“The Lord was very angry with your fathers. 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. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? 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.’” Zechariah 1:2-6
The beginning of Zechariah is a call to repentance, and rightly so. But even using the word, “call” really is not enough. It is more of a command! Notice the strength of verse 3. The words, declares/says the Lord of hosts is mentioned three times in one sentence. “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.” This repeated emphasis signifies the importance and strength of what God is saying through the prophet. Kenneth Barker says this repeated emphasis is the “authoritative declaration of the Lord Almighty”.
You notice that the declaration is very personal. God does not say return to doing good, or return to the law. He is very clear and personal, return to ME! Zechariah was prophesying after the exile when the people were rebuilding the temple. So, the Israelites had seen how God had removed them from their homeland and chastised them for their rebellion. They painfully understood the prophet’s words about their fathers.
The next importance feature of this call to repentance is how God personifies his word. “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?” The word and decrees of the Lord Almighty came alive and “overtook” their fathers. If there was ever a question about God’s word coming true, the exile certainly assured Israel how serious the commands of a holy God were. And as for us, to demonstrate how true God is and supreme his words, let’s reflect on Deuteronomy 28.
“All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. Deuteronomy 28:45-48
I think the best part of the first few verses of Zechariah is where the people realize their gross error and repent. “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.’” The realization that God means what he says and will deal with you in a very direct and personal way is both frightening and comforting. It does not take much spiritual sensitivity to realize God is calling on us today. He is again saying, “Return to ME!” God’s word and decrees will overtake us and destroy everything we value. Not because God wants to hurt us, but because he is true to his character and his word. His name will be honored, either by our choice or by a frightening warlike command. Almighty God has purposed to deal with us for our ways. And there is only one response to a sovereign and holy God.