Zechariah 1:3-4 – Therefore 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. 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.
Too often we neglect the reading of the prophets in God’s word because we feel the language is too dark, too frightening, and too depressing. But let us never miss the beauty and sweetness of the call of God on our lives. While it is true that he promises judgment and wrath for those who are not his and who rebel against him, he promises just as much life and goodness to those who turn to him, trust in him, and follow his word.
In this section at the beginning of Zechariah, we see the simple call from God, “Return to me, and I will return to you.” This is the beauty of grace. If you have been away from God for a time, you simply need to return to him to have him return to you. Christians believe in grace. Since we believe in grace, we reject outright the idea of penance, of paying your way back into God’s favor. IF you have walked on your own, living for yourself for a year, you do not have to do a year’s worth of good works before you can again experience the presence and favor of God in your life. While there may be things that you need to do to appropriately repent of sin (repay stolen money, confess wrong behavior, make restitution for damages done, apologize and seek another’s forgiveness), the moment that you return to God with a heart set on turning from sin and glorifying his name, God returns to you.
Of course, we must also make it clear here that there is only one way to return to God. God has made one and only one way that anyone may come to him. That way is Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Jesus tells us that no one can come to the Father except through him, and so when anyone who has lived in sin desires to return to God, he or she returns via the cross of Christ. That means that we always repent by looking to Jesus’ shed blood as the payment for our sin. We see our sin as something evil, wrong, and ugly. We reject it, no longer wanting it to be a part of our lives. We feel godly sorrow because we have sinned before such a loving and holy God. We turn away from that sin, taking whatever steps necessary to get out of the sin and not to repeat it in the future. But all of this is done in the shadow of the cross. All of it is possible because Jesus both paid the price for our sin and empowered his followers to turn away from sin toward righteousness.
Are you in sin today? Hear God’s call in the verses of Zechariah 1:3-4. He calls you to return to him, today. He promises to return to you. He warns you not to be like people of old who heard his call, but who refused to heed his call to their own destruction. Today, you have a chance. Today, you have God’s call to return to him. Do not let today end without heeding God’s call to return.
Dear Lord, I pray that all who read this will feel the working of your Holy Spirit. May all of us hear your voice in your word, and may we heed your call to return to you. I thank you, Lord, that you have provided the way for us to return to you. I thank you for the blood of Christ that covers my sin and empowers me to live rightly before you. I pray that you will draw me close to you, and that you will be near me. Help me to always turn away from sin and run to you for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.