Focus: 1:3-4, “Therefore say to the people: The LORD who rules over all says, “Turn to me,” says the LORD who rules over all, “and I will turn to you,” says the LORD who rules over all. “Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the former prophets called out, saying, ‘The LORD who rules over all says, “Turn now from your evil wickedness, “’ but they would by no means obey me,” says the LORD.”
God’s love for His people is unlike any other love that I have ever witnessed in my life. Throughout the message of the prophets, we can see God practically begging His people to return to Him- not in a desperate sort of way, but in a way that demonstrates deep concern and yearning for their well being. God’s love for His people is truly remarkable.
In 1:3, the Lord said to His people, “Turn to me.” God wanted his people to return to Him with their whole heart. As I read this, echoes of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel ring throughout my ears. In Deuteronomy 30:1-3 the Lord promises Israel that when His people are taken into captivity in far away lands because of their disobedience, if they turn to the Lord and obey him with their entire mind and being, then He will have pity on His people and reverse their captivity! In other words, God said that if His people were ever found lost and lead to captivity in distant lands, then the only way back was to do a spiritual U-turn.
When Zechariah prophesied, Israel was far removed from the Land and God’s covenant protection. Centuries, kilometers and a broken relationship separated Israel from the Lord of the Covenant who had practically divorced them. Yet, Yahweh gives Zechariah a message to the decedents of His faithful followers who received the Covenant as they were about ready to set foot in the Promised Land. The message was, “return to me.”
While the more recent ancestors of Zechariah’s contemporaries had hardened their hearts against God and walked away from Him like an adulteress woman, God was reminding Zechariah’s audience of His promise to return to His people if they come back. Even while those present to hear Zechariah’s message may have only had an intellectual knowledge of the Promise, they were again being implored to return to the Lord with their whole hearts so that they could return to the Land and enjoy the freedom and fruit of the Covenant. God says, “Turn back!”
This teaches us a couple things. First, God has always initiated relationship with His people. We must only respond accordingly. Second, repentance never begins with a heart that is transformed. Repentance is the U-turn for the heart that is lost in captivity from sin. Therefore, no matter how screwed up our life gets or how far removed from God we try to run, we have the opportunity to be reconciled back to right relationship. God’s promise always remains for any remnant of people who trust in Him, even if they suffer because of the rebellion of others. So our hearts should not be discouraged if others will not turn back to the Lord when we do. God is faithful and will save those who love Him.