"Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD. "Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you" (Zechariah 2:14,15; English 2:10,11).
The Bible is a story of allegiances. Gods were often known by their relationship to various people groups. We read of the gods of Egypt, the gods of Babylon, the God of Israel, and so on. The expectation of the Scriptures, however, is that the God of Israel would one day be the God of all nations. Starting with God's promise to Abraham (Bereshit / Genesis 12:1-3), the reality of the God of Israel was never to be the exclusive inheritance of Israel. Exactly how the nations would come to know the true God is not fully understood prior to Yeshua's coming, but throughout the Scriptures we read that they would.
This week's reading is an example. In the special Haftarah for Hanukkah, the prophet Zechariah proclaims that the day would come when many nations would join the Lord and become his people.
It is interesting that this portion is read during Hanukkah. What would happen in the days prior to the first Hanukkah was to be so very different from what Zechariah was speaking of. Zechariah foretold a time when the nations would join with the Lord. Yet in the days of the Maccabees it was the people of Israel who had been joining with other gods. They were being assimilated into the dominant culture of their day. That would not be the end of the story of course. Those of the Jewish people who were faithful to their God, revolted and cast off the foreign influences.
The story of Hanukkah is also one of allegiances. Whom shall we serve? Will it be the God of our ancestors, or the pagan gods - gods of our own making.
As God established his covenant with the people of Israel, he made it clear that they were not to participate in the customs of their neighbors, knowing that it would not take much to be influenced by them.
But note that Zechariah speaks of a day when it would not be Israel going after pagan gods, but one where the other nations would align themselves with the God of Israel.
What would it take for this to happen? Zechariah tells us: "'For I am coming and will live among them,' declares the Lord." When God himself comes to live among the people of Israel, then the nations would join with the God of Israel.
The following statement contains some strange wording:
We were already told that God himself would live among them. But in this sentence we read that God sends the one to come. This is one of the passages which hints at the divine nature of the Messiah. It is as if the prophet in his limited language is seeking to communicate a most difficult concept, that of God sending himself to live among the people.
It is when this occurs that the people of the nations become the people of God. And when will this be? - when He dwells with Israel. When does he dwell with Israel? - at the coming of the Messiah about two thousand years ago.
God through the Messiah has come to dwell with his people, Israel, and the world has never been the same. The good news of his coming continues to spread throughout the nations. As a result people of every tribe and language are joining the God of Israel.
As we light the Hanukkah lights for another year, may he who is the light of the nations glow brighter and brighter.
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