I am always thinking about the prophets, and how they grappled with the fact of the Exile (in the future, present, or recent past). They led a rebuked people in a non-ideal existence: surrounded by enemies who had decimated their land and holy city, desecrated their temple, and taken their ruling class into captivity (for their own service). They were addressing a nation that was heading toward captivity (Isaiah), dealing with the present reality of captivity (Jeremiah – especially the latter chapters), or still seeing its effects in a later, partial return (Zechariah).

I thought I’d share three basic concepts and then muse on what they have to do with me/us/followers of Jesus Christ today.

First, today, vision.

Zechariah 8:3 Thus says the LORD: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain.  4 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age.  5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. … 11 But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the LORD of hosts.  12 For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.  … 16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;  17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”

Through Zechariah, God gives the returned exile remnant a vision of Jerusalem as a just and holy city.

First, the city is a good place to be very old or very young.

Second, the economic prosperity of the city is a gift of God, in some sense repealing the curse God put on human work: it will not be in vain, the land will yield good to those who work it.

Third, there is a kind of civic life that befits this blessed city. It is not complicated. The people are to be truthful and fair, especially in judicial judgment; the city’s internal life is to be peaceable.

What applies here? What doesn’t apply here? In contrast to the fantasies of urban planners around the US, a good city is not primarily one that attracts monied yuppies. Nor is it a welfare state. Nor is it no city at all. It is a place where the old people happily sit outside and watch the kids running around. My city doesn’t often look like this. Does yours?