Have you ever wondered if God is mad at you? That perhaps things aren’t going well because you’ve landed yourself on His “bad side” and there’s no use trying to get back into His favor? This seems to be what the people are feeling in Zechariah 7-8. They are a few years into rebuilding the temple. The work is hard, but they are slowly seeing it take shape. But something’s missing; there’s no joy in it. They send some men to Zechariah to ask if they should be keeping the fasts prescribed by the law as they usually do, and maybe that will get them back into God’s good graces.
God speaks to the people through Zechariah. He asks them if their hearts were truly in it when they kept those fasts during the captivity in Babylon or were they just going through the motions to fulfill religious obligations. He reminds them why they ended up in captivity in the first place: hard hearts which refused to listen to Him and sinful choices which brought God’s wrath upon them. God says because they would not listen when He called, so He would not listen when they called.
But then we get a picture of what’s really going on in the heart of God. He says, “I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.” (8:2) God wants full restoration for Israel more than Israel wants it for themselves! This jealousy is a righteous, burning zeal to see His people experience what He intended for them all along. It is a zeal which arises out of a deep and passionate love that is determined to accomplish what He intends.
In our human perspective, jealousy is something negative, as though the jealous person wants to withhold our freedom, and control us, as a person who is overly-possessive. But God’s jealousy is not like that. He is zealous that we do not miss what He wants to give us. He is angry at the sin that steals our hearts and draws us away, because He knows that it will only lead to heartache, pain, destruction, and death, both physically and spiritually.
God promises the people through Zechariah that He fully intends to restore them, and they should not be discouraged. Even though it “feels” like they will never again experience what they once had or hoped for, He is no longer angry at them, and they can trust His promises. “Do not fear, let your hands be strong.” In other words, just keep doing what you know to do. Keep being faithful. Do the things which please God (show kindness and compassion, dispense true justice) and avoid the things that He hates (oppression of the poor, the widow, the orphan, i.e. taking advantage of those who can’t defend themselves, devising evil, lying). Get up every day and do what pleases God, and one day you’ll realize He has restored you. The joy will return, and people will be asking you how to know God because it will be obvious that He is with you.
Are you in a hard place? Maybe you’re in the recovery phase of God’s discipline, learning to walk with Him again in faithful obedience. You might still be suffering His hand of discipline. Or you may have let your heart grow “hard like flint” and you’re not even willing to listen to God yet. You’re still doing life your own way. I have good news. God is jealous for you, and He will do whatever it takes to restore you. Don’t be satisfied with the little this world offers, and don’t give up on the promises of God. He has more in mind than you can imagine.