painting by Degas of a woman with a hat and a man in conversation

Reflecting on Zechariah 8 1-17

We are studying Zechariah 8:1-17 for Sunday, May 10. The text presents a vision of a community restored for a life of peace and justice – maybe especially timely for us in mid-May 2020. [Some notes on this text are here.] Here are some questions about the text we might want to consider or discuss:

The image of God in the passage is [over and over again] “YHWH Sabaoth,” in our translation “the LORD of hosts,” alternatively “the Holy One” or “the Eternal” of hosts – hosts being armies. In the case of God, people traditionally understand these to be heavenly armies. In light of this – how does the image of God as “the Eternal, of hosts” resonate with us? What are its implications? Are there things we appreciate about this image of God, or things we disappreciate, or both? Which things? Why?

Why do we think the prophet would emphasize this aspect of God here? What does it have to do with the prophetic message in this text, do we think?

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In our text’s opening verses, God claims to be “jealous for Zion,” and passionately so. What is our response to this image of God? Why? How does this image of God fit with our other images of God? How do those images qualify, or reinforce, this image?

How would we describe this image of God? [Options might be: positive; reassuring; cautionary; negative; among others.] Why do we say this?

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What is our response to the vision of the old and young sitting and playing in the open squares? How would we describe this image of the restored community?

How do we think this vision depends on or relates to the image of God in the earlier verses?

How do we think this vision might depend on, or relate to, the image of “strong hands” in the following verses (9, 13)? Why?

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Verses 12-13 describe a “sowing of peace” and its consequences, while verses 16-17 describe a code of behavior, emphasizing truth. Are these two visions related? That is, how might truth be related to peace and well-being, do we think? [For instance, does it produce peace? Is it a precondition for peace? is it something that maintains peace?] Or is peace related to truth? [For instance, is it easier for people to be truthful and faithful when there is peace and well-being? Does conflict make falsehood or falsity more tempting?

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While remembering that this prophetic work was originally addressed to people a long time ago, in a specific place with specific concerns, we also treat this as a sacred text that is “ours.” In light of that, how does this particular text address us, here and now, do we think? What effect does it have on us? Why?

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Degas painting of woman in red hat and man in conversation over papers on a table

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