Tag: Minor Prophets

God’s People Need Faithful Leaders

Malachi 2:1-9 

In previous chapter God took people and priests to task for improper attitude toward worship – in particular, people bringing, priests accepting and offering sacrifices unacceptable to God. And they expected God to be ok with that… and continue blessing them. Both people and priests were responsible for actions and attitudes, priests more so because of position of influence. Priests expected to lead people to truth with both life and lips, were seriously deficient in both.

Here God narrows focus to priests, accusing them of unfaithfulness to his covenant, threatening to bring on them curses promised for not keeping the covenant (Deut. 28). No guesswork here about what God expected of his people, how they had sinned against him, how he would respond. Like earlier at Nineveh, God’s threats are great act of grace – warning his people, giving time for repentance, opportunity to get back to right standing with God.

Some details different for us – are under different / New covenant, so not surprising things might have changed. No longer single place for worship, gather on Sunday rather than Saturday, many ceremonial requirements don’t apply. However… God is still the same, need to treat what he says to us with as much respect as ancient people should have. And basic principles of worship have not changed – first and most important is about us giving God his due, taking to heart what he gives to us, take seriously the need to give glory to God in worship.

A. God must be taken seriously  v.1-4

need to hear what he says

are to be active listeners to God in his Word and in worship – pay close attention with goal of comprehension

striving to make mental associations, find hook to hang it on (or one it’s already on), keep it accessible for future use

those in leadership in particular need to master God’s truth not just for own benefit – need to understand it well enough to pass along to others… accurately

Neh. 8:8 “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.”

need to take it to heart

iow, take what God says seriously – God not like us, talking endlessly about things that won’t matter in 100 years (minutes)

everything God says has significance – not taking his word to heart means we don’t really take God seriously

God expects his Word not to merely inform but to transform – both process and result of transformation give glory to God

is those who have been and are continually being transformed who give kind of glory to God (worship) he wants/deserves

God will have his way

is against God’s character to simply stand by while he is not honored, even dishonored… esp. by those who should know better

God also not content to deal only with present… is concerned about future… and so should his people be – what is done now forms foundation, sets stage for future generations

if his leaders and people fail to heed, will get worse than egg on faces – both they and their rituals will be covered in refuse

refuse / offal what was removed from sacrificial animal before offered as burnt offering, then burnt outside the camp because considered unclean

strong implication if Malachi’s hearers (priests and people) continued disregarding God’s expectations, would be treated same as offal and destroyed

bottom line: God was / is determined to have a people who respect him and his covenant, take worship seriously, do their best in his strength to please him

B. Levi was a good example  v.5-7

God gave, Levi responded

at head of line was Aaron, from tribe of Levi, ones to whom worship responsibilities were entrusted

might seem otherwise, harsh and confining and impossible to keep, yet God’s intent was for good of his people

God would be faithful to his covenant – if his people responded properly, they could count on him for protection and provision, life, peace

God’s intention that his people would learn to fear him – “combination of affectionate love and deep respect, joined to an awareness of majesty” – and show him proper reverence

Levi was faithful

God didn’t give them wiggle room, couldn’t say he expected too much from them, had set his standard too high for anyone

picks out Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson (Numbers 25) – people got into serious trouble, sacrificing and worshiping Moabite gods until God sent a plague

Phinehas took action, stopped the plague – feared God more than he feared powerful people among both Jews and Midianites

he was influential… for good

as good leader Phinehas taught truth – people could count on getting right instruction from him as spiritual leader

in both day to day life and at time of crisis he put his understanding of God’s truth into action, did the hard but right thing

did as God expected one in his position to do – lived at peace with others, had reputation for integrity, honored God with life/lips

result of his constant faithfulness – God used his teaching and example to turn many away from sin, iow were converted

C. you have undone what he did  v.8-9

priests were unfaithful

not simple neglect, harmless error, failure to do good job professionally – weren’t doing it right in their own lives

apparently in God’s eyes behavior in private life / off the clock is as important as job performance… particularly in the church

nothing about slipping, backsliding, losing their way – was an intentional turning aside from what they knew was right

priests encouraged the people to be unfaithful

didn’t want to lose face by having people show them up so… dragged everyone down with them, leading astray

encouraged others to believe couldn’t or didn’t need to meet God’s standard, put every covenant blessing in jeopardy

not something that went away quickly – think Pharisees of Jesus’ day, how much they twisted true sense of law into something incredibly burdensome

there would be serious consequences for all

their plan would backfire – instead of maintaining reputation and influence, God would make sure they were held in contempt and humiliated before everyone

if there were no serious repentance on part of priests and people, covenant curses would kick in and everyone would lose

Have some liberties now they didn’t then – aren’t stuck with corrupt / incompetent spiritual leaders. Have opportunity and responsibility to sit under sound teaching. Right along with that, need to do two things: encourage those spiritual leaders who are, like Phinehas, doing well; take God’s word and their teaching to heart, working along with Holy Spirit to be transformed by the Word.

Another blessing we have – his Word in variety of versions suited to different reading abilities that make it less challenging to read and comprehend. Need to make the time, listen with intention of understanding and applying, depending on Holy Spirit for help and strength.

Where Is My Honor?

Malachi 1:6-14 

God begins address to his people by declaring the fact of his love. He defends veracity (truthfulness and accuracy) of declaration by giving particular examples. Since love of God for his people has been proven, proper response from people is expected… honor and fear/reverence. Because God truly loves his people, he simply cannot overlook their failure to respond properly. When people challenge God’s “take” on their behavior, no way is God going to back off, say “nevermind, no big deal”.

It is big deal – failure of people to honor and fear God has consequences in all areas of a society. For God to ignore/overlook would be fatal to his people and their society. Same is true for us in our present cultural setting – every day those consequences becoming more obvious everywhere we look. We can and should encourage right behavior when we see it, discourage wrong behavior and point out consequences when we have opportunity. What people do with warning is their responsibility.

In first part of chapter, God addressed people as a whole, now distinguishes between people and leaders, holding both accountable for their actions and attitudes. Priests had a duty to give right instruction to God’s people and set right example for them to follow. At this time of their history, priests were failing in both areas and actually leading people faster and deeper into sin. As incredibly outrageous as their behavior sounds, is far more typical than would like to think.

A. wrong ideas about God

a father who does not expect honor

not a new problem: 300 years before, Isaiah 1.2-3 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me; The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.”

yet is expected in civil society (and even many uncivil ones) that son will honor parents… for good reason – home the training ground for rest of life, relationships

since God is good Father who provides everything good for his people, defies reason why any would fail to gladly honor God… but were acting as though God didn’t need or expect honor

a master who does not require reverence/fear

this shouldn’t surprise – one who does not honor father will probably not show respect for master/superior/teacher/employer

“Fear of God is a combination of affectionate love and deep respect, joined to an awareness of majesty. One cannot honor God without lovingly respecting him, without recognizing his glorious majesty. The fear of God is always affectionate. Love of God is always deeply respectful.” Maoz

don’t be too hard on the people – more in their day than ours, were highly dependent on religious leaders

more detail in next chapter, but priests were actively leading people into serious error by their own words/attitudes/actions

a God who expects too much

devoting time, effort, and resources to worship of God as he expects is huge burden, too hard for priests / people to meet

so many things wrong with this one: starts with failure to love God, respond to God’s love – looks at only horizontal without considering vertical

difference between active and passive expression only matter of degree – don’t have to say it’s a burden to act like it is one

“it’s close enough”; “don’t feel up to it today”; factor in the body language, hurrying through preparations, etc.

B. wrong attitude toward worship

motions count but motives don’t

thought as long as they gave appearance of meeting requirements, should be good enough to get good results

apparently didn’t think through: God doesn’t need anything we bring to him, there must be more to it than simply the act and the stuff

not having right motives (duty rather than devotion, e.g.) bad enough – could maybe cut a little slack for ignorance

were at least a number who intentionally tried to deceive God – promised expensive offering to get out of a jam while intending to actually give something less valuable

God should be happy with what he gets

two kinds of giving that goes on during worship – what worshiper gives to God and fellow worshipers, what God gives

all attention given to what they were giving to God, actually despised what God was trying to give to them

acted as though doing great favor to God by their presence and that they brought something to sacrifice, looked down on what God offered

this is a burden and not a blessing

every part of body language screamed boredom and weariness with worship – the ordinances are distasteful, meaningless, tiresome, an inconvenience… and have better things to do

feel some sense of obligation to at least go through the ritual but make it fast, get it done, move on to next thing

eventually get to place where things must change for people to keep participating – make less distasteful, tiresome, inconvenient

NOTE: all these “issues” come from individual’s perspective, not God’s… viewing worship and relationship with God from bottom up rather than top down POV

C. God’s priorities

his honor of supreme importance

priests have despised his name but… God intends his name, his honor to be maintained – he will be honored by the nations

not something God begs for, simply declares it will be done – for his name to be great, he must be worshiped

is during times of formal worship that attention is drawn to God, he is praised and glorified, he and his name magnified

no worship less offensive than false worship

“isn’t there someone who will lock the door so this won’t keep happening?” – as important as worship is to God, he has his standard

if were going to persist in going to church with bad attitude, God preferred they stay home and not insult him

are many churches here in Maine with locked doors – grieves us because of what it means for communities yet… perhaps not a bad thing if God would not be rightly honored

pure people offering pure worship from pure hearts

obviously cannot achieve perfect purity in this life – does not justify an “anything goes” approach to worship

should do our best in dependence on God to approach his standard as nearly as possible

more we nourish our love for God, better we get to know him through his Word and works, more like Jesus we become

more like Jesus we are, closer we will approach the ideal – giving God the kind of worship he deserves from kind of people he wants

Worship is a big deal. When we do it God’s way, he provides amazing blessings to his people. We have advantages OT worshipers did not – not confined to one location, not required to bring animal sacrifices, not expected to make 3 pilgrimages each year. Have greater responsibilities also – present our bodies as living sacrifices, live all of life coram Deo, all while working against the clock b/c Jesus is coming!

God’s People are Privileged

Malachi 1:1-5 

Prophetically, Malachi like the Finale of a production… and yet is only Act 1. Clear from Malachi and preceding prophets must be more for God to do, so many of his promises left unfulfilled. Must be more to follow… after extended intermission of 400 silent years. Then Act 2 commences with God’s last call, delivered through ministry of John the Baptist, last of the OT-style prophets.

God really closes his written revelation from old covenant perspective with cliff-hanger. Malachi speaks of several future messengers and events that to his readers were shrouded in mystery. This “word of the LORD” truly a heavy burden for both prophet and people to bear. Yet is in many ways a word of great hope… because of what is promised, because is clearly not God’s final word to his people.

As with other prophets, are many parallels between circumstances and needs of their audience and people of today. Malachi’s message just as timeless and relevant to our culture as that found in Jerusalem following return from exile.

A. introduction  v.1

prophet

Malachi probably his name (“messenger”), not title/description – follows pattern of other OT prophetic books, name @ beginning

labored between time of Nehemiah (approx. 430 BC) and destruction of Edom (410 BC) – Temple sacrifice in full swing

setting

city of Jerusalem only recently secured – required great effort from Nehemiah to encourage people to actually move into city

Israel a province, not a nation – had some freedoms under fellows like Zerubbabel, Nehemiah but… harassed by Samaritans, under control / rule of Persia

nothing like the peace and prosperity of Solomon – partly their own doing, partly God’s consequences for their doing

much hopelessness, despair – little in their circumstances to change that so… God sent word thru his prophet

form

presented as disputation – statement or question, response, reply, rebuke or promise

God opens, answers for the people, then replies to their response in dialogue fashion

might think courtroom, God would have been justified – yet… far more of love, grace, mercy than justice

Malachi quite distinct from many of his neighbors – almost no traces of Babylonian influence in writing or thinking

purpose

“Jehovah [LORD] of hosts” occurs twenty-four times in these fifty- nine verses; the  sovereign divine pronouncement “I will” occurs thirteen times Parker

Malachi addresses issue of “what does it take to satisfy God’s expectations?” – implied, “is it even possible?”

he/God calls people to repentance and renewed obedience yet at same time makes clear utter inability to satisfy God

requires unlimited power of Sovereign Lord of Hosts exercised on behalf of his people to change into who he wants them to be

B. God speaks – He declares His love  v.2a

people deserve rebuke

made clear repeatedly people have failed to live up to God’s expectations / standard for relationship with him, with others

need for correction not where God begins – does not begin with charges, even in question form like with Adam and Eve

God begins with his character

not the place we usually begin with corrective discipline – how many times…, what were you…, often start with fault of person

even Dale Carnegie starts with what is commendable in individual, God starts with what is commendable in himself

is a God of love – loves because he is love – not something he starts and stops on a whim or only when he gets paid

and the foundational principle of their relationship

since God is immutable, doesn’t love someone today and abandon or turn on them tomorrow

his relationship with his people not dependent on their circumstances, not always obvious from details of particular situation

means they should look above immediate circumstances, find God first, then see how situation serves God’s purpose for them

C. people challenge – they doubt His love  v.2b

if that is true then…

people aren’t convinced – have their own ideas… based on their worldview, their understanding of God, what they had been taught by (sometimes corrupt) religious leaders

should have been comparing themselves to God’s standard – should be at all times, esp. when things are tough

instead were comparing circumstances to what God had promised – many large, wonderful things… even by post-exile prophets

we’re not seeing it

poverty – deprived of God’s blessings… God must not love them b/c weren’t prospering – if things were good, must be doing right

insecurity – wall completed but… still at risk from neighbors with no way for majority living outside Jerusalem to defend

worship doesn’t seem to bring benefit – were going through motions of following the rules but circumstances not getting better

we’re not feeling it

are vassals, not self-governing – even though had some freedoms, not the same; constant reminders they were subjects

everyone hates us, including family – Edomites really family but behaved as enemies… not feeling respect/affirmation desired

if you really love us, why are things this way? – God asks the question everybody has but doesn’t dare to speak

D. God replies – He demonstrates His love  v.2c-5

God not only asked question, he condescends to answer it… with far more than “because I said so”

it is particular

if God should love any two people alike, ought to be twins; yet… made clear distinction between Jacob and Esau

purposely showed favor to Jacob, disfavor to Esau – chose to treat Jacob one way, Esau another way for reason only God knows

before getting knickers in a bunch, neither one deserved God’s favor – only one has ever earned favor, Lord Jesus

important point for Jews – God loved them on his terms… more in view than simply family tree… did not love all Jews the same

it is protective

Edom just one example of God protecting from enemies – was God who led around on way from Egypt, restrained them later

Israel existed as independent self-governing nation for 900 years – surrounded on all sides by those who hated God and them

was God’s doing, not Israel’s military / political genius – could have easily been overrun by enemies… if God didn’t protect

it is persevering

repeated attempts to go against God’s purpose would be frustrated – this true for both Israel and enemies – God will win

God can “outlast” all enemies of his people – external forces like political/military, unseen spiritual ones, internal sin and self

it is powerful

love not limited in either power or scope – will accomplish all God intends, what motivated God to greatest act for our good.. sending Jesus to accomplish our redemption

God has enough love to go around… even for other peoples – not only can, he will love people from all nations into family

first indication God has more things planned for their future – God intends to keep working, they will acknowledge his glory and greatness as he enlarges his territory

We don’t deserve God’s love any more than Jews did, cannot earn privileges that come from adoption into his family. Yet God has done everything necessary for us to enjoy those privileges because he is love… and he loves us.

 

God Rules

Zechariah 14:1-21 

Is much about this final chapter of Zechariah that is clear, some frightening some encouraging. Some of details not so readily understood… problem not with the text, is with our knowledge and ability. Not going to make definitive claims about particular place or places on timeline. Are some portions that could easily find fulfillment in fall of Jerusalem (AD 70), others seem more consistent with final big Day of the Lord. One thing certainly true: God’s judgment on Jewish people an example in miniature of final judgment on all the wicked on that Day. Should also serve as unmistakable warning that God takes these things seriously – see 2 Pet. 3:3-4, 9 

“knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. …The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Important to keep in mind – read Gen 18:23-25 And we know from elsewhere, the God who is just is also good… and longsuffering… and trustworthy. Is that God who rules over all creation. Is that God who has promised the King will return; he will renew and restore his people; he will carry out perfect justice on all his enemies; and he will bless those who belong to him through faith in Christ.

A. return of the King  v.1-5

attack  (1-2)

city pictured as under siege and then captured – not a single enemy, rather a coalition of all the nations

notice who gathers nations together: is God himself – sure, nations had own political / economic agendas and God directed them to end he determined

easy to see parallels between Jerusalem and the church – if not at first, eventually all nations the enemy of Christ and his people

God does not overlook those who are genuinely his – even though entire city suffers, remnant is preserved

defense  (3)

even though God permitted nations to follow through on their desires, even orchestrated the outcome, does not leave his people defenseless and without hope

not “cowboys and Indians”, is real battle fought with intention of winning – final outcome will be victory over all enemies of God and his people

remember, those enemies did/will do what is sinful offense against God purposefully and willingly – they will justly pay the cost

deliverance  (4-5)

as he had done previously, will provide “way of escape” on that day – King will not destroy righteous with the wicked

Jerusalem, later entire land of Israel/Judah suffered horrific losses in 1st-2nd cent. but were many survivors

was those who heeded the warnings who escaped – same will be true on that day, those delivered who heeded Gospel warnings… before the day he comes with all his saints!

B. renewal and restoration  v.6-11

light out of darkness  (6-7)

saying from 1650: “it’s always darkest just before the dawn” – many ways world is becoming darker, esp. spiritually

Lord Jesus called himself “the light of the world” – will certainly bring light of his glory into world when he comes back

people may have hard time responding properly to Jesus’ presence, natural world never has that problem

as created order responded to what was happening at time of his death, will respond positively to his return

living water flows  (8)

further evidence of change in created order – not a temporary change in response to event, will be enduring change

what God has planned for future of cosmos not simply refurbishing – Rom. 8:21 “creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

if we take reference to living water as Jesus used term with woman by the well, then… the Gospel with its life-changing power will spread out in all directions to cover entire land

one Lord, one King over restored land

when that Day comes, the King’s rule over all the earth will be clearly and unmistakably obvious… to everyone

renewed and restored creation will be place where King’s righteous rule is actually followed by everyone / everything

will be place / time of safety, security and blessing – will no longer be under the curse, no threat of it ever returning

C. judgment  v.12-15

destruction  (12)

Zechariah in similar predicament as John – insufficient words / concepts to adequately picture effect of God’s wrath – see Rev. 16 

and, this doesn’t come close to describing torments of hell – whatever reality will be goes beyond ability to comprehend

NOTE: even after 7th bowl, God’s enemies only further hardened by their experience – Rev. 16:21 “Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.”

chaos  (13)

panic / confusion / tumult – chaotic situation when those who thought they had all under control have none

think back to the Garden, consequences of sin on relationships – our experience even as unbelievers has restraining influences of Holy Spirit / God’s people as factors

this confusion the result of God “unhooking the leash” – freeing the lost to be as disordered in thinking and evil as they want

suffering  (14-15)

final judgment will be awful – poverty and suffering and hardship that devastates all God’s enemies

will lose all ways to provide for own needs – wealth, clothing, food, and means of providing / acquiring necessities

these not the full reality of God’s just punishment of his enemies, only a “trailer” that gives hints about the real thing

D. blessing  v.16-21

blessing on God’s people  (16-17)

notice here is not remnant of Israel or Judah, is a remnant of all the nations – Christ has redeemed from every nation

finally freed to worship the King, the one who has by his “hosts” delivered from slavery into true Promised Land, land of safety and blessing

Feast of Tabernacles really looked two ways – back to wandering in wilderness, reminder of current wandering – after that day will all be past tense

hardship for God’s enemies  (18-19)

whatever era of human existence we look at, God’s blessing directed more toward his own – will shift all the way in that day

enemies completely cut off from any blessing, any goodness from God – no longer common grace of rain falling on just / unjust

Christ the way to blessing  (20-21)

when final day comes, no longer be degrees of holiness – everyone / everything remaining in our new home completely purified

is only possible one way: 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Too many think all roads ultimately lead to heaven, or at least there are alternatives. God’s word is clear – there is only one destiny other than heaven… and all alternatives lead to that destiny. Faith in Christ is the only way to eternal life and hope; make no mistake, hell will be no picnic.

Two of potential uses of this hard teaching about God’s wrath and judgment – cause lost people to seriously consider where they are headed, where their hope is placed… and… encourage as few as possible w/i our sphere of influence can say “no one warned me”.

On That Day, Part 2

Zechariah 13:1-9 

This Part 2 of second burden given to Zechariah, finishes out his prophecy. Content of message not limited to judgment, includes great promises about coming salvation, Savior who would achieve it, alternates between. Some of what God threatened would happen more than once, each preliminary judgment a warning / preview of “the big one”.

Phrase that occurs repeatedly: “in/on that day” 7x in chapter 12, 10x additional in chapters 13 and 14. No wonder apostle Paul would declare so confidently to philosophers in Athens that God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” (Acts 17:31).

Even though dire things are threatened for many, still a message of profound hope… one world still needs to hear, and will need to hear it until that day finally arrives. In Part 1, covered

A. Which God is Speaking: the Sovereign Creator Lord  v.1
B. What will God do For Us: He Will Keep His People  v.2-9
C. What will God do In Us: He will Convert His People  v.10-14

A. What will God do To Us: He will Cleanse His People  v.1-6

cleansing for individuals

not a new idea – tabernacle had its laver, Temple had 10 lavers plus massive bronze Sea (8,000 gallons) used for cleansing, purifying

implication is this source of cleansing not one contrived by man’s doing – will be God who supplies

a fountain – laver/Sea may have had massive capacity, still were finite, had to be replenished, maybe purified after contamination

fountain a never-ending supply… continually fresh pure water… able to “service” even larger multitude of worshipers

for sin and impurity – everyone knew laver could only provide external cleansing even though signified more than that

somehow, known to God, this fountain capable of far more – God was serious about having a holy, purified people

we know from further revelation is making reference to cleansing provided by sacrifice/death of Christ, in progress now, fully completed “on that day”

a call to come

thrown open – not a secret known only to insiders, no special conditions to be met first, is wide open door of opportunity

to all who will respond – lavers accessible only by Jews, off-limits to Gentiles – fountain available to the “world”, all Jesus came to save

1 John 4:14 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.”

cleansing for the “land”

no more idols – achieved in some measure following Exile, gods that got Jewish people in trouble not in sight after return from Babylon

zeal for true God went up and down but no further mention of Baal, Moloch, Ashtoreth so prevalent during pre-exile

no more false prophets – partly kept in business because provided what customers wanted – love for truth reduces demand

like idols, bring serious “contamination” to a land as in a culture – give distorted view of reality, wrong ways to live that are ultimately destructive of self and others

no more demons – Jesus did pretty good job thinning out their numbers during ministry… not yet permanently confined, can still do pretty serious damage

as Gospel progresses, idols / false prophets / demons diminish in influence – not completely rid of them yet

“under reconstruction”

already but not yet – idols still abound, even among Jews, as do false prophets and demons – will be finally rid of them on that great day… forever

has really begun – Lord Jesus is installed in position of authority, right hand of the Father, ruling over his kingdom

not yet complete – is progressing in the church and through the church, still a long way to go… whatever is left on that day will be completed in an instant

B. How will God Grow Us: The Life of the Church  v.7-9

persecution is real

Jeremy Hunt, British Foreign Secretary, report released 05/02/19 “The inconvenient truth,” the report finds, is “that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians”.”The report shows that a century ago Christians comprised 20% of the population in the Middle East and north Africa, but since then the proportion has fallen to less than 4%, or roughly 15 million people. The Arab-Israeli conflict has caused the majority of Palestinian Christians to leave their homeland. The population of Palestinian Christians has dropped from 15% to 2%.”

the Shepherd will be struck – know when this actually happened, Jesus announced it: Matt. 26:31 – he didn’t say who would order it done

we can figure it out, Peter did afterwards – Acts 2:23 “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” – was God himself who awakened the sword

another reason it had to be Jesus… notice description: “the man who is my companion / fellow / associate” – only one choice

those who serve as under-shepherds can expect (and do experience) same kind of treatment, common in other places

the sheep will be scattered – certainly happened at time of Jesus’ arrest and following, model for many other times since

trials have a purpose

separated – continuation of purifying “begun” at the fountain… a remnant, small minority preserved, remainder cut off/destroyed

regardless of who is directly carrying out trial/persecution, is ultimately means God uses to separate genuine from the rest

refined – further purifying, removing / purging away things that weaken faith and witness, usefulness to God

impurities in metal not only reduce its value, they reduce strength / stress resistance – same for matters of faith

tested: purpose of testing.. verify properties, to demonstrate purity, etc – requires trials to demonstrate God’s people are genuine

this a theme though unpopular with many – Job, Isaiah, Paul, James, Peter – not simply that God turns inevitable trials/persecution to good use for believer, he sends them for that very purpose… and ultimately so he will be glorified by outcome

NOTE: after Shepherd has been struck, God would preserve remnant through horrors of next 1-1/2 centuries

answer to prayer promised

they will call – esp. in light of v.2, rest of phrase very significant: They will call on My name“… rather than on idols

in lead-up to great day people will show true repentance, having abandoned false gods / prophets

I will answer – in response to repentance and genuine faith, God hears… answers prayers… restores relationship… acknowledges them as His people

God, the great gift of the Gospel

YHWH is my God – single-hearted devotion to YHWH as response to YHWH’s devotion to his people

time comes when people are fully satisfied with God, his goodies extra benefit but not sole focus of attention

God’s word and historical record give examples why we should believe God – great Day of the Lord will surely come as promised. Will be day of fearsome judgment for God’s enemies, of magnificent reward for the redeemed. God himself is directing events, all of them, toward that outcome while faithfully shepherding his people. Some day he will own us as His people before men and angels to the glory of our Redeemer.

On That Day, Part 1

Zechariah 12:1-14 

Second burden given to Zechariah, finishes out his prophecy. Is a massah in part because like other burdens speaks of impending judgment on God’s enemies. Content of message not limited to judgment, includes great promises about coming salvation, Savior who would achieve it. Some of what God threatened would happen more than once, each preliminary judgment a warning / preview of “the big one”.

Phrase that occurs repeatedly: “in/on that day” 7x in chapter 12, 10x additional in chapters 13 and 14. No wonder apostle Paul would declare so confidently to philosophers in Athens that God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” (Acts 17:31). Not surprise either that is a “mixed” message… both bad news and good news. Jewish way of thinking (unlike ours) mirrors first chapter of Bible: “the evening and the morning were the ___ day” – light follows darkness, day follows night, blessing follows judgment.

Even though dire things are threatened for many, still a message of profound hope… one world still needs to hear, and will need to hear it until that day finally arrives.

A. Which God is Speaking: the Sovereign Creator Lord  v.1

not to be question in anyone’s mind who is speaking, why should take what he says seriously

not the last time someone made big threats: “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US [President] with fire.” Kim Jong Il  —  but is it credible? The one speaking in our text certainly is.

sovereign in creating

look at evidence presented in cosmos – whether thru telescope or microscope, struggle for words, ways to adequately describe

evidence for committee totally absent – has all marks of single creator who had comprehensive purpose for creating

Being who made it all must have power / authority that transcends all he made – iow, one who has no equal, competitor

just a btw, not describing kind of creative activity we pursue… rearranging what already exists – God started with nothing

sovereign in governing

don’t have to be scientist to grasp concept that is precious little in universe that behaves in truly random way

laws of nature, matter, physics, etc. are recognized, embedded within creation – laws require a lawgiver… who governs

if Creator God has no peer, neither does Governor God – the One who made all things is law to himself and his creation

and… that God can and will do as he pleases because he has rights: of ownership and rulership

sovereign over All

no created thing has authority over Creator – all authority ultimately has source in God – Paul’s universal negative: “there is no authority except from God” (Rom. 13:1)

he is sovereign authority over seen / unseen, material / immaterial – no rogue particles anywhere exempt from God’s governing

this God has: authority to govern, purpose to direct his governing, power to make things happen, will to put things in motion

NOTE: given all this is true about God, how much we need to thank / praise him for being good, merciful and gracious

a God with this kind of power and authority… if more like us… would quickly be harsh, oppressive tyrant

and REMEMBER: promises of God to/for his people depend for fulfillment on size of God, not size of our faith

B. What will God do For Us: He Will Keep His People  v.2-9

an enduring church

title of book – “If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?” – for believer, pits an inescapable part of earthly life

just as Jerusalem surrounded by powerful enemies, church in both Testaments in same circumstance… under constant assault

notice: God does not tell his people hang on, take courage, be tough, you’ll make it; instead, tells what He will make happen

those who reject what would be achieved in Jerusalem (Jesus’ death, resurrection) feel brunt of his judgment

all who persistently try to carry out agenda against church, move it from its foundation, will be broken instead

e.g., UMC, attempts to change Book of Order, move church away from Bible – God will preserve true church

an invincible and expanding church

doesn’t matter how intense attacks get against church, people of God – church and saints will persevere… because YHWH himself will defend and preserve them

attempts to hinder / stifle growth of church will by God’s design and actions have just opposite result

enemies will end up destroying themselves rather than the church – even weakest Christian stronger than most powerful enemy

for this reason: 1 John 4:4 “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

will be God himself who deals personally with his enemies who are also enemies of his people – will be fully finally defeated

C. What will God do In Us: He will Convert His People  v.10-14

real conversion: pleas for grace and evidence of grace

notice sequence here, is vital to understand: God pours out Spirit of grace and supplication, then they will look to him

God has to move first… and when God moves, results will follow – when God changes hearts, they do respond to him

pray as if it all depends on God, work as if it all depends on us – pray for God to do his part, us to do ours, keeping goal in mind: genuine conversion, evidence of grace in others

God Himself pierced?

must have shocked listeners, how could it be possible – yet, will be real tragedy that results in genuine mourning

one scene captures this picture: Day of Pentecost, “arrival” of Holy Spirit not on Eleven only, Peter’s bold sermon, response of listeners: what have we done, what do we do now?

real conversion vs. mere convincing

when Josiah killed in battle by king of Egypt, Jews believed had no further cause for hope, no hope of deliverance

was real grief, same on Pentecost – understood what had done, potential consequences, mourned greatly

if only convinced then next person with more airtight case / better script will convince of something different

when God at work converting people, will remain loyal to God and his truth regardless of persuasive arguments otherwise

Is much in passage like this to encourage missions / evangelism – that Day is coming, will be no second chances, people need to hear and respond to Gospel while still time. And… when we are God’s agents, working with him in his redemptive plan, can have total confidence that He will bring about His perfect purpose. Size and intensity of opposition no hindrance to God, should not discourage us. Instead should remind us of God’s great grace that put us on right side, that moves him to delay while others respond to Gospel. 

The Good Shepherd Rejected

Zechariah 11:1-17 

Mixed message – good news and bad news. Seems like more bad than good but… ultimate significance of good news far outweighs the rest, even though is pretty bad. God through prophet gives assurance of his intention to keep promise, but like many of things God has said… will not happen immediately. Will be some hard times first in order to further prepare people, then after they respond badly things will get really hard.

Not the first time God has sent warning to shepherds charged with caring for his flock. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all take faithless shepherds to task for harm have done to flock (e.g., Jer. 25:34-38). God has already made plain time of his overlooking mistreatment of his people will come to end, those responsible will be held to account. Zechariah repeating that warning, using some of same imagery… should be familiar to his audience, both shepherds and sheep.

As God often does, uses both words and visual aids to communicate strong message to his people. Seems designed to help not only get the point but also recognize God means what he says – just as surely as prophet is acting out what God intends to do, God will actually make those things happen. He will send his shepherd who will ultimately be rejected… and there will be dire consequences for that response.

A. lament  v.1-3

judgment is coming

defenses will not suffice – N (Lebanon), S (Bashan), E (Jordan) – impression one of relentless advance nothing can impede / stop

not first time Israel threatened by other powers, risk being overrun… always because of sinful behavior, refusal to follow God

two things to remember: warning means possibility / time to repent, avoid calamity; threat of disaster includes message of hope

God’s ultimate plan is to have a people for himself – means judgment will not end in total destruction… even of enemies!

all cause for pride removed

surrounding lands will be decimated – “scorched earth” tactic like Napoleon in Russia – leave nothing behind, ensures total defeat

Jewish people had followed unfaithful shepherds in trusting / putting confidence in lots of things other than God – He would show futility of doing so

time in captivity appeared to “cure” them of worshiping idols of the Babylonian/Canaanite type (Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech)

actually made up different kinds of idols, objects of trust other than YHWH – political alliances (Herodians), especially law-keeping (Pharisees)

unfaithful shepherds will be humiliated

at least the initial target of judgment not the sheep… but the shepherds – have failed in their calling to lead people rightly

have led people (flock) away from safe fold into danger – purposely fleecing the flock to support themselves

caused both spiritual and practical harm to ones they were called to protect and serve – here called to sing own funeral dirge

B. a good shepherd  v.4-9

the good shepherd feeds the flock

Zechariah now instructed to play role of a conscientious godly shepherd – “shepherd the flock intended for slaughter”

intent not that Zechariah will “show up” current shepherds / pastors / leaders by doing it as God expects

Zechariah a visual aid, representative of the One God would send to lead his people, the Messiah, the perfect shepherd king

owners and other shepherds mistreat the flock

no hint even of personal relationship here, was purely business – owners not interested in knowing sheep, only cared about bottom line

were supposed to nurture and protect flock, encourage it to increase in health and size – instead killing them off for profit

motivated by what they could get from sheep, no thought for what they would give – had not even twinge of conscience

instead… saw profitability as “proof” of God’s blessing on their actions – sets up the basic mindset toward the Good Shepherd

fast forward to NT – would evaluate ministry of Messiah on basis of its impact on their wealth / social/political standing

the shepherd rejects the flock

Zechariah begins his role-playing, feeds the flock presently intended for slaughter, began with most needy… poor and afflicted

shepherds refuse to “smarten up”, follow prophet’s example of a good shepherd – has no choice but to fire them

shepherds’ mindset by this time has infected the flock – sheep as resistant to right leadership as shepherds have become

C. rejection  v.10-14

the shepherd revokes His covenant

typical shepherd in that culture had two “staffs”, cf. Ps. 23:4, “rod and staff” – one used to defend against enemies/predators, the other for guiding/rescuing

staffs show shepherd’s devotion and commitment, intention to care for flock – called them Beauty and Bonds, Favor and Unity

was God’s intention that his people would enjoy both Favor/Blessing and Unity under his compassionate care… alone

people had already broken the covenant, God will agree with that… but for different reason: He has plan for new covenant!

the flock rejects the shepherd

show their contempt for shepherd by the wages they pay him – the Good Shepherd’s value cannot be calculated, certainly more than price of a slave

flock may reject the Good Shepherd but… he will not reject those who are truly his – see the “poor of the flock” (11) who remained loyal to God throughout

and even though betrayed for 30 pcs of silver, would still bear the judgment of God on our sin in our place

the shepherd breaks the nation’s unity

nation had been divided for centuries, would never be truly united again – Good Shepherd a highly polarizing person, for/against, no middle ground

accurate picture of all mankind from the Fall onward – only two categories, saved and lost, in Adam or in Christ – can/will experience perfect unity in Christ, under his Kingship

D. a foolish shepherd  v.15-17

once again… more worthless leaders

prophet given second set of instructions – this time act out role of foolish shepherd, one who doesn’t even play the part well

instead of protecting from harm, providing for needs of flock, foolish shepherd acts as predator toward sheep

get the idea that God gives flock kind of shepherd they want… even though are clueless to danger / harm that will be theirs

they lose what they already had

power – arm that should have served good purpose toward flock has been misused, by God’s purpose its strength completely fails

consequence for foolish shepherds: success only temporary, will lack the “power” to continue evil actions

insight – what intelligence / understanding they had will ultimately fail to serve. Will leave them stumbling around in dark, unable to find their way and powerless to do anything about it

Rejection of the Good Shepherd by the people does not excuse mistreatment by appointed shepherds. However…, when a people rejects God’s good choice for them, he often gives them what they want or even deserve instead.

Where does that leave us? Needing to make sure we choose and follow the right shepherd… the Good Shepherd. Without question, can count on his love, compassion, power to bring his purpose in us to completion.