The previous chapters to Zechariah 8 describe a terrible situation, using language like 'a desolate land'. The people are scattered, the city left behind is like waste. It doesn't have its normal activity and on the whole the situation is pretty miserable.
We get the same upsetting sense when we walk through our city centre right now. The quietness is nice, but seeing shops and businesses closed, the lack of activity, no hustle and bustle, no market, is understandable during this coronavirus outbreak but nonetheless quite sad.
Yet in chapter 8 God promises to restore. God talks about bringing His people back. He uses the images of a mountain and a city: a mountain stands prominent, and can be seen for miles around. The city is the centre of activity and of commerce, enabling the wider society to function. In both of these God talks of being there, establishing both the mountain and the city as a place where God resides.
I love verses 4 and 5. They start with the description of men and women of ripe old age sitting in the streets. In other words at the tables outside Costa, or around the Silver Oak coffee wagon, our outside the Lemon Tree Deli, sipping coffee and enjoying life. It continues with the streets being filled with boys and girls playing there. In other words it will be completely safe to come out. People can move freely, without fear. Young ones can play, older ones can sit and enjoy.
This is a picture of community, a safe and thriving place for all ages.
The next verse says 'It may seem marvellous to you people at the time, but will it seem marvellous to me?'. In other words God is saying 'I can easily do this'. It seems incredible to us as people, but God can easily achieve this!
Verses 7 - 8 talks about God saving and restoring, with people returning to live again. The key point though is the spiritual returning. It is not just life back to normal, but something is spiritually changed. That is why I encourage us to keep praying for spiritual awakening, in other words for people to wake up spiritually, to become alert to God, to let God do his marvellous thing in their lives. Let us remember that we are church in mission across the city - we want to join in God bringing about this 'return'.
Does it sound too hard? Or even impossible?
Remember that the followers of Jesus once effectively asked Jesus the same question, in asking 'Who can be saved?'. Jesus replied: 'If it is just up to people, then you are right - it is really hard ... but with God all things are possible!'.