God reminds us through the prophet Zechariah that blessing comes to those who learn from His loving chastisement, not to those who obstinately continue as if nothing has happened when He punishes us as our Father. If we love God and are thankful to Him, it will show in our obedience to Him, in reflecting His justice, love and mercy to others, especially in the Church of Christ.
Zechariah 8:10 For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.
11 But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts.
12 For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
14 For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not:
15 So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
pruned vines in May, Wikimedia Commons
For God’s people, (which in Old Testament times was the nation of Israel, and is now known as the Church of Jesus Christ, made up of Christians of every nation), sin angers God. When we stray against God, he sends his rod to chasten us, not out of hatred, but out of His fatherly love, in order to correct our attitude and restrain our bad behavior. There are times, as in the history of God’s people Israel recounted in the words of the prophet, when we provoke God’s anger through sin. Chief among these sins is the sin of idolatry, of having false gods. This can be the blatant idolatry of bowing down to false gods represented by images invented by man’s imagination, as the Jews engaged in before they had been taken to exile in Babylon, or it can be in the more subtle form of the rule of other life priorities in our hearts, the place where God’s rule is meant to be seated and expressed in our life together as the Church. These other priorities may be money, work, family, or community, which are blessings if used for God’s glory, when they are not allowed to take priority over God in our lives and hearts, but are idols if they are allowed to be more important to us than him. God forebears for a long time in the face of such idolatry, when he allows the material blessings to continue. But sooner or later out of love our Father removes certain blessings in order to discipline His people, to teach us to be more faithful to Him as His obedient child, noted in verse 10 above as the removal of economic blessing and the introduction of strife between the people. But as with any loving father, His punishment does not last forever.
There is a blessing promised, when the Church will flourish and Her hard times will be remembered no more, as even bystanders looking from the outside see that God is in her midst to bless and keep her. This blessing involves a remnant being kept by God from among the people, while those who remain in their sinful rebellion, who, instead of repenting of their sin and learning from God’s punishment, continue obstinately in their former ways, are cut off from the people of God. The promised blessing is for those who prove to be faithful as a result of God’s chastisement, who learn obedience to Him from it.
Let us be those who learn the lessons that God gives us opportunity to learn, teachably, receptive to what He instructs us in his word and by the events that transpire, for we know that He is in sovereign control of everything that happens to us. God teaches us in his word, and applies it to our lives often through the events that transpire. Let us be open to what He has to teach us so that we will receive the spiritual peace and prosperity that He promises, which is so much better than even material blessing.
16 These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:
17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.
The blessing of God is received in thankfulness when we keep His commandments. When we speak the truth to one another, love truth, and make just and right decisions as His Church, it shows that we are His people, beloved by Him, chastened but not killed, walking in thankful obedience in response to His grace to us. When we love our neighbor and keep our word, for His glory, out of thankfulness for the blessings He has showered upon us, it shows His work written upon our heart, that we have been taught of Him and know Him.