Recently, while sharing a brief prophetic word at church about Zechariah 1:3, I found myself restating the text. As I stepped away from the microphone, I concluded with “says the Lord of hosts,” just as the verse ends.
The cringe factor was off the scale! I felt like I had been transported back in time to when I was a Pentecostal preacher. Still, the message was more encouraging to me than to anyone else, for the reason that we’ve been exploring the Apostles’ Creed as a church.
Having missed the previous Sunday, I mistakenly thought we were discussing “the Communion of Saints.” I worried my message wouldn’t fit but decided to follow my heart’s leading. I intended to reference Revelation 2:4, but brain fog hit, and I dove straight into Zechariah, not realising that the day’s message was actually about the next part of the creed: “The forgiveness of sins.” I was encouraged by this bit of news, although I don’t think anyone else noticed.
Sometimes, God brings encouragement in unexpected ways.
That’s what happens with the prophecy of Zechariah 1:3. Contextually, it’s nestled in a post-exilic moment. Judah having returned from Babylonian captivity, found themselves scrambling over the rubble of their former glory, both literally and spiritually. It is in this ‘catchment area’ that Zechariah boldly prophesies and extends an invitation and a promise: ‘Return to me, and I will return to you.’ This call to return isn’t just about geographical relocation; it’s a heart matter, a call to spiritual renewal.
Looking under the microscope, the verse could have been given as a prophecy in its own right – it’s loaded with meaning, promise and encouragement – and perhaps, you might find it encouraging too!
The phrase, “the Lord of Hosts,” commands attention. Often we need to remind ourselves in prayer of the Lordship of Jesus, and that includes His “Omnis” – omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. Simply put, He has the power, authority, strength, might and dominion to do everything He wants to, when He wants and how He wants. He also knows if it has been done. It’s a fascinating title used in the Bible to describe God, translating as the Lord of “armies” or “hosts.”
As mentioned with the “Omnis”, it highlights God’s supreme power and authority over all the armies of heaven, including angels and celestial beings. It’s like calling God the ultimate commander of an incredibly vast, powerful cosmic army, literally commanding forces beyond our human comprehension, both in the spiritual realm and in the physical universe.
The one who is addressing them is endowed with immense strength and ability to control and guide the vast complexities of creation, and it is from that massive show of power, determination and ability that God addresses them. The message? Come back! Return to Him. They were His people but had drifted off whether by deception, sinfulness, stupidity or narcissism. You can’t “return” if you were never His – the option is clear; they were His people and now God is saying to them, calling to them, imploring them – “Return to Me.”
Do you hear that voice calling?
Even before the plea, command, supplication, request, or demand of God, it shows something else – a willingness of God to extend grace, mercy, and favour. It’s not their choice or yours – the initiative is entirely from God, that irresistible grace draws us with immeasurable stirrings of the heart. It takes God to know God, and here that divine initiative causes a tsunami of grace to draw and pull the hearts of the men, women, boys, and girls of Judah.
The call is compelling, and it is also with unwarranted and undeserved promise and consequence, “If you do, then I will reciprocate.” It’s a little bit like the testimonies of some in crisis, “Lord, if you will intervene, then I will become a missionary (or whatever else it was that you promised!)
This “Return to me” call is full of the generosity of God – Judah had nothing to lose and everything to gain – it was a promise of reciprocity upon the people turning back to God, He, in turn, will draw near to them. It is not merely a command but an invitation to restore a broken relationship. God’s favour and presence are contingent upon the people’s willingness to return and follow Him.
It’s not over-complicated!
Judah couldn’t say that they didn’t understand what was being asked of them by the prophet; it was simple: return to me and I will return to you. It was an immense promise – how could they decline? To turn back to YHWH and to have Him with them, surely that was like knowing God as Immanuel! We know the story, and time would demonstrate that the real blessing would be with the Church – never would He leave them or forsake them.
In 2023, the challenge is clear: in a world full of distractions, reconnecting with God is not a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing, intentional journey. We need to stay focused and keep turning to God. This message is important. It’s not just a call to action; it’s a promise that God will respond if we make an effort, like refreshing our spiritual connection. It means adjusting, recommitting, and sometimes changing our direction to make sure we’re following the right spiritual path.
Putting aside any awkwardness from my brief Sunday morning encouragement, it’s nice to realize that even when we think we’re off track, we might actually be more in line with God’s plan than we thought.
My mistake was a useful reminder that God’s guidance often fits our lives better than our own plans.