Zechariah 14

This is not just about THE day of the Lord, it’s about A day of the Lord, a very bad one.

I turned to the commentators for this one, is a dark chapter full of terrible things. No one knows for sure if it already happened literally to Israel, is it includes a Christian context, whether it’s currently happening or yet to come.

Of course the general gist, that we live in a world where war and cruelty can and do occur to Christians and Jews, is undeniable. There have been many many appalling days of the Lord down the ages. Being one of God’s loved is not a magic band of protection in this world where sin still runs rampant. Sometimes it makes you more of a target.

The day of defeat for God’s people will turn to victory for them, God will join the battle, the enemies will be decimated – an extreme picture of their flesh rotting on them as they stand. Reminds me of mustard gas in world war 1, or an atom bomb explosion.

Its a picture of the last battle, after which Jerusalem will be secure. Is it Calvary? Is it judgement day?

The survivors of that battle will all be worshippers of the Lord. The Booth feast, the one celebrating god’s rescue of his people from slavery in Egypt, will be attended by all nations, Egypt in particular. It’ll be either that or the mustard gas plague: the sheep and the goats. No middle ground.

And the Jews will be at the centre of it, the least bowl in the humblest Jewish kitchen will be like the holiest vessel in the temple.

So what do I learn?

People with conflicting views on the end times passionately extract shreds of support for their positions from it. I have little patience for end times speculation. It flies in the face of God’s deliberate vagueness about the specifics and the mechanics.

I learn that even the worst day of my life is still a day of the Lord. Trust and get through it, even death is not the end.

Present disasters don’t mean God has deserted us. Time will end, there will be a new phase where evil is no longer at large.

Those who don’t acknowledge god should beware of that time. God’s holiness is absolute and dreadful.

God’s grace, the living water flowing out from Jerusalem, is not cheap, it is born of pain and of immeasurable value. Weep, praise, act.

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Zechariah 13

More “on that day” prophesies about the day of the Lord.
… there will be a fountain that purifies the nation (reminds me of the Cowper hymn “there is a fountain filled with blood”)
… the name of the idols will be cut off and forgotten
… false prophets will be rejected, they will be ashamed of their lying and deceit.

It’s quite sweet, because it paints a picture of the false prophets being thrown out and even pierced by their family if they reappear, but not killed. Eventually they admit that they were only ever really a farmer, and they identify the wounds on their chests as having been given by their friends.

But things get more serious in the poem that follows, where God speaks of a winnowing, how only a third of the nation will be saved, two thirds severed and scattered by the sword of the Lord.  And even for those saved it will be a hard path of being refined and purified through fire.

I always have a survivor guilt reaction to those passages, Jesus picks up the refining imagery too, as does Hebrews in the New Testament. I feel like I haven’t been through the fire, and I feel ashamed of my chronic sin, forgiven with so little effort on my part.  Still, the guys who just have scars to show for being false prophets got a pretty good deal too.

 

 

Zechariah 12

These two chapters, 12 & 13, concern the day of the Lord. Which will be a remarkable day.

It will be a day when enemies besiege the Lord, and he showed not just his strength but his omnipotence and his character. He is the one who made the world and formed our spirit within us, vast in power, intimate in knowledge.

On that day…. The statement clangs though the passage like a bell.

… Everyone will know that God is behind Jerusalem, so resistance is futile,
… Enemies will be vanquished, the weakest of the Jews will seem as blessed and strong as king David
… Jerusalem themselves will weep as no nation has wept before, because they will lose their pride and mourn for God “the one they pierced”.

Yes it’s gone messianic again. The Jews are the most favored nation, so the envy and the stumbling block of the world, but also the ones who let god down the most, so the most miserably aware of their sin and the magnitude of God’s grace.

Now it is the day of the Lord, and I am one of God’s people. I am among the favored, most aware of God’s grace and how little I deserve it, a stumbling block to the world.

Zechariah 11

The last chapter god started discussing his healing of the split and scattered nation of Israel. This chapter enlarges on the theme with a more detailed and metaphorical overview of the history of Israel.

Two shepherds are compared.  The surrounding nations, esp. Lebanon, Bashan and Jordan are treated as a group of shepherds who have been terrible. God is the good shepherd.

They would have devoured Israel: Israel were a flock marked for slaughter, but God used two staffs, Union and Favor, to protect them.

It’s told in two voices, both of whom seem to be the Lord. It works if you think of it like the Trinity… God can speak to himself. It occurs elsewhere too, like the opening of Psalm 110 “the Lord said to my Lord”. It’s a messianic prophesy, as we’ll see, so the conversing God did the mood.

The flock detest him, they fire him as shepherd.  He breaks the first staff, favor and asks for his pay. What has Gods favor been worth to them? 30 pieces of silver as it turns out. The same price for Judas to betray Christ.

30 pieces of silver is the absurd trinkets we value higher than god: the good salary, the car, the house, the smartphone. It’s a lousy trade.

This money is thrown to the potters house, code for temple, returned there like Judas’s money. It’s God’s anyway. It’s ultimately worthless.

Then union is broken, a reference to the splitting of the kingdoms, and they are abandoned to shepherds who will use them as food.

For us, Christians, today, it’s a powerful view of the Topsy turvy world where the seemingly powerful and successful are actually sheep who have fired their good shepherd, trashed his favor, trashed the family bonds with their true father, for paltry return.

How urgent and wonderful is the gospel. Again, same as a few chapters ago, I come to regretting a sense of apology for Christianity: it’s the best thing that ever happened.

 

 

 

Zechariah 10

This is written directly with God’s voice.

The opening section is about his love and care for the people, expressed as rain and crops. He continues de-programming trust in the idols and foreign religions which the Israelites had been emersed in the past 70 years.

He talks about the fate of the two kingdoms, Judah and Ephraim. Judah will be forgiven and become strong and victory will come from them. He speaks of giving the Ephraimites – who seem to have been scattered further and for longer – warrior hearts with joy for him. Sort of like self esteem, dignity. And gathering them in from the far flung regions to which they are spread, evoking the escape from Egypt of old.

God carries out his plans though weak humans. His salvation plan was all but lost by the Israelites’ splintering and unfaithfulness.

Now they have been shaken, restored, forgiven. His character in that forgiveness is to abundantly bless them, build up their identity and strength. To be true, unlike the self serving false gods. To have compassion. To gather and protect the lost. Praise be!

Zechariah 9

A mighty prophesy of things in the near and far future. This has some predictable and surprising elements.

It’s a picture of God as king with lightning bolts and glory. A picture of him saving and preserving Israel, but also the surrounding nations, even as they are condemned and put though a similar winnowing process as Israel has been though in the exile to Babylon.

There is a prediction of the relationship with Greece, both battles and help, which came true in the period between the testaments.

The messianic prediction are striking: a king coming in a donkey, establishing a rule to the ends of the earth. And the Jews will always have a special place, shining young and beautiful like jewels in God’s crown.

It’s all piled in there, I don’t really understand it, but I know it’s truth, the king Messiah is the one I worship.

Feeling a bit sad and frustrated this week. All this glory, but my family feels like it’s in pain. I feel like I should use my strength to help the weak, but not sure how.

Yes I need to pray now.

Zechariah 8

God’s favor.

This a chapter is about the magnitude of God’s blessing. This 70 year process by which the Jews are knocked out of Jerusalem and it is destroyed, and then put back into it and Jerusalem rebuilt shows how much god is in control of history.

It’s a series of statements each with the refrain that it is a word from God, about blessing. The place will be a thriving metropolis again. Crops will grow abundantly, fasts will become times of celebration.

It climaxes with the last verse: 10 people at once will try to grab onto the hem of a Jew’s coat and want to hang with them because they’ve heard God is with them. They’ll be hot stuff, the ants pants, the bees knees.

We have this favor, we are blessed. We are the luckiest people on earth. But Christians are falling into something of a seige mentality as society changes around them. We are not the dominant unchallenged majority and it’s tempting to feel defensive, under attack.

We need to forget about all that and remember how great Christianity is. We’re saved. We know love. Our faith should not be a walled city at war with the world or hiding away from it, an enclave of a threatened culture.  It is a light on the hill, a beacon, an incredibly attractive advertisement for the love of God.

Father, never catch me apologising for being a Christian.

Zechariah 7

What god really wants.

Since Jerusalem is being re-established and everything is getting back to the old ways, they ask about returning to fasting as they used to before. That gonna make god happy, right?

He reminds them how empty it was. That’s why he scattered the people to the four winds in the first place. There hearts were like flint, cold and hard. Their fasting meant nothing. He told them to change, they didn’t listen. God doesn’t want to go back to that.

What does he want? “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”

Not exactly Trump’s gospel, indeed there are many Christians who find reasons to ignore god on this.

Give me an open heart Lord, full of compassion and mercy.

Zechariah 6

Apparently the visions are coming to an end, I’ll miss them.

Today we have a vision of four horsemen fanning out from God across the world. They are of different colors but we aren’t told what the colors mean. Of course four horsemen turn up in Revelation to announce the end times. Commentators talk about tribulation and judgement from these horses, and I’m not saying they are wrong, but it’s not explicit in the passage. To me its enough that its about god’s control and presence across the world.

These visions are working to encourage the newly returned Jews in Jerusalem, but not allowing a limited geographical view of God, it keeps expanding beyond the walls.

Ditto the vision of Joshua crowned as priest and king. It’s literally promising god’s blessing of a revitalised temple worship, but reaching way bigger to messianic proportions. The two trees spoken of yesterday are linked to the vision of one person, the branch, who brings harmony between the two, and will be clothed in Majesty and glory. It’s the Messiah, seen as he is for eternity, in his glorious heavenly state, not the humble man Jesus who we will meet later when he comes to earth.

Zechariah 5

Oh no, the flying scroll and the woman in the basket!

The Israelites have lived in exile in Babylon, against their will, but it has had an effect. These are two pictures of the purifying of Israel so they are God’s people again.

The scroll is the same size as the holy of holies in the temple, and it has sins against God on one side (swearing falsely against God), sin against each other (thievery) on the other. It roots out Israel’s sins.

Ditto the basket. Regrettably for modern day feminism, wicked was a feminine word in ancient Hebrew, and in this vision Israel’s wickedness is personified by a woman. The evil of Babylon is locked up in a basket and taken back to Babylon from whence it came.

Israel is purified and ready to be God’s people once again.