Readers’ Choice Bonus:
Today’s post was originally published, on May 20, 2022, based on Zechariah 2.3-11
It was selected by reader, Brian Bakke, Washington DC:
“Thank you for this reflection. Thanks for sharing about the City of God. Thanks for the gift of sharing about the eternal City where all of us who are called by name will celebrate, worship, and live with our Lord and Savior forever and ever.
My father was a gifted teacher, author, and professor. He will forever be known for calling the Church back into the city. He was co-editor of the Word in Life Study Bible, which has thousands of notes that speak of God’s love for the city and the people who live there. He was an unknown pastor laboring in a small church in Chicago. Someone told someone, who told someone, who told someone, and my father was on the stage at Urbana in 1984. He wrote The Urban Christian, and Theology As Big as the City, and A Biblical Word for an Urban World.”
From John: After corresponding with Brian following the original publication of this devotional, I read Theology As Big as the City and found it to be inspirational and very much still relevant to ministry and the church today—perhaps even more relevant now than when it was first published. I recommend adding it to your reading list.
Thank you for sending your selections of meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. This is a bonus Readers’ Choice post for this week. Remember that you don’t have to wait to send a Readers’ Choice. You can submit them all year long simply by replying back to our emails or filling out the form found at this link.
Scripture Focus: Zechariah 2.3-11
3 While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, another angel came to meet him 4 and said to him: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. 5 And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’
6 “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord.
7 “Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in Daughter Babylon!” 8 For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye—9 I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. g Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.
10 “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. 11 “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.
Reflection: The Urban Sprawl of the City of God—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman
The angel who has been talking to Zechariah leaves him. However, at some distance away, a second angel intercepts the first with an urgent message, sending him back. “Run, tell that young man…” the second angel says.
Zechariah is told that the new Jerusalem will have no walls. This may not seem unusual to us. Most of today’s cities have no walls. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, where I live, covers an area larger than the combined areas of Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island. It is over 9,000 square miles of cities grown right into each other…and sprawling more every month out into the surrounding countryside.
In Zechariah’s day, however, cities without walls were defenseless. However, the angel of the Lord says that he, himself, will be a wall of fire around the city and its glory within. This image links to at least two things.
On Mount Sinai, God appeared in a fiery cloud of glory. The people were too afraid to go near the mountain, but Moses entered this fire and experienced the glory of God.
In John’s Revelation, the City of God, the New Jerusalem, comes down from Heaven and has no need of sun or lamps because the Lord himself will be its light. His glory will fill the city. (Revelation 22.5; Zechariah 14.7; Isaiah 60.19)
The angel tells Zechariah that God will send him to us in this fire-walled, glorious city. He will come and live among us and many nations will become God’s people.
God has sent Jesus to us in this manner and for this purpose. Jesus is the entrance into all that God has for us. He is the gate and the wall and when we enter, he shows us God’s glory closer than Moses ever got to see. This is an “already and not yet” promise. We can experience it now in part, as through a veil like Moses wore, but then we will experience it more fully.
God is writing an Exodus narrative for us today. Jesus calls to us to escape the cities, systems, and empires we now serve. “Escape!”, he cries. “Escape from Babylon!” Jesus calls us to live within the borderless, wall-less, ever-sprawling city of New Jerusalem. As we anticipate the ultimate fulfillment of this promise, may we participate in work God calls us to which fulfills it in part.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The same stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. — Psalm 118.22
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
*We have diverted into 1 Kings and Ephesians for this week. Devotionals on our daily readings will continue next week.
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