Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people.
Zechariah 2:4b-5, 10-11 (ESV)
With words inspired by the Holy Spirit, the prophet Zechariah painted for us the future splendor of Jerusalem: multitudes of people from many nations joining together in the city of God while God Himself is a wall of fire around them and the glory among them. This prophecy points to a reversal of the judgement at Babel. Ever since God reached down and confused our language, walls of hostility have been strong between races. In the restored Jerusalem, these walls will finally be broken down.
When I first encountered this passage, the beauty of this scene overwhelmed me. In these words we hear assurance of a far brighter future than our current reality, we glimpse God’s heart, and we can make assumptions about the role God calls His people to fill.
Hope in the Current Reality
Our current reality is bleak. At the Turkish café where I work, my boss, a Muslim immigrant, is an incredibly warm and gentle person who handles stress better than I ever will. Last year, a Caucasian teenager attacked her. Screaming “white power,” he slammed her head onto a table and started to choke her. My boss’s nine-year-old daughter sat across the table watching helplessly until someone came to the rescue. This story makes my blood boil. Racial hatred makes no sense and makes me angry.
The bleaker reality is that many races are void of Christian presence. While ethnocentrism makes me fume, the unequal distribution of the Gospel makes me grieve. Current reality reminds us that some ethnic groups have essentially no Gospel witness. No matter how many explanations anthropologists offer, this fact burns.
Mercifully, God offers a hopeful glimpse of the future through the words of Zechariah. Someday, these wrongs will be righted. The divisions caused by our sin and pride will be destroyed, righteousness and humility taking their place. Better yet, the designation “people of God” will apply to those from many nations. (Other Scriptures show us that all nations will be represented in the people of God.1 We might refer to the “good old days,” but nothing in history can compare with the great day coming. Despair over our current events, and sorrows over lost yesterdays, shouldn’t overshadow our bright hope for tomorrow.
Deep in the Heart of God
Along with hope, this passage gives a peek into the heart of God. He purposes to bring people from all nations into His city. We realize that He didn’t create continents or confuse languages because He wanted to cast some people away from Him forever. God did not institute false religions; He didn’t scheme to have mankind implode and destroy himself. We do this on our own. God created us as one race, and Jesus prayed for a unity that would cross racial boundaries.2
We can easily become proud, thinking that our wealth, heritage, nationality, religion, or any other factor makes us better than others. This reminder from God’s Word checks our self-promotion. We are blessed, yes, but not superior. We have no special access to God that He wouldn’t gladly give to any other individual.
A Role in God’s Plan
In Genesis 7, God flooded the earth in a huge, cataclysmic event. In Joshua 6, God caused the thick, impenetrable wall of Jericho to fall to the earth. In Luke 2, God incarnate arrived on our planet. The biblical accounts are rich with stories of God’s dramatic power. Yet, we speak of Noah’s Ark, sing “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho,” and dress a little girl in blue and white to act out Mary in the Christmas pageant. In each instance, while God undoubtedly did the miraculous, He invited people into His story. As He acts in stunning ways, His people hammer together wood, march around stone walls, and fight morning sickness.
Although I don’t doubt that God will intervene in noticeable and dramatic ways to bring about the future prophesied by Zechariah, I suspect that He will act in character with this pattern. He will do the work, but He will invite His people to participate by doing normal, every-day things that through His purposes accomplish something remarkable.
We are not living in the restored Jerusalem, but that glorious day approaches. We are living in the days of hammering, marching, and expecting. Is it a coincidence that these are days when immigrants fill our towns? When we realize what God will bring to pass in the future, we can begin striving for His goals today. We can reach out in love to internationals among us. They are everywhere: running restaurants downtown, studying English at the library, and working in the poultry plant. They come as businessmen, tourists, students, and refugees. They come searching for a better life and for prosperity. Most are not coming seeking the LORD, but we can share Him anyway, showing His glory, and pointing to the cross. Some will begin to seek Him, and I want in on this foretaste of the New Jerusalem.
When we reach out to people from many nations with the love of Christ, we know that our efforts square with the purposes of God. We long for the future He’s promised, and we want to hasten that day’s arrival.
Let us be the first to realize the restored Jerusalem; let us be without walls except the wall of fire God places around us; let us be without any glory save the glory of Christ in us; let us bring along people of many nations; and let us seek the LORD.
|Heather Lehman maintains that one can love both the country and the city; she is living proof. She loves hiking in the mountains, exploring cities, browsing international grocery stores, tutoring immigrants in English, and tending plants. After growing up on a produce farm and spending a few years in New York City, she’s made her home with her groom who currently lives in a university town in Indiana. She feels strongly about welcoming immigrants, living responsibly, and communicating Christ.
1. Revelation 7:9
2. John 17:20-21