Photo credit to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura
“‘Return to me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 1:3
It was the eighth month in the Jewish calendar. It was the second year of Darius’ reign. Zechariah was thinking. You speak to him. Your word came to him not only for his benefit but for the benefit of all those he spoke it to and for those who would come after and hear the word also. “The Lord was very angry with your fathers.” Maybe You told Zechariah, “I was very angry with your fathers.” Or maybe You told him, “Tell the people, ‘The Lord was very angry with your fathers.” I don’t know. I wasn’t the one that day that You spoke directly to. I’m getting to hear it indirectly but it’s from You just the same. There are things we do that make You angry. There are things we do that bring on consequences. There are things we do that shouldn’t be done. And we have to realize that. I have to realize that.
But the good news is that there is a remedy. You told Zechariah to say more to the people. You told him to say, “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.” There are two words that stand out to me here. Return is one of them, represented in the Hebrew word shub. The other is the repetition of the the title Lord of hosts.
If when Jesus repeats something twice, it’s important, maybe this three-time repetition in one verse is something to be payed attention to. What is a host, this Hebrew tsaba? Strong’s says it is a mass of persons or things, especially regularly organized for war, like an army. But it’s not just about a host or an army. It’s about the Lord of this army. The Hebrew word for Lord here is Jehovah. It’s about the Self Existent One, the Eternal One, who is LORD, who is Jehovah who IS. This is who is in control of an army and of every army. There are armies that stand against Him yet He still controls their destiny. But there is an army that fights for Him and their destiny is in Him. But the problem is that sometimes, His soldiers forget whose army they are in. Sometimes they forget where their destiny lies. Sometimes they forget the heart of their existence. Sometimes, Your host has to make up their mind to turn back to You in order to experience real life, real existence, real victory, real joy, because it only exists in You. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we turn to something less.
And that’s what had happened with Jerusalem. And that can easily happen to me. And when it does happen, we can get stuck there if we so choose. Or we can come out and come back home. It happens. We get lost or we lose ourselves on purpose and by our own choice. Sometimes others take us captive against our will and before we know it, we’re caught up in what we ought not be caught up in. We’ve forgotten. We’ve been influenced by another or by the war or whatever. But You are warning us. “Don’t be turned away from me by evil. If you’ve taken your eyes off of me, turn them back. Choose Me and stop choosing evil. Listen to Me and stop listening to evil.”
If You repeated that You are the Lord of hosts as an important reminder to us, then You want to emphasize even more so the importance of turning unto You, shub. You share this more than 1050 times in Scripture. Jerusalem couldn’t change her past. She had made a choice, many choices, and was reaping the consequences. But she could change her future. And so can I. Just like hers, my destiny can be in the Lord of hosts. I can change my destiny by surrendering it back into Your hands because You are the One who designed it. There’s only one way I can live out my true destiny. I must “turn away from evil and turn toward good.” And the truth of the matter is that only You are good.
So if shub is all about turning away from one thing and turning back to the Lord, and turning back to my Starting Point and that is what repentance is, I need to be ever mindful of this. To not turn also guarantees my future. On the one hand, I can have a future of fulfilling Your plans for me by living in Your authority under Your miraculous command. My future is assured and amazing and my path is guaranteed in You. But if I don’t turn, I just have my self and I don’t have the power to bring things to pass. No matter how much I might try to be god, I can’t succeed because I’m not and I never will be. So if I don’t turn, what do I have?
But as I think about it, this forgiveness that You offer, no matter how lost I’ve gotten, this turning away from whatever I’ve gotten caught up in and turning back to You, is probably not a one time deal. This is something I have to be careful of not letting happen again. Because I will always be confronted with things and ideas that are contrary to all that You are. I must continually choose to turn from evil and turn to You. Repentance isn’t a one time deal. Neither is forgiveness. Whenever I have turned away, You call me to turn back. You remind me that I am one of Your host, I belong to You, I am Yours and You are mine- You are my Lord, my authority, the One who leads and takes care of me and gives me authority under You. Because the truth of the matter is the same today as it was for those of Jerusalem in Zechariah’s day. “But 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.’” There is only one Lord of hosts and what You say, was, is, and will be. Your words and Your ways will either overtake us as we joyfully live them out, or we will be overtaken by them as You pronounce Your judgment upon us.
I am so grateful that You forgive. I am overwhelmed by Your long-suffering. Your patience and love has no compare. Time and time again You call us to Your hope and not despair. Though we were lost yet You give us the privilege of one day saying, “‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.” You are the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, and my Redeemer. You are the First and the Last, and beside You there is no god. You are God alone. There is no one like You. You have chosen us to be witnesses to You. Though our transgressions are like a thick cloud and our sins like a heavy mist, You wipe them out. I can live in that truth, that glorious truth. I can turn from the lies. I can violently turn and run with everything in my being to You instead because You alone have redeemed me. By Your stripes I am healed. By Your death I am cleansed. By Your life, my life is made new and eternal.
Zechariah was given a vision about four horns. Horns represent strength and power and dominion. We can surrender to wrong dominion, we can be taken over by power that isn’t meant to be, or we can turn to and run to the protection of the “horn of salvation,” Jesus. It’s interesting that the four horns, the ruling powers that would be part of Israel’s judgment, were overcome by craftsmen. Maybe some of these were military leaders also, like Cyrus who was instrumental in the rebuilding of the temple, or Alexander the Great who used debris of the old city to build a causeway, and maybe even Rome was a type of craftsman. But the Ultimate Craftsman has come, a Jewish carpenter named Jesus. This craftsman also called us to repentance, to turn to Him, for in Him is the Kingdom of God. We are called to be a part of this kingdom that will never be destroyed and never left to another people. We are called to be the host of a kingdom that shall stand forever in You. What will I do about that? Where will I turn? Lord, I want to turn to You and remain in You. I want to be among Your host all the days of my life. I want to live out Your vision for me.