“People will live there, and never again will there be a curse of complete destruction. So Jerusalem will dwell in security.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Post-apocalyptic movies have had a pretty steady audience for several decades now. It’s a niche market, to be sure, but one that has been growing over the years. The reason for this is cultural. Our visions of the future are either hyper-technological or post-apocalyptic or both. Usually, if you push them far enough out, the more desolate picture wins. Visions of utopia have generally dried up. We are increasingly without hope as a people. What Zechariah reminds us of here, though, is that hope should never be given up on entirely.
Here we are at the end of what has been the longest pause yet along this journey through the minor prophets. Next up will be Malachi which is the final stop we’ll make and also happens to be one of the most culturally relevant of the bunch. I was looking back the other day and we actually began this journey almost a full year ago. For me personally, this has been a fruitful endeavor and I hope it has been for you as well. I hope this has been an opportunity to dive deeply into an often-overlooked part of the Scriptures to see that when Paul said all Scripture was God-breathed, he really meant it.
This final chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy is really pretty different in tone from the rest of the collection. He has been looking toward the messianic kingdom in these last three chapters and presenting different elements of the final journey it will take to get there along the way. The summary I’ve taken from it has been that it won’t be as smooth as we’d like to think. Sin is ugly, but powerful stuff. Its total defeat will come more surely than the next sunrise, but it is not going to die quietly. In many ways, this last chapter Zechariah reflects themes that will later make another appearance in John’s vision of the end of the world in Revelation.
In this chapter–and make sure you click through and read the whole thing so you can get your mind around the full picture here; in fact, plan on reading it a few times through because you’ll need that to really begin understanding it–we see cataclysmic battles, chaos erupting all around, and plagues running rampant. But we also see God Himself defending His people and coming out on top, His enemies defeated utterly. Yet the destruction is not total. When the dust settles, even those who were opposed to Him have turned to acknowledge His lordship.
In the middle of the chaos, this one idea emerges powerfully: Peace. In the place where God’s people dwell–Zechariah described it as Jerusalem because that was the only frame of reference that would have made any sense to his audience–there would be peace and security. All fear of the chaos of sin would be banished. There would be only enjoying the life that is truly life.
Describing the same future, the apostle John would later write these comforting words: “Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”
We live in a world that is enveloped in chaos and the tide seems to be rising all the time. Various voices around us react to this in all kinds of different ways. Some embrace it and seek to use it to further their own interests. Some turn to hopelessness and a hedonistic lifestyle to deaden the pain that otherwise eats at their soul. Some become conspiratorial and see something sinister beneath it all that must be fought at all costs. As followers of Jesus, though, how should we respond?
Well, for starters, we shouldn’t be surprised by it. Guys like Paul and Peter and John and Jesus Himself (not to mention what the prophets like Zechariah here had to say about it) all made explicitly clear that chaos will come before Christ’s final return. Not only will it come, but it will get bad. Really bad. Jesus told us that He was giving us the heads up so that it wouldn’t catch us by surprise and leave us despairing. As much as it should not surprise us, we cannot give into it. At all. As a matter of fact, other than seizing the opportunity to minister the hope and comfort and compassion of the Gospel to those who have been impacted by the chaos, we should not let it affect us or how we live our lives in even the slightest way.
And why? Because we know how it will end. It will end with Christ reigning over all the earth. It will end with God’s people dwelling in security for all time. It will end with peace descending and life flourishing absent all the things that otherwise threaten to drag us down into the mire. It will end with victory for all those who have committed themselves to the way of the kingdom of God.
Yet in this confidence of victory, how we handle ourselves matters a great deal. If we respond with pride and arrogance, we will make ourselves worthless to the very kingdom whose entrance we so confidently assume. No one wants to be around someone like that. No, this victory must be handled with great humility and gentleness. Indeed, but for God’s grace alone we would not be a party to it. And there are those around us who will miss out on it, who will be consumed by the chaos. That fact should break our heart into pieces and our empathy–for we were once broken ourselves–should drive us to call them to embrace the life that is truly life with us.
There is a storm raging, but we have an anchor that will hold. Let us cling to it and encourage those around us who are still floating in the chaos to grab hold with us. There is life and a great celebration to come. The chaos will not define the day.