Day 8

The Lord Restores His People

from the Zechariah and Malachi reading plan


Zechariah 10:1-12, Isaiah 14:1, John 6:22-35

BY Guest Writer

Reading well is all about understanding contexts. That’s what I tell my students. Otherwise, how are we to unpack images asking for spring rain, when we really think April showers have been a little too abundant this year? Why be concerned about not having a shepherd? You could just hire one from the local Christmas pageant. Even more puzzling: How do we muster up the imagination to envision a docile, aimless little flock of sheep turning into a mighty steed? And what about cornerstones and tent pegs? Needless to say, these aren’t typical, daily ponderings for most of us.

But before we get sidetracked by these images themselves, let’s remind ourselves of the main message behind them: No matter what, God’s people are to trust Him—specifically, to trust that He will bring us home. And that is what we’re longing for: home. We’re longing for stability—maybe that’s what the cornerstones and tent pegs are all about. We’re longing for families reconciled. (Did you notice the “houses” of Judah and Joseph coming together after long centuries of hostility?) We’re longing to be brought safely through troubled waters to arrive at home.

The first image drawn directly from Zechariah’s geographical context is embedded in numerous prophetic messages. In a part of the world where it generally rains only between October and March, those extra showers in April were (and are) a gift. In response to Israel’s obedience, God promised rain in its season, even mentioning the autumn and spring rains (Deuteronomy 11:13–15). Drought and famine, however, were always lurking around the seasonal corner if God’s people were disobedient (vv.16–17).

The invitation to ask God for the blessing of rain is followed by warnings against sliding into the deceitful orbit of household gods (teraphim) and diviners. We should not be tempted into thinking this warning was just for Israel—that is was their problem and not ours today. But not so fast. Sure, teraphim and diviners don’t show up much in our social media feeds these days, but the misplaced hope the people wholeheartedly placed in those practices is a little too familiar.

Divination had everything to do with determining if the gods were going to show favor to them. Magic meant manipulating those presumed deities to get them to be favorable, to meet the people’s desires. The household gods were part of this network, too. Zechariah called them out on their behavior, telling them their self-serving “trust” lay in the wrong places.

Then and now, it is God who gives blessing and assurance, with the ultimate purpose that we be a blessing to others. Diviners, whether ancient or modern-day, produce only emptiness and deceit. How about us? Where do we focus our attention as we seek a good and secure life? What are our cornerstones and tent pegs as we try to hold our fragile life structures together? Can we truly say that God indeed is our Cornerstone? That is essential to coming home and walking securely in the name of the Lord (Zechariah 10:12).

Elaine A. Phillips received a BA in social psychology from Cornell University, an MDiv from Biblical Theological Seminary, and an MA in Hebrew from the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, where she and her husband, Perry, studied and taught from 1976–79. She holds a PhD in rabbinic literature, and teaches Biblical Studies at Gordon College. She also serves as a historical geography field instructor for Jerusalem University College. She has published a commentary on Esther in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary; a devotional book, With God, Nothing Is Impossible; and, most recently, An Introduction to Reading Biblical Wisdom Texts.

Post Comments (22)

22 thoughts on "The Lord Restores His People"

  1. Karen says:

    Praying for you today Melissa, that God will cover you with a quiet peace and strength to care for your in-laws with compassion, gentleness, and understanding. What you have been entrusted with is a great task, but also a privilege, as God will draw you closer to Him through this experience.

  2. Angie says:

    Heavenly Father, Holy God, As Shawn Parks shared Lord, we come to you in hope, we live it out in each step of trust. Give Melissa and her husband refreshed hope and steps of trust. I ask you to pour your refreshing rain upon them – like a torrential downpour would be great God. Give her strength in your Name and power. May she and her husband march forward in this battle as your warriors, covered in your compassion, strengthened by your hand. Give them rest. May their hearts find joy and even laughter in this time of distress. Mark this time in their life with your wisdom and truth, your power and strength. Guide them as they serve these parents, for in reality, they serve You. Amen.

  3. SC says:

    It wa never I, but the Lord who had compassion on me to choose me “again”… and “again (times infinity)”
    My parents were immigrants, and we moved a lot for their work. Chasing these cornerstones (stability, security) were deeply (and obsessively) etched into making who I am today, evident in the relationships I sought in a man, friends, and longings for a match between a permanent vs mailing address. Makes me all the more appreciative of the hope in His eternal kingdom, for I know this life is fleeting and shall pass, but my true stability is grounded in my dear Lord Jesus. And how amazing is His grace, that I have access to draw near to Christ because he chooses me yet “again” when I didn’t.

  4. Kayla Kaldhusdal says:

    ❤️

  5. Trish GiggyConard says:

    Zechariah 10:6 God restores the people because of His compassion. The people did not do anything to deserve God’s strength or restoration. God chooses to give it because He wants to do so. He is not obligated.

    When we ask for God’s favor and blessing, we can only appeal to His compassion.

  6. Shawn Parks says:

    As an English teacher, I teach my 8th graders about the nuances of words. At first glance, “hope” and “trust “ seem to have the same meaning, but upon closer inspection their is a slight difference that has a profound impact on believers. Certainly our hope is in God and in th blood of Jesus Christ, but to trust in God is a deeper level of hoping. Simply put, trust is hope in action. If I have hope in God my spirit is optimistic about a positive outcome, but if I trust in God I will step out in faith knowing that God will keep His promises to me. My actions will be dictated by that trust. Hope is more about my mindset and trust requires that hope to do something, go somewhere—put my money where my mouth is so to speak. I can’t just hope the tent pegs and cornerstone will provide my security. When God provides them, I need to put them in place knowing that beneath God’s Grace, I am sheltered and safe. Acting based on the hope we find in Christ, that is trust. May I trust you, Lord, with my body, mind, and soul!

    1. Terry Anderson says:

      Your comment was helpful and encouraging to me!! Thank you for posting it.

      1. Rosemarie Clair says:

        So good! Thank you Shawn.

    2. Susan Merritt says:

      Thank you, I learned a lot from this comment. Great insights.

    3. Ashley P. says:

      Thank you for sharing this!

    4. Rosemarie Clair says:

      Sooo good. Thank you Shawn.

    5. Ama Awua- Kyerematen says:

      ❤️

    6. Natasha R says:

      Thanks Shawn!

    7. Brooke F says:

      Thanks for this!

  7. Churchmouse says:

    God’s chosen people were a hot mess. They had empty dreams, empty comfort. They were wandering like sheep. Their leaders were clueless. They suffered affliction. Despair reigned and hopelessness was at the door. And it was their own fault. They only had themselves to blame. Their miserable condition was the consequences of their blatant sin against the One True God. They had forgotten God but He had not forgotten them. They cried out in desperation. They asked and He answered. He reminded them that they were yet His people and He would always be their God. He would fight for them. He would strengthen them. He would restore them. He would gather them. He would redeem them. They would live and return to the land He had chosen for them. He would bring them back just as He had before. They cried out and their God answered!

    We who are His own are never too far gone. Our situation is never hopeless. We have the One True God Who loves us with an everlasting love. He longs to gather us under His protective wing. Cry out! Turn to Him and He will answer. He has compassion for His people. Let us fall to our knees in repentance. Let us cling to the only true necessity – the Bread of Life who is Jesus.

    1. Ashley P. says:

      ❤️

    2. Allison Thomas says:

      I always read and then go looking for your comments! Please never stop. Your comment today reminded me of one of my favorite songs “Reckless Love”. It seems so outlandish that he would leave the 99 to save little ole me and yet he chases me down every time I wander. He’s far more than I could ever need and better than I could begin to imagine. And yet I walk away time and time again because I give in to the pull and shine of this world. Until the world leaves me empty again. It’s a crazy cycle that he never quits engaging in, even when I can’t imagine relentlessly pursuing someone who constantly hurt me. He’s a good, good father. ❤️

    3. Melissa Graves says:

      My husband and I were empty nesters until 1 1/2 years ago when his demented parents moved in with us. At first, I saw clearly that this was a role that was given to us by God and I served with a joyful heart. But as the days and weeks have gone by, I have largely lost my joy in serving them, I’m ashamed to say. I look forward to any break I can get and long for the life we had before. This reading and devotion has helped to point me back to the only One who can really sustain and refresh me and to Whom I must fall on my face and repent. Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom. I covet any and all prayer!

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