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"Return to Me": The Necessity of Repentance

August 2, 2015 Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: Zechariah: Return & Restoration

Passage: Zechariah 1:1–1:6

Sermon from Zechariah 1:1-6 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Series: Zechariah: Return & Restoration, Part 1
Delivered on August 2, 2015

Introduction to the Series

One of the reasons I chose to walk through Zechariah is that I wanted to preach through an Old Testament book, and show you that the Old Testament is just as much the abiding word of God as the New Testament is. Sometimes, if pastors aren’t careful, their patterns and rhythms can leave the church with the impression—maybe unintended—that it’s only that last third of the Bible that really matters.

But we would do well to remember that the Old Testament is also our Christian Scripture. Jesus and the apostles hardly ever say very much before making connections to the Old Testament. God revealed himself in those words before he revealed himself in the incarnate Word. And the Old Testament makes sense of the person and work of Jesus, the nature of his kingdom, and what kind of people we ought to be in light of God’s faithfulness to judge and to save.

We might also add that the Old Testament helps us understand our identity; it shapes our self-understanding. The Old Testament provides the backdrop that makes sense of where we came from, who we are, why things are the way they are, and where we’re going. This is true for everybody born in Adam, but it’s especially true for those of us who are in Christ. If you follow Jesus as Lord, you are a true child of Abraham, and that means you have a long history that shapes who you are. Your history doesn’t begin with Matthew; it begins with Genesis, runs through God’s dealings with Israel, and then climaxes in the true seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.

To be united to Jesus is to be united to the history of God’s people, and why Paul can also say that “these things were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11). Or his words in 2 Timothy 3:15-16 echo the same point about the Old Testament: “[Timothy] from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Introduction to Zechariah’s Prophecy

So, here we are in the Old Testament book of Zechariah, asking for God to give us eyes to behold wonderful things in his word. Now, before I read today’s passage, perhaps it would also be good to give Zechariah’s prophecy a bit of context. Zechariah is God’s abiding revelation to us. But God revealed these things through human figures at particular times in history. We must understand God’s message to the community of faith then, in order to understand God’s message to the community of faith now.

So back up with me to the year 520 BC, when Zechariah makes his first proclamation. We’re now in the second year of King Darius, which means the seventy years of exile had passed for Israel (Ezra 5:1; 6:14; Zech 1:1). Israel, at one point, had entered the Promised Land, but didn’t follow the Lord’s instructions. Instead Israel at large gave in to the nations’ idols and immorality (Isa 1; Ezek 16). They broke covenant with the Lord, they refused to repent from their sins, and things got so bad that God sent them into seventy years of exile in Babylon (2 Chron 36:15-16). Now the exile was over, and God was bringing a new—and much smaller and chastened—generation of Israelites home (Ezra 1-2).

But home looked pretty dismal. Jerusalem was still in ruins and foreign enemies were still threatening them. So, as you can imagine, the people’s zeal to reengage in God’s purposes grew dull pretty quickly. The temple was yet rebuilt. And even though they had started, now they had to stop because of these disapproving warlords (Ezra 4). And so the people grow apathetic: “Why bother doing the Lord’s work if this is all we get?” So God sends in two prophets…

That may be a side-note for our own apathy—the answer is God’s word. God’s answer to apathy is his prophetic word that reveals himself and his promises and his purposes. If there’s one thing the devil doesn’t want apathetic Christians to do, it’s reading God’s word. It’s hearing God’s message. Why? Because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. God’s answer to apathy is his word. So Haggai comes in and he preaches God’s word. He renews the people’s zeal some and then Zechariah follows Haggai a couple months later, doing the same thing.

Zechariah’s message in particular works out like this. He prophesies—verses 4-5 will tell us—after the former prophets had preached and then died. Think especially of guys like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These former prophets promised judgment for the people through exile: Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed, the Davidic king would be removed, and the people would be alienated from God, scattered all over the place. This was part of their message. But these former prophets also promised the dawning of a new era following the judgment in exile: a day of repentance and restoration and rebuilding and cleansing and fellowship with God would come.

So then Zechariah comes in and does this. He comes to these apathetic Israelites, and he confirms the fulfillment of the former prophets’ words—that is, the judgment in exile happened just like God said it would. He points them back to God’s judgments in history and says, “Learn something from the exile: God was faithful to judge you.” But that’s not all he does. He then extends the hope of a future salvation now dawning in the anticipation of God’s new day for Israel and all the nations, where God would come and dwell in their midst in a new and greater Jerusalem. If God was faithful to judge you, he’ll be faithful to save you. And Ezra 6:14 says that the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah. God’s word moves God’s people from apathy to action.

Beginning with Repentance

Now, in the weeks ahead we’ll get to savor many of these remarkable future promises, but today we begin with a focus on repentance. Without repentance we will not inherit the promises of God. So this is where Zechariah himself begins, repentance.

That’s not exactly how we normally think of encouraging one another, is it?—“God is angry with our sin; so repent and he will return to you.” Repentance is a hard message. But we ought not to suppose that we know better than God. He knows what is best for us. He sees the drudgery of our sin for what it is. He knows that its outcome is death. He sees it sucking the life out of us and wreaking havoc in our relationships. And he’s angry about it. His holiness and his love require him to be angry about sin. For God to love you is for God to hate everything that will harm you. So the best thing for his people—those he loves as beloved children—is to sever their ties with sin to gain the Lord of hosts in all his glory and grace.

So Zechariah begins with the necessity of repentance. A new generation in Israel has come. The exile is over. God is ready to do a new work in the unfolding of his kingdom. And so repentance couldn’t be more urgent. Let’s read it together…

1In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 2“The LORD was very angry with your fathers. 3Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. 4Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. 5Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?” So they repented and said, “As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.”

What I’d like to do is walk through these verses, so that we get a feel for what’s going on. We’ll do this in three steps: the command, the incentive, and the response. Then I’d like to close with a few things we learn about repentance from this passage in particular, and that will be more of the practical outworking of this message of repentance for us from day to day.

1. The Command: “Return to me…”

So to begin, let’s take our first step and look at the Lord’s command. This will be quite obvious to you from verse 3. Very simple, “‘Return to me,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Returning to the Lord is the most common way to talk about repentance in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa 6:10; Hos 3:5; Ps 78:34; Lam 5:21). It describes a turning to God and a turning away from all that God hates. In some places it refers to turning away from certain behaviors that are evil. But at the core is the idea of an internal “180” toward God and away from those things causing estrangement from God.[1. For a most helpful study on repentance in Scripture, see Mark J. Boda, 'Return to Me' A Biblical Theology of Repentance, NSBT 35 (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2015). Boda summarizes repentance like so: "Repentance in the Old Testament is thus multidimensional. Foundational is a shift in relational affiliation to God, but this shift is reflected in an external change in behavior and an internal change in affection. The shift is often accompanied by verbal expression through prayer that involves confessing sin, seeking mercy and at times pledging fidelity" (Ibid., 149).]

Now, it’s also significant to note that this command comes to a people who had just “returned” from exile (Ezra 2:1; Neh 7:6). They already “returned” from that land of Babylon. They already “returned” to their homeland. They already “returned” to rebuild the temple. And now they’re still hearing God say, “Return to me…Return to me.” What’s the point? The point is that it highlights the real problem behind the exile. The real problem behind the exile is not geography. It’s not architecture. It’s sin that brings God’s judgment. In other words, Zechariah is speaking to folks who are already returned, and he’s still saying, “Return!”—meaning, the real exile has to do with the people’s estrangement from God because of their sin.

Who cares if you have the gift of land but no fellowship with God? Who cares if you’re enemies are now hundreds of miles away but you still stand as an enemy of God? What use is a temple building if your sin still separates you from the glory of God? This command to return is a command to relationship. It’s a command away from sin to have relationship with God, to enjoy God.

2. The Incentive

And that leads me to our second step—let’s look now at the incentives to repent. The chief incentive follows in the latter half of verse 3: “‘Return to me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and [as a result] I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

Repent to gain a relationship with the Lord of hosts

So the chief incentive to repent is a relationship with the Lord of hosts; and more accurately—if you look at this return-of-Yahweh language, especially in Isaiah and Zechariah—it has to do with the Lord returning to dwell in the midst of his people on Zion (Isa 52:8; 59:20; Zech 1:16; 8:3). It’s a picture of God’s kingdom: God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule, as Graeme Goldsworthy would put it.

And this is rather remarkable when you consider who’s doing the talking, here. He goes by the name, “the Lord of hosts,” twice in verse 3 and in verse 2 said, “he was very angry with their fathers.” It’s never a good thing in Scripture when the Lord of hosts is angry with you. Actually, it’s a rather haunting thing.

“The Lord of hosts” is the title God uses to describe himself as a mighty warrior and the Commander in chief over all armies (Ps 24:8-10; Isa 9:7). He’s the Commander in chief over angelic armies that do his bidding (Isa 6:3; cf. Josh 5:14; 1 Sam 4:4). He’s the Commander in chief over Israel’s armies (1 Sam 17:45; Ps 24:8-10). But he’s also the Commander in chief over the armies he sends against Israel to discipline them, such as what just happened with the exile (Isa 1:9; 3:1-8; 5:24; 9:11-14).

And in every case that God reveals himself as the Lord of hosts—whether in judgment or salvation—he is always righteous and he never loses. I mean, the weight of his power just goes right through you when you read of it in Scripture: “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; [the LORD of hosts] utters his voice, the earth melts” (Ps 46:6-7)—this kind of language (cf. Ps 48:4-8). When the Lord of hosts is for you, that’s an awesome thing. When he’s against you, it’s an awful thing.

So what you get in the former prophets are these terrible promises where the Lord of hosts is gathering armies against Israel to punish them for their wickedness. He’s angry with them, as verse 2 says. And sure enough, those promises of judgment come to pass—Jerusalem gets taken and the Lord banishes his people to exile for seventy years. So, when they hear Zechariah say, “Lord of hosts,” it strikes fear to the core of their being. He gathered the armies against their fathers and brought them to ruin.

But in addition to this fear, what do you think it means to this new generation for this same Lord of hosts to be offering them the hope of a relationship with himself. It’s remarkable mercy, here. This same Lord of hosts, who shakes the cosmos with his anger (Isa 13:10), comes to a new generation and says, “Return to me and I will return to you.” It’s like getting cornered by a lion who can devour you in seconds, and the lion says instead, “Get on my back and ride; all my strength will work for you and not against you, if you turn to me.”

The Lord’s wrath was spent on their fathers, but now in mercy he offers this generation the grace of a new beginning with him on their side. All the might that he has as the Lord of hosts, all the jealousy that he has for his own people, all the salvation he could offer them, all the deliverance from their enemies they could want, even the very presence of his glory would be theirs if they simply return to him. And he will be the same for you, if you turn to him.

He doesn’t ask them to return, because of anything they’ve done. He doesn’t offer them himself based on any merit of their own. His command for them to return and his promise to return to them is all grace. In fact, there are several places in Isaiah and some more coming up in Zechariah where the Lord promises to fight for those who repent and to bring them into his presence (e.g., Isa 10:20-27; 47:1-4; Zech 1-2; 9). Return to the Lord and you get the Lord of hosts.

Repent to escape the Lord’s covenant curse

So the chief incentive to repent is gaining a relationship with the Lord of hosts. But there’s another incentive in our text to repent, too—namely, repent to escape the Lord’s covenant curse. Read with me in verse 4: “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?”

This is covenant language. We should remember that God made a covenant with Israel on Mount Sinai. Sometimes we refer to this as the Mosaic covenant. And he warned them in that covenant of what would happen if they ignored his commands and didn’t treat God as holy among the nations.

In fact, two places in the Law seem to expect that this is exactly what would happen to Israel at some point in their future, and makes provisions for it in terms of the covenant blessings and curses. You can find this in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. If Israel obeyed the covenant once they entered the land, then all kinds of blessings would “overtake” them. But if they refused to obey, then all kinds of curses would “overtake” them instead. It’s the same word that’s used here in verse 6—“overtake” in the ESV. The only place I could find where God’s words and statutes “overtake” somebody is in Deuteronomy 28. So we know Zechariah is building his message on Moses’ message.

This word, “overtake.” It’s a hunting term. The idea is that God’s covenant word would track you down and destroy you, if you disobeyed. Your sins leave a trail behind you, and the Lord’s word will not fail to sniff you out and bring you down for the kill. This is what happened to their fathers. God’s covenant word overtook them, just like he promised it would in Deuteronomy 28:15, 45: “If you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.”

And the list of curses is horrific. You don’t want the curses of Deuteronomy 28 to fall on you. The worst of them is perishing, being cut off from God’s presence, and having God delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you (Deut 28:20, 47, 63). It’s terrifying. It foreshadows what the Lake of Fire is about. And yet everybody who breaks God’s law deserves the covenant curse.

The curse of exile ended their fathers. So the Lord tells this new generation, “Don’t think that just because your fathers are dead and the prophets are dead that my covenant word doesn’t abide.” That’s what he’s doing between verses 5 and 6. He’s making a comparison between the brevity of human life—the fathers and prophets died off—and the ongoing nature of his word—“but my word and my statutes, did they not overtake your fathers?” The point is that God’s covenant word still remains for this new generation. And if they live just like their fathers, then God’s covenant word would sniff them out and destroy them too. The message is urgent: “You don’t live forever; my word does live forever; so don’t wait to repent.”

3. The Response: Repentance

And that brings us, thirdly, to the response at the end of verse 6: “So they repented and said, ‘As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’”

Some translations take this to mean that the fathers mentioned back in verse 4 are the ones repenting here in response to the Lord’s word. But I’m more inclined to take this repentance as belonging to the remnant within the new generation that Zechariah is preaching to (cf. 1:12; 7:5-14; 8:11-13; Hag 1:12-15). It’s the people he told in verse 3 to return that are now—in response to God’s word—returning/repenting to God.

Their confession of how the Lord dealt with “us” for our ways and deeds is a corporate confession of their intergenerational sin. As is the case with much confession of sin in the Old Testament, there’s solidarity between the present community and previous generations (Isa 6:5; Dan 9:1-19; Neh 9:1-38; Ezek 18). And this goes hand in hand with how God revealed himself to Israel in Exodus 34:6-7: He is

a merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.

Within the covenant people, each generation has the opportunity to sever ties with long-standing patterns of sin. In this case, the remnant acknowledges their guilt and then races into the arms of a God who is merciful and passionate to restore them to himself. And in many ways, this paves the way for the kinds of promises the Lord makes to the remnant in the following night visions, which we’ll start next week.

The Necessity & Blessing of Repentance

So that’s an overview of how this passage fits together. But as I mentioned before, there’s much we can learn about repentance from this passage. Because let’s face it, repentance is not something that went out with the old covenant. Repentance is very much part of God’s new covenant message as well. Repentance is part and parcel to sound gospel preaching. In fact, the message of repentance becomes all the more urgent with the coming of Jesus Christ, because it means that God’s final kingdom is even closer than it was in Zechariah’s day.

And so you have this super obvious connection with the ministry of John the Baptist in the Gospels. John comes preaching in the same vein as Zechariah, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). John links the message of the Old Testament prophets with the gospel message of the New Testament apostles.

Jesus then follows John the Baptist, preaching the same message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). And in both cases it’s clear what they mean. It’s all the more urgent that people turn from their sins to God, because the kingdom is present in the King himself, Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of hosts, who took on flesh to bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

The only difference is that it becomes more clear that instead of the Lord of hosts coming to earth just once in final judgment, Jesus was coming to earth twice—first in humility and later in great wrath against his enemies. Why did he come twice instead of just once? He came the first time to deal with our sins, and in particular to remove the covenant curse that tracked all of us down and hung us over the pit of hell.

Jesus Christ came the first time as the true Israelite, who obeyed God in every point of the law. He was tempted in every way, just as we are, but he had no sin. That means two things. He and he alone deserves all of God’s covenant blessings. He deserves them all for his perfect life. It also means that he and he alone is qualified to be our perfect human substitute. So what does he do? He races to the cross, where God dumped all the covenant curses on Jesus in our place—including his eternal wrath—and Jesus was exiled and banished from God’s presence so that we wouldn’t have to be despite our sin. And then God raised him from the dead to prove his sacrifice was sufficient to deliver us from God’s curse and reconcile us to God. And because of what he did for us, we get all the covenant blessings by faith. If you’re on his team, curses won’t track you down, all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places will track you down and overtake you (cf. Eph 1:3).

And now Jesus sits enthroned in heaven, waiting for the day of his great wrath and judgment. But until that day comes, guess what message he said would be proclaimed? Luke 24:46-47, “It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” And that’s exactly what the apostles did, the Apostle Paul himself saying in Acts 26, “that he was appointed a witness…to open people’s eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.”

In the same way the Lord pointed Israel back to his wrath on the fathers, and said, “Return to me,” so the Lord is pointing us back to the wrath he poured out on Jesus in our place, and saying, “Return to me.” The major difference is that seventy years in exile didn’t even come close to what the people truly deserved for their sins. They deserved an eternity of wrath—and we deserve the same—and all of it was absorbed by Jesus for those who respond to God’s message of repentance. Without repentance we will not inherit the promises of God; we will not enter the kingdom; we will only experience his wrath outside the city. And I don’t know how many days you have left, but the message is, “Don’t wait to return to God! Return while God still gives you breath!”

So this message of repentance is just as crucial for us to hear. And so I want to point out very briefly what we learn about repentance from this passage.

Repentance is centered on a relationship with the Lord

First observation is this: repentance is centered on a relationship with the Lord. We need help here. Repentance is not merely feeling guilty about your sin. Repentance is not merely saying you’re sorry for what you did. Repentance is not even merely saying No to evil desires and deeds. Repentance is not just getting rid of the sins that bug and frustrate you the most. Most important to repentance is that there is a return to relationship with the Lord. God says, “Return to me.”

Is holy behavior part of walking out repentance? Absolutely, the text is clear that repentance involves turning away from evil deeds. And later Zechariah will tell them to judge rightly, and to show kindness and mercy, and not to oppress the widow or the fatherless or the poor (Zech 7:9-10). So a change in behavior is part of repentance. Repentance will even lead to verbal confessions of sorts, such as we see in verse 6.

But underneath that confession and that behavior must be a person. God doesn’t just call us to a way of life, but to a person to love, the Lord of hosts, Jesus Christ. Repentance is incomplete if there’s no turning to the Lord. Any kind of behavioral change that’s divorced from a relationship with Christ is mere moralism and is just as damning. A mere turning away from sin and evil without turning to the Lord can be just as idolatrous since something else remains the object of our affection instead of the Lord. Repentance is relational. It’s internal affection for the one calling you home.

So let that shape how you think of repentance every day. When you think of your fight against sin, think of it in terms of relationship. And see that turning from sin is not just an end in itself; it’s about gaining God as your treasure. You are forsaking all affections and actions that threaten your relationship with God. You are turning away from idols to have more of his glory. You are severing your ties with immorality to experience true intimacy with Christ. You are hating greed to gain the riches of Christ’s kingdom. Having Christ is the goal.

Repentance is motivated by God’s word

Another thing we learn about repentance: repentance is motivated by God’s word. It’s the Spirit’s words through the prophet Zechariah that brings the people to repentance. And the same is true today, God brings repentance through his word. The word exposes our sin. The word convicts us when we’re in error. The word humbles us before the Lord of hosts in all his glory. The word warns us of the coming judgment. The word heralds the love of God in Christ. The word births new faith in the apathetic soul. And so we must give attention to it ourselves and then preach it to others. We cannot look at people trapped in sin and not speak the very words that generate repentance.

If all we’re listening to is our own words, or the culture’s words, then we will not be stirred to return to the Lord. And that’s a dangerous place to be. The Lord’s word comes with fresh grace to each of you this morning. If you haven’t been in the word lately, see that this God comes to you with gracious arms wide open, promising, “Return to me and I will return to you.” Listen to his words, and he will bring refreshment to your soul.

Repentance is necessary to experience God’s favor and presence

A third thing we learn about repentance: repentance is necessary to experience God’s favor and presence. God’s promise to return to his people has a condition: the people must repent. And the same is true in the message of the New Testament gospel. Jesus told the people, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”—and he means perish away from the favorable presence of God (Luke 13:3, 5; cf. 2 Thess 1:9).

Now, it’s also true elsewhere in the New Testament that God is the one who grants repentance (e.g., Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25). He sets the conditions and then ensures that his elect meet the conditions (cf. John 6:38-39; Eph 1:3-5). Repentance is an act of grace (2 Cor 3:16). But that doesn’t negate the responsibility we still have to repent. If we have trusted in Christ, we are now reconciled to God, we have peace with God, we stand righteous before God. But it’s equally true that our relationship with God will work itself out in turning away from the things God hates. That’s one of the reasons Christ died—to break sin’s hold on us, so we can turn from it and become obedient from the heart (Rom 6:17).

We cannot profess to be Christian, while refusing to practice repentance. We cannot say we are slaves of Jesus Christ, while remaining indifferent to our sinful addictions. We also cannot pretend that we need no repentance. It’s as Jesus told those who thought themselves to be righteous: “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Heaven doesn’t rejoice over people who think they’re okay; it rejoices over people who know they’re not okay. Repentance is necessary for all of us.

We cannot keep loving the things he hates. Some of us are going for long periods of time without any intimacy with God, while settling for the lesser pleasures of this world; and that is suicidal. Richard Philips puts it this way,

Your sin will not bring blessing but ruin, however sweet its deceptive song in your ears. If you persist in sin you will at the least bring upon yourself God’s chastisement, and at the worst you will prove that you have not really believed at all, ultimately to reap the destruction you are now sowing with the seeds of sin (Philips, Zechariah, 15).

Listen to the Lord’s plea this morning: “Return to me and I will return to you.” See that his arms are open wide to receive all who will turn. Put away your evil ways and your evil deeds and come to the Lord of hosts. He will not turn you away when you humble yourself before him. He will shine on you with his gracious favor and forgive your sins and restore your wayward soul.

Repentance comes with forgiveness & restoration because of Jesus’ death

And he can do that, because of the death of Jesus we talked about earlier—which is the final observation I want to leave you with: repentance comes with forgiveness and restoration because of Jesus’ death. As we work our way through Zechariah, we’ll see that these words of repentance come in relation God’s temple. God’s grace would move the people to rebuild the temple. Why? Because the temple was where the sacrifice for sins took place. Someone had to die in the place of another, for God to dwell so freely with his people.

John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus fulfills everything the temple and the sacrifices looked forward to (John 1:29; 2:20-22). He is the superior temple and he is the superior sacrifice. Because Jesus died in our place, God forgives our sins. When you come to God trusting in the blood of Jesus, he forgives your sins and cleanses you from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9 says. And because Jesus is risen as the new and better temple, God happily dwells with all who love him. Your relationship is restored with God when you trust in Jesus; and instead of waiting in dread for the Day of Judgment, you wait with eager expectation to see the Lord of hosts face-to-face and forever enjoy his favor and protection. God has exalted Jesus to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31). Because he is risen, you can come to God.

So let’s eat together on that note.

More in Zechariah: Return & Restoration

March 20, 2016

Holy to the Lord

March 13, 2016

The Return of the King

March 6, 2016

A New Covenant through a Struck Shepherd