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After generations of ups and downs, the remnants of Israel were beginning to come home. The People of God were returning to the Promised Land.
Zechariah’s vision conveyed many things. First, of course, was that the people were returning to Jerusalem; the spiritual home of Israel.
The angel declared that Jerusalem would have no walls. It wouldn’t need them. Understanding that the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down to make it defenseless, and that it was only through courage that those walls were rebuilt, a city without walls would seem to be yet another slap in the face.
The angel’s point was that God would be the wall; God would be the ultimate defense. This harkens back to the times when God “placed a hedge” around Israel to protect them. However, a hedge can be easily destroyed and burned. Instead, God would be a wall of fire around them.
What is also interesting is that God stated that God would be the glory within Jerusalem. This implies being bodily present in Jerusalem. Surely, for the Jews, it was only figurative.
The returnees would say to themselves that God is the heart of Jerusalem, for God is who brought them back. Due to their return, God must be the center of their lives and worship if only to return some of the affection shown to them.
Returning to Jerusalem, the City of God, is a powerful image: the return of the exiles in the Old Testament; the journey of Christian to the Celestial City (The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan); the establishment of the modern nation of Israel (1945); the political imagery of the “City on the Hill” used by US politicians.
It is an image of hope, a deep-seated hope in all of us. This hope is a place that we can call home from the very depths of our beings. It is also the place that we can belong without fear or comparison. A place like this is, ultimately, the desire of each of us.
In his epistle to the churches, John writes about this hope. This city where the children of God need never be concerned about being separated from God. This city would be, for all intents, the center of life. At the center of the city was God.
John’s hope continues in a strange and encouraging way. There would be no threats in the City of God. That nothing “unclean” or people who were “false” would be in the city was another thread of hope to people who were living in fear.
The underlying truth is that this city was the home of those written in the Book of Life.
What makes someplace home for you? What would make Heaven home for you? How can you bring something of your Heavenly home into your earthly one?
Lord of Hope, guide us into hope that is deeper than our fears. Amen.