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.
A cycle of exile and restoration
Rebuild the temple! Purify worship! The remnant of God's people gather in Jerusalem. By the
grace and faithfulness of God they stand on the threshold of an age that promises everlasting
fruitfulness and prosperity.
But read on. It turns again, the cycle of failure and exile, refinement and restoration. Zechariah's
words (chapter 7:8-14) are echoed by his disciples (chapters 9 to 14). The Lord's people had not
listened, so the Lord had ceased to listen to them and scattered them among the nations. Sadly,
the cycle will be repeated.
They may build the temple, but for how long will Jerusalem remain a place of rejoicing? For how
long can divine jealousy stand in the face of disobedience? Yet the promise holds: return to the
Lord, and the Lord will return to you.
The cycle of exile and restoration is a cycle of hope and shattered dreams. It doesn't end with
Zechariah. Nor does it end with us. The question echoes through the ages: how can a jealous
God keep faith with people who worship idols? We reap worldly blessings from an egoism that
neglects justice, mercy and compassion. Jealousy pulls God one way. Constancy brings him
back. Something has to give.
Our world advances in great steps. It reaches for moral greatness. It strains to pluck the fruit of
goodness: prioritising the needs of others and of a healthy planet. We know what is possible and
what a jealous God demands, but we shut our ears and turn our backs. The human spirit is
caught still in a cycle of exile and restoration, of hope and shattered dreams.
Lord, we echo the words of the prophet: pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that,
when we look on the one whom we have pierced, we shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an
only child... on that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of
Jerusalem, to cleanse us from sin and impurity... (Zechariah 12:10 & 13:1). May we grasp the hope
of Advent: the one who is pierced is coming, he who has broken the cycle of exile and restoration.