Blogging Through the Prophets: Suffering in the Lord.

zechariahZechariah 12

Zechariah speaks of the deliverance of the people of God following their punishment. Although Israel will endure God’s wrath, it will not be forever. This seems to indicate that Israel will one day again be in God’s favor. In that day, the Lord will restore to them all their former blessings. The people of God will be at peace for they will have overcome all of their enemies, all those who oppressed them. The Lord will give them supernatural strength to do so because they will repent of their sins, particularly their rejection of the Messiah, Jesus, whom they crucified.

The chapter addresses God’s sovereign care and protection of His people through the ages, in both blessings and trials. Thus it would appear that the deliverance spoken of here may not be a mere physical one, but spiritual. The restoration of Jerusalem is a type or figure of the church, the redeemed people of God who have placed their faith in Christ. These comprise the worshipping community. They are the Temple of the Lord. These who have forsaken the world to follow Christ, who have fought against temptation, who have suffered as a result of sin and the persecution of the wicked as well as the attacks of Satan and his minions, will be rewarded for their faithful perseverance at the end of the age, when the Kingdom of God is finally victorious.

Many people find Christianity unattractive and foolish because Christians give up a lot of pleasures when they give up the ways of the world to follow Jesus. Many Christians think that too and so struggle to maintain  their faith. Yet when suffering and trials come, and they come to all, unsaved and believers alike, only the latter are filled with the Lord’s supernatural strength which helps them endure. In addition the assurance of eternal life keeps them faithful. Those in the world don’t have this but they need us to tell it to them. Better to go through trials and sickness with the Lord then to endure them alone or by trusting in other people, science or the false gods of other religions.

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Blogging through the Prophets: The Lord hates idolatry in every form.

Zechariah 10zech10
Zechariah now focuses in on the people of Israel, specifically how God’s judgment will affect them. Their enemies will be destroyed as He has promised. The proper response that the Lord desires is that they now call upon Him and only Him the Lord for all things and in all situations. He has shown Himself faithful. Therefore they are not to look to pagan gods and idols to fulfill any of their needs for all such were faithless, incapable of providing anything of value to them. The Lord had to state this because of the tendency within the people of God to stray from Him. They wanted immediate and tangible results for their religious works, not something they could not see or that they had to wait for so they would invariably place their trust in false gods. This would only lead them deeper into the slavery of debauchery, selfishness and sin.
The Lord placed a high degree of blame for their sin on the shepherds, the religious and civil leadership. These men looked out for themselves when they should have been looking out for the spiritual well-being of God’s people. They misled God’s people with false words and worthless comfort. The Messiah is the one of whom He will appoint speaks but the Lord has chosen to work through those He can use, those who surrender to His will.
The church and her leaders should take note: a kingdom based on selfish and worldly is doomed to fall apart. We are not to look to the world for models of leadership or success for the Lord Himself will set up His chosen leadership. These are not those the world would choose for leadership, the best looking, the most charismatic or persuasive or the strongest. God looks for humility, kindness, love and service to others for the glory of His Kingdom. His leaders hold fast to the truth, live in humility, with love and compassion toward all. At the same time, His leadership will act decisively and swiftly to protect God’s sheep from predatory wolves and false shepherds.

Blogging Through the Prophets: Alexander the Great and the Messiah.

Zechariah 9

zech9 alexanderThese prophetic oracles expand upon the previous vision of God’s coming Kingdom. Now at the core of Zechariah’s focus is the Messiah who will bring blessings of peace and security but who will also dispense judgment on the wicked. Therefore most of what the prophet speaks of is primarily eschatological in nature, that is, it speaks of future events and occurrences rather than of contemporary or present events. Here we see judgments upon old enemies who had troubled Israel throughout her history. The Lord uses Greece as His sword of judgment against them, a prophecy of Alexander the Great who conquered all of the Near East including Palestine and Egypt. History glorifies Alexander for his great achievements and his legacy but he was cunning and cruel. And still in all his wondrous conquests but he was merely an agent of the Lord.

Zechariah contrasts this Greek conqueror with prophesies of the coming Messiah who would outshine Alexander and all kings. He would come not as a warrior riding in a chariot or on a fine horse like Alexander, but on a donkey, a symbol of humility, peace and service. The prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death. He was coming to take His throne not by force of arms but by being crucified. Yet the context tells us that something greater was to occur. This triumphal entry was to be followed by a time of universal peace and the reign of the Messiah as King over the whole earth. This is a cause for rejoicing even for us today for though we do not see it yet, it must be viewed as an accomplished fact. We know that one day it will happen because the Lord has declared it.

Blogging Through the Prophets: The assurance of God’s zeal.

Zechariah 8

 The Lord now expreszechariahses His jealous zeal for His people, for their exclusive love and commitment. He does not and will never tolerate any form of idolatry or even the slightest hint of compromise with sin or evil. Yet He also is very zealous to protect and bless those He loves. He expresses His ardor with far-reaching and detailed future blessings for them. Even though these blessings sounded grandiose and unachievable to the people of Zechariah’s day, neither they nor we should assume that they are impossible for the Lord. He had fulfilled His promise of judgment and exile upon their ancestors and would certainly bring about these blessing as He spoke them.

The Lord made these promises in order to encouraged and fill His people with joy. The fasts of sorrow and sadness they had celebrated in exile must give way to feasts of rejoicing. Although the present reality did not reflect what the Lord had promised, nor did it measure up to what Israel had enjoyed under David and Solomon, the people were to have hope because the Lord would surely bring about all manner of blessings.

We who are in Christ know that all God’s promises have been fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. However, our present situation in the 21st century does not stack up to this promised peace and glory given by the Lord. Yet in this vale of tears we can still rejoice for we can live in obedience and faith for we trust in the assurance given us by God which makes all His promises a certainty.

Blogging Through the Prophets: Man-centered worship does not satisfy the Lord.

Zechariah 7

soupitchenSome of the Jews came and posed a question to the Lord via Zechariah concerning traditional worship rituals. Fasting and abstinence on the days in the 5th month was not commanded by the Law. It had been instituted by the exiles in Babylon to remember the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. The day in the 7th month that Zechariah mentioned commemorated the assassination of the last Jewish ruler, Gedaliah. So the fasting was done to recall or commemorate significant days in Jewish history much as we modern Americans might remember 9/11. Now that the Temple had nearly been totally restored, many of the Jews wondered if such traditions should continue. But the answers that the Lord gives pointed out the hypocrisy that lay beneath this request.

Evidently the Jews had created these traditions as occasions to indulge in self-pity rather than engage in prayer and repentance. In addition when they feasted they did it for themselves rather than to please the Lord. Their manmade forms of worship though harmless in themselves were simply perpetuating the selfishness for which prophets had rebuked their ancestors. These days of fasting were not important. What was important was that they dispense justice, exercise kindness and compassion, protect the weak, aliens and outcasts, and in general show goodness to everyone. Outward forms of worship were useless if one was not walking in obedience to God in all these areas of life.

We modern believers ought to examine each of our rituals and acts of worship. We should determine if they are done to engage in selfish pursuits or as a means to encourage us to engage in acts of worship that involve showing compassion, mercy and forgiveness to those we do not like and to those whom we deem to be undeserving. The Lord will not be pleased with our worship if we harbor animosity toward our brethren in Christ, or withhold mercy and kindness from nonbelievers. And we should never expect any reward for our actions. The Lord prefers deeds of kindness to empty or self-centered ritual.

 

Blogging Through the Prophets: God’s omnipotence.

Zechariah 6
zech6In the final vision, the reader emerges from viewing the nations and soars back into the universal realm. The horses of the first vision, now accompanied by chariots, reappear. There are four chariots and four sets of horses. Since chariots were considered the most powerful weapons of ancient warfare, these represent the Lord’s power and dominion, His omnipotence and omnipresence, His complete control over the universe and all that is in it. And they indicate that because He is omnipotent the Lord is at rest.

The crowning of Joshua summarizes the preceding visions and ensures that the high priest will be accepted in his new role. Prior to the exile, the essence of Judah’s identity had been based upon the temple of the Lord and the monarchy. The reorganization under Persia had dramatically altered this concept. The visions communicate the fact that the Persian dominion was divinely ordered. They place Yahweh’s stamp of legitimacy on the high priest as the judicial and religious authority of Judah. They link the new era to the original Mosaic covenant with emphasis on the Torah and the high priest as mediator. Full restoration is relegated to a future date when the Messiah, here referred to as the Branch, will function as both king and priest.

The fact that the Lord is at rest is hard to grasp for we humans see all the turmoil and evil in the world that threatens to overwhelm us. We are rarely at rest or peace as the things we worry about are many and they often change from day to day. God is not intimidated or concerned by such turmoil for they are all part of His plan. What then seems to us as chaotic, fearful and unmanageable is really all under the Lord’s control. If we look at life with the faith and trust of a little child, we too will be at peace.

Blogging Through the Prophets: The fellowship of the Kingdom.

 

Haggai 2
Once the construction of the temple of the Lord resumed, the Lord encouraged His people through Haggai. He wanted them to desire the glory of the Temple which should have signified their desire for the glory of the Lord which is what the Temple represented. Yet He was at pains to remind them that the Temple was no mere talisman or charm that would keep them safe and guarantee them blessings. The presence of the Temple did not make them holy. If they were viewing the Temple with such an attitude, then their hearts were not right with God. They needed to obey all of God’s commands in every area of life, including taking care of the poor and downtrodden. The Lord also encouraged the Jews by announcing that Zerubabbel, though only a governor under the Persians and not a king represented the Davidic dynasty. His presence demonstrated that the Lord was still working in and through them. His presence was also a prophecy of the Messiah who was to come.

Some times we Christians mistake our “temples”, our church buildings and worship centers as the place here God dwells. But He does not. Because of Jesus, The Lord God now inhabits his people the church by means of His Holy Spirit. We gather at churches corporately, as a body to worship together, to encourage one another, and to feed on God’s word. Jesus is there with us for we are gathered in His name, but he is not limited to the building. and he goes with us as we go forth into the world in His name to preach the gospel to the poor, the ignorant, the own trodden and all those oppressed by the world and by Satan. We preach we deeds as much as with words and invite people to join, not our local church or congregation, but the Kingdom of God. Our primary loyalty is to The Lord, not our denomination or building or fellowship. The Kingdom of God is universal and invisible united by the common bond of the Holy Spirit.