easily identifiable. Such clothing emerged within priestly groups during the second temple period.
The remarkable feature of this oracle is the occurrence of ‘God’, and not Lord, in the final sentence. These pilgrims don’t journey as converts; they don’t yet know God, nor what a covenant relationship entails, nor about the nature and purposes of God. They choose to associate themselves with the faithful community in Jerusalem because they’ve heard that a powerful God is present with the people there. They want to find out about this God and to share in the benefits that this God bestows on the community.
This represents a fulfilment of the promise to Abraham in Gen.12:3 that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed, which is not the same as becoming members of the covenant community.
As Christians we’re called to be visible in our world; gathered as congregations that live in distinctive, desirable ways, testifying to the righteous power of God active in our midst. To be a foretaste of God’s kingdom, the new Jerusalem, beacons of hope, welcoming any who come seeking, so that God may bless them too.
Gracious God, we rejoice that you’ve revealed yourself through Jesus Christ and that we can know your presence in every moment of life. We thank you for the congregations where our faith was nurtured.
May our lives witness to your loving purposes in distinctive, Christlike, ways as we join in your work of kingdom building. May the world be drawn to seek you in our midst, that you may bless them. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.