Return to Me & I Will Return to You

by LA UBF   05/03/2009     0 reads


Return to me and I will return to you��

 Return to Me and I Will Return to You

Zechariah 1:1-14:21

Key Verse 1:3 

“Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty.”

Welcome to the Monday night Bible study. Tonight we will cover Zechariah. At the outset the Prophet Zechariah lays down the purpose of the book, that is, to exhort his audience to return to the Lord. Let us read 1:1-3. Thankfully for us Zechariah conveniently set forth the contents of his prophecy, that is, what the audience ought to do in view of what the Lord promises to do. 

I. Return to me.

"Return to me and I will return to you." In the book of Haggai, the Prophet Haggai, who was one of Zechariah's contemporaries, encouraged the returnees returning back to the homeland from the Babylonian captivity to return to the Lord by working hard on building the house of the Lord. What additional message did the Lord have for the returnees then? 

There are two clues to consider: the first clue is found in the call itself, that is, "return to me, and I will return to you." Here "me" or "I" indicates that the real point of the return for the Israelites to return to is the Lord God himself. 

We find another clue to finding the real message the Lord chose Zechariah to convey in the last part of the prophecy, that is, in Zechariah 14:20-21. Let us open the Bible and read this blessed passage: "On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD'S house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty." Here the expression "holy to the Lord" is repeated twice. This repetition indicates that the real point of message is the Lord’s call for "everyone" to become "holy to the Lord." Further, there is a surprising prophecy that says, "And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord." Here the "house of the Lord” refers to the family of God. It does not refer to just a physical structure, such as a temple made of timber and stones. A “Canaanite” denotes those who remain disobedient to the Lord.   

This observation helps us better understand the true desire the Lord God wants to fulfill, that is, bringing his children to the intimate fellowship with him, so that his children would be as "holy" as the Lord himself. 

"Return to me and I will return to you." Again the [ultimate ending] point of returning is to attain to the holiness of God. Zechariah's conclusion is nothing new though, for in Exodus 19:5-6 the Lord God revealed this purpose of calling the slave nation Israel, saying, "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." 

The Lord's purpose in calling Israel as a "holy" nation goes to the original purpose for which God created man, because in Genesis 1 and 2 we see that God created man to be "like him" (Genesis 1:26-28). In leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses said to Pharaoh (who is symbolic of Satan), "There is no one like the Lord our God" (Exodus 8:10). In what respect then is God different from all others? It is only in one respect, that is, his holiness. (Isaiah 2:2) 

The amazing truth though is that God wants his children to be "like" him. Why should a [dusty] man be as holy as God is holy? The only reason given is "because God is holy” (Lev 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7,26; 1Pe 1:16).

Why then does he want his children to be holy "because God is holy"? Genesis 1:26-28 indicate that God's holiness serves a practical purpose, that is, to enable his children to become dominant rather than dominated by God's creation. In fact this dominance is the key attribute of God's holiness, for unlike all that have been created by God, God remains dominant. One of the meanings of dominance is independence in the sense of self-sufficiency. God alone is self-sufficient. He alone is not dependent on other sources than himself. The Bible explains this concept in different ways, such as: "His reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him" (Isaiah 62:11), and, "Behold! I am coming soon! My reward is with me" (Revelation 22:12). In short, God wants his children to be as holy as God is so that by becoming like God, his children would fulfill the purpose of God's creation, that is, to rule the universe and everything in it as seamlessly as God himself. 

"Return to me and I will return to you." The main duty the returnees (and certainly all who are created in God's image) should fulfill is to remember the purpose of God's calling. [Remember that in Hebrew “Zechariah” means “(the one whom the Lord) remembers.”] We can easily understand the importance of this requirement (the call to remember the purpose of calling) when we think about what we do in making a journey, because a man who does not know this purpose is like a man who wants to go somewhere, but does not know where he wants to go. How can one go anywhere when he does not know where he is going? A greater tragedy is that not knowing the real purpose of life (attainment of God's holiness) people keep going somewhere. Since they do not know where to go (or what to do with their lives), in an attempt to find the meaning and direction of life, they look around themselves and see how others are doing. Then, a majority of them go the way the world does. The Israelites made the same mistake. While they were in Egypt, they did not know God’s purpose for them. In his mercy the Lord gave them the real purpose of life. Then the Lord sent them into the Promised Land. But after entering the Promised Land they conveniently forgot God's purpose of calling. They looked around themselves and saw how the Canaanites were doing and they followed their evil ways and wicked practices. What then happened to them? The Lord kicked them out of the land. They went into exile in Babylon. How did they do in Babyon? Again most of them forgot God's purpose of calling. As they were coming back to the Promised Land they again forgot God's calling. The returnees were about to waste their lives all over again.  

What then did God do for them? He established a prophet named Zechariah whose name means "remember." Remember what? God sent him to help them "remember" the original purpose of calling, that is, to be a "holy" nation. And for this purpose the Lord invited them to return to him. 

II. I will return to you

Each time we hear the Lord's call to be holy, the charge is so overwhelming that we say, "We are born in sin. How can we be made as holy as God is?" 

Most likely the returnees must have felt the same way. Yet, God never compromises on the ideals to which he calls his children. Then what is the answer to the question we have? Again the second half of Zechariah 1:3 answers the question, "[Return to me] and I will return to you." The first half (return to me) is what we are called to do, whereas the second half promises what the Lord will do for us. Since God gave each person the decision to either return or not to return, it behooves us to choose to return. When we make a decision and indeed turn to the Lord, the Lord himself does the rest, that is, he meets us at a meeting point. There he takes our hands, and leads us to the place we are called to go. 

Indeed in the book of Zechariah we see the Lord coming up with all the provisions necessary to help his children fulfill the Lord's command. Our God is different from worldly dictators. Pharaoh in Egypt asked the Israelites to make bricks without providing them with materials. But God always is the God of grace. God never asks anyone to do anything without first providing that person with the means by which to do what is being asked. 

The same is true with the call to return to the Lord. Zechariah consists of 14 chapters which are loaded up with the provisions for his children. Chapters 1-6 record the visions the Prophet Zechariah saw one night. The vision of riders under myrtle trees shows God's intention to return to Jerusalem to make the city 'holy' again (1:7-17). The four horns and four craftsmen represent God's plan to set aside the enemy nations, so that the Israelites would come back to the holy land again (1:18-21). The man with a tape measure shows the Lord sending an angel and a heavenly "carpenter" (or "engineer" if you will) to the Jerusalem temple to get the temple rebuilt for God's holy name (2:1-13). Joshua receiving a new garment as a high priest points to the mediator by which sinful men can have their sins atoned for and thereby come to the fellowship with the Lord and so robbing Satan of any basis to accuse God's children of any defects (3:1-7). The vision of the Branch and the promise to remove the sin of the land in a single day looks forward to the day of the Savior to come as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (3:8-10). The lamp-stand and two olive trees speak of the way in which the Lord God administers his graceful work of salvation that is through the work of the Holy Spirit as administrated by the laity (Zerubbabel - governor) and clergyman (Joshua - the high priest) (4:1-14). The flying scroll refers to the message of judgment on all who reject God's truth (5:1-4). [The curse of the flying scroll is necessary because in order for the life of obedience to become blessed, the Lord must come up with the means to enforce that those who go against God's truth must suffer from the ill consequences, i.e., God's curse. After all who will keep the law when no one enforces it?] The movement of the basket (containing a woman) from the land of Israel to Babylon points to the Lord preparing the environment in which the holiness can be incorporated in the lives of true worshipers (5:5-11). And the vision of the four chariots, especially the spirit resting in the north, shows the Lord sending his Spirit to rest on the remnants who stay in the northern part of the land but are called to return to the Lord (6:1-15). 

In chapters 7 and 8 we find a question about fasting and the Lord's answer to the question. But the fasting is (or should be) for the Lord (so that people would learn of the Lord's holiness, so the Lord would be pleased with them) (cf. 7:4-5). 

Chapters 9-14 contain the visions (or oracles) on the Messianic ministries, both at the time of the Lord's first coming as well as the Lord’s second coming. In the book of Zechariah Jesus Christ is depicted in different names, symbols, and types. The “Branch” is one (3:8; 6:12), Joshua is another (3:8), and Zion’s king coming into the city of Zion riding on a donkey is still another (9:9). 

All the visions, the people’s question and the Lord’s answer to their question on fasting, the work the Messiah is to fulfill during his first and second coming, all lead to one point: the Lord’s provisions for the people returning to the Lord. And these provisions are custom-tailored to facilitate the call for all fallen men to overcome themselves and participate in God's holiness. 

The call to attain to God's holiness echoes through the Bible from generation to generation. From day one of Adam's fall, the Lord expressed his desire to redeem and restore people back to him. The same call was on the returnees of the day of the Prophet Zechariah. And the same call is on all who live in this post-modern era. This call is going to be on the generations to come as well 

In conclusion, through the Prophet Zechariah the Lord says to the returnees, "Return to me and I will return to you." The promise for the Lord's return is not empty; the Lord's promise to return culminated in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who offered himself on a tree as a ransom sacrifice. When Jesus comes again the Lord will bring to completion God’s vision to restore all the saints back to his holiness. When this vision becomes a reality there will be no longer a Canaanite in the house of the Lord. 

One word: Return to me and I will return to you


Class Exercise:

1,   Fill the blanks: Did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants, the prophets, __________ your _____________?

2. True or false. 

1) Angels can pray to the Lord, and the Lord responds. T(   ); F(    )

2) Each angel is mindful of his own business and does not concern himself with other angels' business. T (   ); F (   )

3. The Lord was "a little angry" with _________. But the Lord is now (as of the time when Zechariah saw the visions) "very angry" with the nations that feel secure. Why? 


4. If Joshua (a high priest) does the job right he will be given a _________ among the __________. 

5. Two _____ trees _____ golden oil into a ____ bowl through the two pipes to supply oil for the ____ lights on top of the gold lampstand.

6. The Lord's temple is to be built not by _______ or by ______ but by my _________. 

7. Jeremiah saw a king (of Jerusalem) coming to _______ riding on a ______, on a _____, the ______ of a donkey. 

8. Who took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter? __________

9. On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the _____ of the ________. Why on the "horses"? (cf. Isaiah 35:8; Eph 2:19-22)

The end.