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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Scripture Reading: Zechariah 7:2, 8–14; 8:1–8
Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men, to entreat the favour of the Lord.

The word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” But they refused to listen, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears in order not to hear. They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. “Just as, when I called, they would not hear, so, when they called, I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and a pleasant land was made desolate.”

The word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the Lord of hosts? Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.” (NRSV)

This passage is God promising a future blessing. God gave this promise in a vision to Zechariah, a prophet during the return to Jerusalem and reconstruction of Solomon’s temple. God tells Zechariah, when siege was laid upon Jerusalem, that he did not answer the prayers of his people. He commanded his people to see that justice is done and to show kindness and mercy, but they refused to listen and made their hearts as stone. Because God was angry, he allowed the destruction of the temple and dispersed the people. God tells Zechariah of his love for hid children and promises that he will return to Jerusalem and live there and provide blessings while ruling justly and faithfully.

We often think of God’s plan. This does not give reason to our trials and sadness. Instead it can provide acceptance—and informs and influences our faith.

This passage reminds us that God’s mind can be changed. We choose to live according to God’s will, but we fail in perfect fulfillment. Here we are reminded that God loves us and does not forsake or forget us. God does not tell Zechariah the conditions of regathering the people but simply highlights why God did not listen when they sought help.

God’s heart is soft for us. God’s gifts include prayer, the willingness to change his plan, and Christ, with the promise of salvation through intercession and grace.

In this contemplative time of Lent, we recognize our failings, and we pray. These contribute to us softening our hearts, remembering God’s gifts and blessings, and turning ourselves towards God and God’s plan. God is close and hears our prayers. Pointedly, God answers our prayers.

Lord, thank you for prayer and for hearing me. Soften my heart so that I can work to fulfill your plan. Amen.

Written by Brian Clise, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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