We have a saying that, “You can never go home again.” You have likely experienced why this expression exists. When I left San Diego for college in Tampa and returned to San Diego the next summer, life was not the same. My life had moved on. The lives of my friends had moved on so that things were not the same when I came back. But what happens is we hold in our minds the way things were when we were kids when we lived at home. But then we come back and home is not the same. It is almost that we take a picture of how things were, hoping that somehow everything will be frozen and pick up right where we left off. But this is where this saying comes in. You can never go home again. You go home but things are not the same. Sometimes we really wish that home could be the way we remember it.
But there is another reason why we have the saying, “You can never go home again.” Sometimes it is not the changes that naturally happening with the passing of time in life. Sometimes it is because we mess up home. Sometimes we feel like we can never go home again because we ruined home. In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable about a son who is so rebellious and so insolent toward his father that he no longer wants to live in his home, asks for his inheritance from his father now, and leaves home because he wants nothing to do with the father and his house. He ends up with a point of struggle in his life because it seems impossible to go back home when you have caused so much damaged and hurt so many people.
Messing Up Home (10:1-2)
In Zechariah 10 God uses this image to picture what he wants to give to us. Zechariah 10 opens with a picture showing that this is what we have done to our Father in heaven. Verse 1 begins with truth. God is one who gives us what we need. God is the one who showers our lives with blessings. God is the one who provides for us, giving us the food we need. God takes care of his people and we are to be looking to him for everything in life. But this is not what we do. Verse 2 shows that rather than acknowledging God as our Father who gives us every good and perfect gift and blessing, we turn to idols and expect them to take care of us. Now we can read verse 2 and think that we do not have idols. We can think that we do not have some image of stone or metal in our closet or garage so we do not have an idolatry problem. But idolatry is nothing more than turning some other place for help and hope than God. Idolatry says that the reason I live and the reason I have blessings is because I make good decisions, I work hard, I make a lot of money, I do certain things, or something else that I think I did to get myself to this point.
This attitude is actually what is messing up home. Notice the end of verse 2 says that what has happened is now the people wander and are afflicted because they lack a shepherd. Hear what the Lord is saying. We mess up life, wandering in life aimlessly and in pain, because we do not have the shepherd for our lives that we need. We like to think that we are amazing leaders of our lives. We know everything. We know what to do and we know how to do it. We are in charge and we can lead ourselves to the perfect life. But God is always trying to show us that the way we think is right is destructive (Psalm 14:12). The very first sin in the scriptures came from doing what seemed like a good idea to us. The fruit looked good and it would make me wise, so why not do it?
So here is our reality and it is the truth. Every person has messed up their eternal home. Every person has told the Father in heaven that he has no idea what he is doing and that I need to go my own way and live my own life. Every person has told the Father in heaven that I am taking care of myself and I am in charge of my life and that he has done nothing for us. Every sin is ultimately communicating these things. I don’t need a shepherd. I will lead myself. But please notice what we are told. When we do this, we will wander around in this world lost, not knowing what is true anymore and plunging ourselves into all kinds of pains and afflictions.
God’s Rescue Plan (10:3-7)
Now God continues by declaring that those who had led his people away into this terrible thinking were going to be judged. The people need a true shepherd. The people need a shepherd who will be firm in their lives. The people need a shepherd who will care for them like the Lord wants. I want us to hear the words of verse 3. The Lord cares for his flock. Even though the sheep are wandering away from him and are afflicted because of their sinful life decisions, the Lord cares for his flock.
Notice what the Lord says he wants to do for you. In verse 6 the Lord says that he will strengthen you. He will save you. He will bring you back because he has compassion on you. Look at the end of verse 6. The Lord says that we will be as though we had not be rejected for our sins. This is the stunning picture of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness has this power. God’s forgiveness has the power to save you, to strengthen you, and to bring you back home. God says that you can come back to him and it really can be like you never left home. God’s love and compassion for you is so great that he says to you that you can be restored. Look at how much God loves you. In verse 6 the Lord says, “I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.” The picture is that there will be a people who realize that they have messed up their lives because they have rejected the Father and left his loving care. When you come to that point of understanding, God is not going to say, “I will not listen to you. I told you that was going to happen!”
My daughter used this on me recently and it really struck me. Grace had hurt herself doing something that I had told her to be careful doing. So she had smashed her foot on something and was hurting. So in my great fatherly wisdom I said to her, “I told you to be careful.” She responded, “That doesn’t help me!” It was a great response because she was right. She did not need an “I told you so.” She knew that. What she needed was compassion and for me to answer her cry. This is what God is saying to us in this paragraph of Zechariah. When you call, I will answer. When you call, I will not say I told you so. God is going to respond with compassion.
Coming Home (10:8-12)
So what is God going to do? Look at verse 8. God is going to whistle for them and gather them in because he has redeemed them. In verse 10 God says that he is going to bring them home. He is going to bring them home until there is no more room. God does not want just a few people. God wants every single person who has left him. He wants every person to come back. He wants every person to come home.
How are we going to be able to come home? God says that he is going to whistle for his people to come home. Did you have a parent that did that with you? I had a friend whose parent did that. We would be playing way up the street and we could not see home. We were up the hill and around the curve. But we could hear his parent’s whistle. The whistle meant that it was time to come home. Wherever you are, even if you cannot see him and even if you are far away, the whistle means that it is time to come home. God is whistling for you to come home because he has redeemed you. Redemption is the idea of paying a price to set something free so that it can return home. You may have redeemed coupons when you went shopping. The company will pay you money for that piece of paper in your hand. A price has been paid so that you can come home.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13–14 ESV)
For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb. (1 Peter 1:18–19 CSB)
The cross of Jesus is God’s whistle to the world to come home. But God is not done telling you why you should want to remember the Lord and come home. Not only does God promise to forgive your sins. Not only does God promise to answer you and listen to you. Not only does God promise to have compassion on you. Not only does God promise to let you come home and the relationship will be as if you never left him or rejected him. But there is one more picture in verses 11-12.
The Lord will pass through the sea of troubles and strike down the waves of the sea and the depths of the Nile will be dried up. The Lord will make us strong in the Lord and we will walk in his name. The Lord is pictured as striking down the storms, waves, and seas. We are reading an exodus image as God leads the way to deliver us from our slavery to sin. God has made the way for us to escape. He has whistled for us to come and has removed every obstacle so that we can come back to him. But also consider the contrast from verse 2. In verse 2 we are wandering like sheep and afflicted because we lack a shepherd. Now we have a shepherd who leads us through our troubles, who leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, and be with you through any difficulty.
In fact, this picture in verse 11 might sound familiar to you. Remember that a storm rose up on the Sea of Galilee. While the disciples are on the sea dealing with the storm, Jesus is walking on the water. Jesus is passing through the sea of troubles. Jesus is able to tell the waves and the storm to be still and they immediately listen to him. Come home to the Lord because Jesus is the shepherd you need to carry you through the trials and hardships of life. Notice verse 12. God will make you strong in him. God will give you the strength you need to help you in the storms. Come home to the Lord because there is no need to wander in life any longer, trying to figure out your purpose and why you are here. Come home to the Lord so that rather than being wrecked by life, you can be carried through life with the shepherd who will lead you and never forsake you. The Lord is whistling for you. The Lord is waiting for you.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)
The Lord does not want anyone to miss out but to come home. In this life, you cannot come home again. But with God, you can come home again. In Luke 15 that son who rejected his father returned home and the father received him and restored him to the family. What is keeping you from coming home? Why stay lost when you can be home? Why stay alone with you can have the Lord? Why trust in your power when it is the Lord who gives us everything we have for life and devotion? The cross of Jesus continues to whistle for you today to see the love of the Lord and to come home.