God chastens his own as a loving father punishes his children. He does it not to hurt us, but to help and heal us when we go astray. If we keep focused on the salvation that God has promised us, the eternal life that we have to look forward to in him, this will spur us to achieve great things as his Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit, as the grace of God and our thankfulness to him spur us to good works. The special promise remains with us, that God is our God, and we will be his people forever.
Zechariah 8:7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;
8 And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.
God has caused his people to be taken captive, the northern tribes by Assyria, and Judah by Babylon, and now Judah has been restored to the land. Now God gives a more general promise to save his people wherever they might be, from the east to the west, from anywhere on earth. At no time in the Bible’s history were the northern tribes of Israel restored to the land of Israel, or enabled to gather to Jerusalem for Passover and other feast days, but they were intermingled as an ethnic group with the Assyrians until they ceased to exist. This promise, then, concerns something greater. In the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is the Church, Israel restored at Pentecost (Acts 1:6-8), all of God’s chosen ones of every nation from everywhere under heaven, that is, spiritual Israel, will be saved from all their enemies that oppress them: especially, death, sin and the devil.
Jerusalem was the place of God’s presence among his people Israel in Old Testament times. This presence is now found in the New Jerusalem, the Church of Jesus Christ, where God indwells and communes with His own (Revelation 21:2). It is in the Church of Jesus Christ that truth and righteousness are found, for in her his word is proclaimed and his law is kept. We who gather to this Church enjoy a special relationship with God that the rest of the world does not, to have him not just as God, but to be his people and to have him for our God forever.
Though we walk through life as a valley of tears, struggling against indwelling sin, suffering from death and disease, and being tempted and buffeted by Satan, yet God has saved us from being slaves to these things. The living hope that we have in him sustains us through all the difficulties of the Christian life. Though all of the world may be against us, yet our happiness in God is secure, knowing that He is present among us, especially when we gather to worship every Lord’s Day as his people, and that He will be our God forever. Though our enemies are stronger than we, we feel secure knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us.
9 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.
“Building of Solomon’s Temple” Comestor’s Bible, 1450, Wikimedia Commons
God’s grace strengthens us for the work that he would have us to do together. His peace enables and invigorates us to build his temple. Although Christ is the builder of his Church, yet he gives us an important role in the work, that of proclaiming the free grace of God in Jesus Christ to sinners of every category and walk of life, and of growing up together in him by his word and Spirit, and walking in mutual discipline according to the law of love. God’s salvation is assured. With the outcome secured, we are free to work. It is hard work, but worthwhile and refreshing. There is no more important or worthy labor on earth than to work for the purity, peace, and prosperity of the Church. It is vital, and wonderful.
Let our hands be strengthened and not slack off in this work. If we allow our own prejudices and preferences to take hold, instead of adhering steadfastly to the word of truth, and the rule of righteousness that God has completely given in the Holy Scriptures, Christ’s Church will be structurally damaged and her construction stymied. But with God’s grace in our hearts, obedience to his word as the only rule for everything we do in the Church, and love for one another in the unity that God’s truth brings, we will engage in this work with pure intentions and a singularity of purpose, that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will yield great blessing in the building project, as Christ’s own rule (contained in the Holy Scriptures) is gloriously kept and displayed in us as the Church to a watching world.