There is a fairly strong theme that carries through many of the prophetic books–the idea of a remnant. Of those who remain and survive the judgment that God is going to levy against the people of Israel and Judah. It is particularly important in the book of Isaiah, but today, I would like to draw our attention to another book, one that likely does not get a lot of airtime in our classes, sermons, or conversations about the Bible. That is in the book of Zechariah.
The book of Zechariah begins with a series of visions that God shares with the prophet. Each of these visions deserves attention on their own, but for our purposes today, allow me to summarize them briefly:
In the first vision, Zechariah learns of those whom God has tasked with patrolling the earth. These “riders” have seen the ruin of the people and of the nations of Israel and Judah and call for God to have compassion once more on the people.
The second vision, however, details the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Judah by “4 horns,” or 4 other nations.
The third vision describes God’s judgment against those foreign nations, particularly Babylon, who have just destroyed the nation of Judah.
The fourth vision enters into the heavenly realm, and we begin to understand that not only are their physical wars going on between the nation of Judah and the foreign nations, but God is also working to defeat the Adversary in the heavenly realm so that God can reestablish a righteous priesthood.
The fifth vision uses temple imagery to describe the restoration of God’s home among the people.
The sixth vision shows the Law once more descending on the land and upon the people, and the importance of following the Law in obedience to God.
The seventh vision, quite dramatically, shows the removal of wickedness from the land and from God’s people.
And finally, the eighth vision once more shows the “riders” being sent out to patrol the earth again. Now that wickedness has been banished and obedience to God has returned to the land, God can once more settle with the people, and the High Priest will mediate God to the people. All the nations of the earth will look to Jerusalem and see that here is where God truly resides.
Now, the book deserves more attention than what I have devoted to it here, but I hope you can see the theme of restoration. The idea of the Lord returning to his people and all the nations of the earth seeing righteousness, obedience, and justice through them, and then being inspired to live faithfully to the true God as a result.
And this is where the idea of a remnant becomes so important. Because the book of Zechariah is written after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. It is written after 60 years of exile. It is written after the temple has been destroyed and laid waste. After the people have been humiliated, their kings either killed or installed as nothing more than vassals to the nation of Babylon. After the people think that God has abandoned them.
And yet, a fresh word comes to Zechariah. Word of a remnant. Word that God has not forgotten or abandoned them, nor has God been defeated by other gods. Instead, what God is doing is bringing righteousness and justice back to the land.
It is a word of Hope to a people who are in desperate need. Out of destruction, God offers peace. Out of despair, hope. Out of the depths, God offers a blessing.
This week, I encourage you to read Zechariah 8 to see and to be reminded of who this God is. This is a God of Hope. This is a God who can bring life where before there was none. This is the God who we meet in Jesus, and who offers us the promise of resurrected life.
May we be people who live faithfully, who advocate hope, and who are known by love, all for the glory of God and so that the world will take notice. There is a God; he is alive.