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Among Us

“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 2.10-11.

Sometimes, a verse of Scripture simply takes my breath away — and the first of today’s verses is one such. It is surely one of the clearest and most specific predictions of the coming of Jesus to be found in the Old Testament; and it was surely in the mind of John when he wrote in his gospel: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1.14). In John, the Greek verb used for “made his dwelling” is skenoo, meaning “tabernacled”, and that is the equivalent of the Hebrew verb shakan that is found in the Zechariah text. Both paint the same picture: the Almighty God filling the tabernacle (miskan) in the wilderness with his glorious presence (shekinah). It had happened once and it would happen again (Zechariah). It had happened once and it had happened again (John) — but this time the tent was the flesh and blood of Jesus and the glory was (and still is for the time being) hidden.

Which brings us to the problem of “in that day”. It is a reference to “the Day of the Lord” which is the term used numerous times throughout the Old Testament for a day or period at the end of time when God’s will and purposes for the world and for the whole of humanity will be fulfilled and when all wrongs will be righted and evil will be vanquished and “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11.9). And looking at all the relevant texts, many would say that that Day has clearly not yet arrived. The wolf is not living with the lamb and the leopard is not lying down with the goat (Isaiah 11.6). Jesus has come, yes, and he has built a church, yes, but there is violence and injustice and corruption everywhere, and evil laughs from the shadows. So, however unambiguous the prediction in Zechariah seems, was God really referring to his coming to earth in the person of Jesus when he said that “on that day” he was coming to live among us?

The answer is surely, yes. But the Day of the Lord, like so much else in the Christian faith, turns out to be both “now” and “not yet”. Now is the Day of the Lord in that Jesus has come and lived among us, and died, and risen again, and ascended to the Father, and begun his reign in heaven. Many nations are “being joined to the Lord” as the Gospel goes out into all the world and people acknowledge Jesus as their saviour and their king. But the Day of the Lord is also not yet because Jesus has yet to return in glory and “finish then his new creation” as the hymn puts it. It is all there at the end of the book of Revelation … including an echo of this text from Zechariah …

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling (Greek: skene = “tabernacle”, noun) of God is with men, and he will live (Greek: skenoo = “tabernacle”, verb) with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” (Revelation 21.1-5).

Thank you, Father, that I have the joy of living this side of Bethlehem and Calvary and the Empty Tomb . Thank you that I know what your promise to “live among us” meant. Thank you for coming to us in Jesus. And thank you that he will come again in glory and I will see him face to face. Amen.

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