Ever read through the Old Testament books, specifically the Minor and Major Prophets, and just marvel at God’s deep and immense love for his people? Until recently, I hadn’t.
Often when we read through the Minor and Major Prophets in the Old Testament, what jumps out at us is the anger and wrath and discipline of God. And with good reason. God used the prophets to continually warn his people of their sin, telling them if they didn’t repent and return to living for him that he would eventually discipline them. And when that discipline eventually came upon them because of their unwillingness to repent, it was always pretty devastating. So yea, it’s very easy to focus on that aspect of the message of God through the prophets when we read through those books and messages.
But, if that’s all we focus on and take away from those books and messages, we miss a lot. In fact, after doing my own personal study through the Minor Prophets over the past several months, I’d argue that we miss the complete message of God if that is what we take away. At best, when we focus on the fact that if we as his followers continue to live in unrepentant sin then God will discipline us, we only see half of what God is saying…and not even the better half either.
Yes, the messages continually include God calling his people out on their sin, calling them to return to him and live for him rather than living in unrepentant sin. But just as often as we see that, we see God talking about the idea of restoring his people as well. Restoring them back to a right relationship with him, restoring them back to being free from captivity and living in freedom, restoring them to what it was like before they walked away from him and he had to discipline them.
Restoration is God’s desire. He desires that we have a solid relationship with him that we choose to have on our own, and when we’ve made poor choices he desires us to return to that solid relationship with him again. That’s why we see him continually calling upon his people to stop sinning and return to him before he has to discipline them, and that’s why we see him continually talking about restoration after he has disciplined them.
An example of this is found in chapter 7 and 8 of Zechariah (it is found in many of the prophets, but Zechariah is where I’m currently reading in my study, so it’s the most recent example I’ve seen)…
Zechariah 7:8-14 says: And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”
In chapter 7 we see that God called his people to do what was right and turn away from sin, but they refused. So he disciplined them because of their sin and their unwillingness to repent of that sin. He called them to repent of their sin before he disciplined them, because he desired that they would have a solid relationship with him and live for him. But when they refused, his discipline followed.
Zechariah 8:1-8 says: And the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the Lord of hosts? Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”
and Zechariah 8:14-17 says: For thus says the Lord of hosts: “As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts, so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not. These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”
In chapter 8 we see God talking about restoring his people. He disciplined them in chapter 7 because of their sin and unrepentance, but in chapter 8 we see that he desires to restore his people. In fact that is why he disciplines them, so that ultimately they might learn what they did wrong and be broken over their sin, in order that their hearts would soften and they’d repent and return to him. God desires restoration for his people. And while his discipline is necessary at times, he still desires restoration more.
God is a God of restoration. No matter how much he has to discipline us, his desire for us in that discipline is for us to turn from our sin and back to him, have a solid relationship with him, and be restored to living for him as he purposed and intended us to live. He desires restoration.
No matter where our life’s journey leads us, no matter where God allows our life’s journey to take us, God’s desire in our journey is always restoration.
After reading chapters 7 and 8 of Zechariah, I wrote the following in my journal:
God’s desire in our journey is always restoration. May we never forget that. May we embraced it, both in remembering that God desires restoration for our future if we are currently going through some discipline or difficulties in life, as well as in how we view and treat others who might be going through discipline or difficulties in their life.
May we never…NEVER…limit God’s restorative power in our own lives or in the lives of others by thinking or deciding there are certain circumstances that cannot be restored. Sure, restoration doesn’t always happen or look like we think it will, and we must remember God will allow certain things to come to an end even if it’s painful and we don’t understand it. But if we remember to seek him, return to him, and desire to live for him, then we can be assured that those things he has purposed for our life will be restored as he desires. Because God’s desire in our journey is always restoration.