Welcome back, fellow exile!
Darius 2nd Year, 8th Month, ??st Day (2.8.??)
Definitely one of the “psychedelic prophets,” in between Zechariah’s wild visions of flying scrolls and still-popular sayings like, “the apple of my eye,” Zechariah has some remarkably immediate and lucid passages that are as clear and prescient today as they were then. The first half of Chapter 1 is just such a chapter.
We open with an assumed answer to the crystal-clear question that the writer doesn’t even ask to you, the reader, “To which generation do you see yourself belonging: the last generation that ignored the prophets and refused to return to the Lord, or the current generation that G-d is giving another chance to right now?” If the latter, He then says, “Return to me that I may return to you.”
Since they were already rebuilding the temple in that moment, does the word “return” mean more than mere repentance? Could it also mean, that during the time of exile, people got used to not going to a centralized place to worship?
People were returning to their own cities. Not everyone could go to Jerusalem every week for communal worship. All the way back before Babylonian exile, in Jeremiah 43-46, Jeremiah, himself, was swept away with a group that disobeyed G-d and fled to Egypt to avoid exile in Babylon. He prophesied against them, and most were captured anyway. But there’s evidence that some escaped to the island of Elephantine. These set up their own temple… a “remote” temple if you will.
Apparently, this notion of remote attendance of communal worship became an idea around that time, and as those “escapees” were eventually caught and moved to Babylon, the idea of remote attendance likely spread through the exiles. Maybe they had their own version of staying home in their PJ’s and worshipping with family, and now that they were back in Israel, were they slow to return to community worship and fellowship?
Darius 2nd Year, 9th Month, 24th Day (2.9.24)
There’s an iterative theme in this section. G-d covers it at least twice. See if it pops out to you as you read:
- G-d promises to be with us even though we are unclean
- Do consider this before you work, (call for repentance)
- Until we do, we will not be blessed in success
- He has a plan to shake things up
- He will stand by us
Can you see how these two prophets, proclaiming their message mere weeks apart, hit everyone with a loaded 1-2 punch? Return to me. Even when bad things happened you did not come back. Do it now and I will return to you. I am already waiting, and from this day on I will bless you! Revival takes seed here and flourishes—when His chosen who have committed to rebuilding, and in the middle of trials along the way, consider their own uncleanness, repent, and work. Then G-d shakes things up.
Big Take-Away from Zechariah 1 + Haggai 2
19) Pray we are the generation that can still return to the Lord and that we haven’t become the fathers who didn’t listen or pay attention to G-d.