Israel returned from exile with big dreams, yet facing tremendous challenges. How to rebuild their desolate land and shattered society?
The exile had been painful. Zechariah spoke of a new age of prosperity in the Promised Land. Here is an example of Luther’s teaching about God’s “proper” work (to show grace and mercy and to give life), and also God’s “alien” work (leaving us to suffer the consequences of our sin).
Israel had abandoned God, believing they could take care of themselves and get along just fine on their own. Their enemies overran them, and they realized (too late) that only with God’s help and protection could they dwell secure in their land.
God’s “alien work” had accomplished its goal. The pain of exile had softened God’s people, and they were ready to acknowledge their need for God. At times, God turns away, knowing we’ll bring suffering upon ourselves. But God stays nearby, ready to do the “proper work” of restoring us, once we are ready again to rely on God alone for everything we need.
We thank you, loving God, for your patience as you watch and wait until we learn the painful lesson of trying to live without you. Teach us, even in pain, to follow only you. Amen. — TG