James D. Nogalski, in the Smyth and Helwys Commentary, The Book of the Twelve: Micah-Malachi, comments on Zechariah 8:4-5:
“These verses offer a promise of radical normalcy. The messenger formula in 8:4 includes a promise that is remarkable for the placid, mundane images it conveys regarding activity in the streets of Jerusalem. Yet for those who had experienced life in the devastated region of Jerusalem, or even those who had returned from Babylon to find a city in disarray and dilapidation, these images offer a realistic word of hope. They describe a scene in which old men and women sit in the streets peacefully, while the young girls and boys play in those streets—young and old, male and female—live unconcerned for their safety. These images are in many ways not remarkable. Such images are the kinds of things one would normally expect from a life of peace and tranquility. However, for those whose city had been destroyed and its population largely removed, these images were far from reality at the time of Zechariah. In the aftermath of traumatic periods, what could bring more comfort than the image of life undisturbed by war, repopulation journeys, or rebuilding projects? Sometimes hope is most powerful when it is at its most ordinary.” (p. 892).
Reading the Scripture
Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:
• Invite class members to close their eyes as you read slowly. Introduce the reading:
o Image that you are the people of Israel. You have experienced war and captivity in a foreign land and the death of many you love. You have returned to your Holy City but find it in disarray and your center of worship completely destroyed. You are still under foreign rule.
o Pay close attention to the mood of this passage.
o Try to visual the images Zechariah presents.
o The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible includes the Old Testament (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
• The activity in the Teaching Guide, “Ask participants to close their eyes and imagine their lives as a house” (p. 25), reminds me of a book, My Heart Christ’s Home (Robert Boyd Munger, InterVarsity Press, 1992). Robert Munger walks through various rooms of his house and examines how different aspects of our lives “can be brought more in tune with Christ.” I have a copy in my office if you’d like to see it.
• Fasting is a common practice in the Bible, yet it is almost completely ignored by most American Christians today. For many the idea of fasting is out of the question. Reflection:
o Why is fasting not practiced by many?
o Does this say anything about the materialism, consumerism, or overindulgence of our culture?
o Could it be that our aversion to the practice of fasting is precisely the reason we should practice fasting?
o Consider observing a 24 hour fast this week (health permitting). Eat nothing from after supper one night until supper the next night. Use the time to focus on God the true Bread of Life. Reflect on the message of Zechariah.
• Take time to celebrate freedom, peace, and the mundane in worship today. Thank God that there is no worry that the military will kick down the doors to the church and carry you off to prison. Sit comfortably in your pew. Observe children and families. Think about what you will have for lunch today. Open a hymnal and sing. Close your eyes and pray. Listen to the choir and sermon. Relax. Worship without fear. Praise God.
o How does LABC celebrate?
o Note that the Graduation Celebration in Nada is tonight.
• “Let us go with you”: I think this is a powerful verse, “In those days ten men from nations of every language shall talk hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ ”
o Imagine people in Danville taking you by the arm and saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with Lexington Avenue Baptist Church.”
o What would it take for this to happen?
o Does it happen already?
o Let class members share stories if they have any.
I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons.
• For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: The New Century Bible Commentary, Paul Redditt. Recommended to me by Dr. Greg Earwood, president of Baptist Seminary of Kentucky.
o Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)
• In Keith and Tommy’s offices:
o The Book of the Twelve: Micah-Malachi, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, James D. Nogalski (Smyth & Helwys, 2011)
• Bible Atlas of maps: available in my office and hopefully soon in the library.