Tag: Redeemed from Ruin

The Vision of the Surveyor

Zechariah 2:1-13 

Surveying, GIS, mapping – how to measure: straight-line distance, follow the contours. Results depend on your perspective, tools used for measuring. Keep this in mind: idea of tabula rasa is wrong according to Bible. No one from before birth onward has mind that is totally blank. Means we all approach every subject / situation with some kind of preconception. Is important that preconceived ideas be informed by good input. Of crucial importance… when approaching God’s word, what happens when ideas / beliefs / principles we have and follow don’t correspond with the Bible? Do we allow God’s word to change our perspective?

In third vision prophet Zecharah experienced on that busy night, once again sees something designed to reorient his perspective on the future, in particular what God intended to do. Already know one thing about vision – designed to encourage Zechariah who would then declare what he saw/heard to fellow Jews… for their encouragement.

A. Image  v. 1

man with measuring line

different image of surveyor than what we might expect – are more familiar with surveying as 2-person operation, one with stick, other with transit

not that many years ago other tools were used, e.g. chains with carefully made links of specific dimensions – here, a rope of specific length… made so as not to stretch

in his hand – ready… but not in use – incomplete picture, made necessary for prophet to ask for help to understand – only thing obvious: what kind of professional, what he would be likely to do

B. Question   v. 2a

where are you going?

on the move, enough clues in vision to make this valid question, one we would ask under wide variety of circumstances

sent from… to…

could tell he was purposely headed somewhere – apparent from his demeanor even though origin and destination unknown

could surmise had been sent by someone to do task – who sent him, for what purpose had he been sent – obviously to measure something, but what and why

open-ended

more than one-word answer would be welcome… and was forthcoming – anyone hearing question would know that, to give barest minimum answer often sign of “attitude”

curiosity on part of questioner rarely limited solely to destination… unless picking up a hitch hiker – most times will readily accept any / all information person is willing to offer

prophet gets start of explanation from surveyor – what he has to say, its significance an encouragement to Zechariah and people

but will see very soon: more to this than meets the eye – a plot twist in store for Zechariah, twist that will significantly change his perspective about what God presently doing, what God intends to do in future

C. Explanation  v. 2b-5

place

Jerusalem – center of Jewish life: social, religious, political, iow a significant element in functioning of family, church and state

pilgrimage feasts 3 times a year, only authorized location for sacrifice, meeting place for Sanhedrin (court) and home of king

picture of the church – all three institutions certainly affected by God’s comprehensive plan, not all of equal standing: church is foremost (Eph. 5:25)

must admit: if Jerusalem of Zechariah’s day an accurate reflection of church / God’s kingdom, things not looking very good!

purpose

surveyor declares intent to measure width / length of the city – first step to establish / re-establish a city, define boundaries

in just minimal response is clear to prophet: God by no means finished with Jerusalem and all it represents – God has a plan and is working his plan, also has a goal or end in view

remember condition of city: Temple would be completed March 12, 515 BC… wall surrounding city not completed until September, 445 BC… seventy years later

which raises question: what was the surveyor going to measure, where would he put in his stakes? marking present footprint of the city? or some other boundaries (larger or smaller)?

plot twist

prophet hardly has time to process information before scene changes – interpreter angel shows up, then another angel

interpreter angel going out to gather more information (perhaps) from surveyor but is met by another divine messenger – did he speak loudly enough for surveyor to hear?

wrong perspective – go tell the prophet he and his people have wrong idea about future of Jerusalem

small, undefended, few people, humble beginnings of replacement temple, wouldn’t have rubble cleared from Babylonian conquest for another 70 years but… that is limited human viewpoint

God envisioned something much different: prosperous well-populated community of people too large to be enclosed by walls

promise (5)

but wait, there’s more: God had (still has) way more in mind for his people than simple return to specific piece of real estate

this is language of covenant… God intends inhabitants of his city to be his people and he will be their God and… will include Gentiles as well as Jews!

God doesn’t intend reconstructed Temple or rebuilt city to be source of pride and glory – God himself will be the glory of his people… something not even dreamed about in modern Jerusalem

NOTE: this promise a general one, indicates God’s attitude toward his people, his enemies – promise includes specific future events, but not limited to them

certainly includes glory of coming Messiah to Jerusalem but not limited to that – looks beyond to glory of Christ in his church

D. Oracle  v. 6-13

warning (6-7)

God’s plan fully comprehensive – intends to bless his people, also to protect them… and vindicate them – show by how he treats their enemies that they are his people

judgment will come – seen already in “rise and fall of nations”, would continue but… recognize hand of God in directing those actions on world stage

side note: God not on sabbatical, is still involved in world affairs… including those of Koreas, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran

comfort (8-9)

don’t forget: God acts, he doesn’t react – all that takes place is part of his eternal plan, designed for his own glory and good of his people – is true whether we grasp details / interconnections or not

God acts for the sake of his own glory – glory of his grace as he cares for his people, glory of his justice in dealing with enemies

glory of his holiness as he makes his people holy; glory of his power in ruling and overruling forces of nations and nature; glory of his truth in bringing understanding / light to minds darkened by sin

each occurrence of God’s acting throughout course of human history skirmishes previewing and promising final battle and victory over sin and Satan and death… and its glorious eternal outcome

God’s people are his special possession – lit. “pupil of his eye”, Hebrew idiom, only here, can be understood with two senses

what is seen there is focus of vision / attention – people of God are ones he is primarily concerned with, focused on, attentive to, acting with regard for

one of most sensitive parts of body, instinctively protected and defended from harm… for good reason – God just as committed to protecting / defending his people

acting on their behalf brings him glory – think about circumstances of Jewish people, Christ’s church through centuries

overpowered by vastly superior numbers / forces, humiliated, marginalized, persecuted and killed – when God pushes back, his glory seen more profoundly than in matters of daily life

response (10-13)

praise – here is ultimate fulfillment of promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 15:5) – salvation extending far beyond Jewish people

worshiping community with God dwelling among / within his people “redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”  (Rev. 5:9)

worship – praise, yes, and reverent silence because overwhelmed by majestic glory of conquering sovereign Lord of all creation

This glorious Lord carrying out his purpose through the church… the church in the wilderness, the church in Zion, the church of NT period. Church is “pupil of his eye” because God most supremely loves his Son, head of the church and one with his church, his body.

Several take-aways for us: must be sure are measuring right thing with right instrument – Christ’s kingdom from perspective and with standard of God’s word. In all circumstances, remember who we are – God’s people, his special possession with a glorious future.

Four Horns and Four Craftsmen

Zechariah 1:18-21 

Remember circumstances of target audience: church whose territory had become pawn in international chess game, moved around at will by overwhelming and oppressive powers. Often at mercy of “local” officials with little regard for national policy. Zecharaih’s task: serve as God’s messenger to his people to give them “heart”, inspire hope for the future, help them to take the long view.

Current thinking often does not have adequate perspective – want life to work like short story. Basic elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. Goal is that things of concern to us go from setting and plot through conflict to resolution in hours / days / weeks at most. Cannot bear thought of situation not reaching resolution for years, or maybe not even in our lifetime. Want them fixed by end of next election… or sooner.

Yet think about Jewish people – troubles started in earnest during 8th century BC. Period of back and forth, then serious assault, final overthrow of northern kingdom 722 BC. Was inevitable (because of human stubbornness) that southern kingdom would also eventually be overcome. Included destruction of crown jewel, Temple and surrounding city. Then captivity, eventual return, process of restoration and rebuilding. From Assyria’s first serious move against Israel until night of Zechariah’s vision, more than 200 years elapsed… and replacement temple not completed yet… and would be nearly 75 years more before Jerusalem secured again.

No surprise God’s people needed encouragement… and so do we. Drawn out pace of movement in God’s eternal plan not excuse for his people to slack off, far from it. Must be actively diligently carrying out tasks God has assigned, confident God has a plan and is working his plan. At same time, should not be put off or discouraged by unfavorable appearances, or opposition by God’s enemies. Also should not be surprised by opposition – Satan may be on a leash, but he is not without power and resources. Will never give up attempting to overthrow Christ and his kingdom.

Don’t know if Zechariah given opportunity to take notes, write down important points from one vision before experiencing another. In any event, next one follows soon on heels of first and is closely connected with it. The scouts finished their reconnoiter of earth’s kingdoms, brought back report, God not pleased. In fact was “exceedingly angry with the nations at ease” (Zech. 1:15). Interpreter-angel goes on to explain God had good intentions for Jerusalem and Zion. But… does not indicate what God’s plan is for nations he is angry with. Follow me.

A. Image  v. 18, 20

four horns

primary usage of word qeren – animal horn, ram or wild ox e.g.; also used frequently for “horns of the altar”, projections at each corner of brazen altar

can be used/understood in symbolic way, a metaphor indicating might or power or strength – think how animal with horns uses them to dominate others

similar imagery in our expression “lock horns” over something – two people engaged in test of wills or strength, only one winner

four craftsmen

word used of various kinds of craftsmen, artisans skilled in working with various materials – wood, metal, stone, fabric – and varying degrees of intricacy – carpenter/cabinetmaker, blacksmith/jeweler…

in each instance, artisan takes particular kind of material which he then forms and shapes into something else, often radically different from original – thread into tapestry, e.g.

significant that craftsman does not ask permission of “raw” material, no input from material as to what it wants to be made into

B. Question   v. 19, 21

what are these?

prophet continues humble spirit of teachability – asking questions, seeking further understanding, and is very open about it

doesn’t try to take credit for more understanding, lets whole world know he asked for help – good to remember!

asked interpreter-angel tour guide to explain not only what he was looking at… wanted to know meaning and purpose

wanted to know what was represented by four horns – being a PK, probably had some ideas but wanted to be sure

what are these going to do?

vision obviously did not show craftsmen in action – would not be the range of translations in that case: carpenters, blacksmiths, artisans, workers with hammers

by time he saw the craftsmen, Zechariah knew what horns represented – without action, could not go beyond that with certainty

would horns prevail over craftsmen? craftsmen harness all four together? carve them into different shapes? throw them on ash heap of civilization?

C. Explanation  v. 19, 21

enemies of God’s people

Zechariah receives answers to his questions, sufficient for him and his audience, although we might prefer some additional details

first question: four horns represent enemies of the Jews – those who were involved in large portion of population being displaced

remember: this was all according to God’s’ plan… discipline for his people because of unfaithfulness to him… and used nations’ natural enmity for that purpose

tempting to assign names to each of four horns: pick from Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome – all involved in some way in Israel’s humiliation

truth is… whether seeking identity of four horns or four craftsmen, God saw fit to remain silent… and really is better that way

God’s answer

like with identities, God withheld information on what method craftsmen would use when they acted on his behalf

instead, describes effect of their labor – those nations presently at rest, thinking they had prevailed over God’s people, they would become displaced people, turned out of territory they had acquired

nothing left to chance – according to God’s purpose his enemies would be thoroughly humiliated and defeated, something that would cause them great terror

important to note: aggression against people of God always includes offensive behavior directced toward God himself, something he takes personally and seriously

poster child for that in NT – Acts 9:1-4 – “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord”… “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

D. Oracle

no formal oracle, however…

are some take-aways: first, about the names of the nations – Zechariah’s countrymen would have understood who was meant, would have been encouraged by the message of the vision

since some details purposely omitted, shows intent for people in other times and places to receive benefit from what God showed prophet… people like those of 1st century church… and 21st century church

comfort for all ages

important to reinforce – people of God in all ages have enemies… starting with Cain… continuing until Second Coming when Christ puts an end to all rule and authority and power, and will have subdued all his enemies (1 Cor. 15:20-28)

notice significant detail from vision: for every horn there is a craftsman – for every enemy of God and his people that comes from 4 corners of earth, God has appointed means of dealing with it

point to remember: it is never safe to oppose Christ and the advance of his kingdom, is never safe to oppose Christ’s church

Christ will meet every force raised to oppose building of his church and subdue it – how he chooses to do so is his business

God intended his church, place of worship in Jerusalem should be rebuilt. Sent his prophets to encourage his people to carry on the work… confident God would make sure they succeeded. Lord Jesus assured his followers he would build his church and even hell’s gates cannot impede its progress. Regardless of particular circumstances, how things might look, we must press on and do the next thing. We may see the results, it may be reserved for future generation. Either way, God takes care of his own, supplying their need, ensuring the outcome of their labor for him will serve his eternal purpose.

The Man Among the Myrtles

Zechariah 1:7-17  

Many of prophets had task of stirring up people to particular actions – repenting of their sin, recovering proper observance of religious ceremonies (circumcision and Passover, e.g.), returning to work of construction on restored Temple. Zechariah’s opening charge to his people certainly had that character – calling them to repentance, not making same mistakes as their fathers.

Zechariah’s primary focus not on what people should be doing for God, instead was concerned with what God would do for his people. God by no means uninformed about or unaware of his people’s circumstances and their needs. God had his plan, was working his plan, had told his people some things about his plan. Was much they did not know, especially what was God’s schedule of planned events. When extended period of time passed and people had heard no word, seen no obvious activity from God, would lose heart.

Many prophets received word from God, were told what to do with it. Some, like Zechariah were shown multimedia presentation, included both sight and sound. On occasion, would even have a tour guide, positioned to aswer questions, provide explanations.

February 15, 519 BC, busy night for Zechariah. btw, Shebat the Babylonian name for 11th month of Jewish calendar, corresponds with our February. Saw a series of 8 visions, served to encourage and strengthen prophet first, then his hearers, finally all his readers. Was important that prophet himself have strong confidence in God and his plan. Doubting prophet not equipped to encourage / inspire confidence in audience.

Each of visions Zechariah saw that night followed similar pattern: an image the prophet saw; one or more questions the prophet asked; the explanation given to the prophet; an oracle, a message from God for his people.

A. Image  v.8, 10, 11: Man

riding chestnut horse  (8)

primary figure in scene who attracts and holds attention: man seated on red or chestnut horse, standing in valley, accompanied by riders on other horses of varying colors

in this vision, colors of horses not of great significance – pretty much normal horse colors; is the man and companions that matter

identity of the man not made clear at first – comes out gradually as vision and its description progresses – helps us enter into experience along with prophet, discovering details as he sorts them out

standing among the myrtles  (10)

myrtle commonly found in Palestine, grows in variety of locations / conditions – evergreen, dark scented leaves, delicate white flowers with purple edging, berries used in medicine

low shrub on hillsides, can reach 9 or more feet in low-lying well-watered valleys – probably sufficient foliage to conceal riders / horses

as vision moved along, first rider dismounted, was standing in valley next to his horse… seen by the prophet but not easily visible to others

the Angel of the Lord  (11)

Zechariah asks angel, messenger from God, standing next to him for help interpreting – angel begins to respond, then is interrupted

man standing among the myrtles declares who his companions are, other riders address their response to man identified as “the Angel of the LORD”

53x in Zechariah – LORD of hosts – gives hint of what their mission might have been, identity of the Man: same who encountered Joshua at Jordan River by Jericho

B. Question   v.9

“what are these?”

even a prophet needs help to understand point of what is hearing / seeing – God graciously supplied one with accurate information

before anything else is said, prophet knows what he is seeing, has no clear idea of what it signifies – who the riders are, what their mission is, how it relates to him and his people

important example set here: when considering revelation from God (for us, his Word) first stop for interpretation should be divinely supplied interpreter (Holy Spirit), content of revelation (explanation)

when God supplies explanation / interpretation of his revelation, start by taking it at face value – follow plain sense, don’t try to give another sense to it

“I will show you”

interpreter-angel begins to respond to Zechariah’s question – distinguished from “the Angel of the Lord” who interrupts, takes over

even though someone else was there who could give explanation, prophet (…and us) not encouraged / allowed to shift focus

the Man, Commander of the Lord’s Army, pre-incarnate Christ the one who should and would receive all the attention

C. Explanation  v.10-13

the Lord is present (10)

Bible tells us Satan, and of course his agents too, prowling the earth seeking to push forward their evil agenda against Christ, church

are not alone in spiritual dimension – God has his agents led by Commander, Son of God himself, scouting throughout the earth

this a comparable idea to what Apostle John saw, Son of Man walking in midst of lampstands – God is present with his people

may be concealed from our view, at least physical sight, but should not be concealed from understanding – are not alone in the world

the world is at peace (11)

report the scouts give to their commander: have completed assignment, not long process since on horseback, can go everywhere

kingdoms of the earth experiencing relative peace, no major conflicts anywhere – kinda like now, small skirmishes but world powers not engaged in conflict

becomes clear from follow-up question this kind of peace not a good thing – a world at peace while people of God suffer not pleasing to God – further explanation is coming

> further question – how long (12)

keep in mind: vision has application to people in all ages, given first to Jewish people shortly after worst time of their life – exile – and things hadn’t gotten very good even by 20 years later

cry went up from Man – how long before you show mercy to your people, restore them to favor once again?

the Lord responds (13)

God’s answer comes back to interpreter-angel, gracious or good and comforting words… who then shares response with Zechariah

many things implied by good comforting answer to that question: God not sleeping, powerless, disinterested, frustrated, aimless

D. Oracle   1:14-17

the Lord cares (14)

God not unconcerned with the suffering of his people – greatly moved with compassion and will move on their behalf

has purpose not only to restore his people but to be properly worshiped – hence distinction between Jerusalem and Zion

this is LORD of Hosts declaring his intentions – iow, the God who is in covenant with his people and has power to change things

the Lord is displeased with the nations (15)

nations had agenda against people of God, so God let out the leash… permitting them to overthrow and capture, read punish, Jews

one problem… for them – took their greed and aggression too far, being unnecessarily harsh and unjust toward Jews – figure they have put God and his people in their place, won’t be bothered again

God will not allow that to go unnoticed, unpunished – evidence? where is Assyrian Empire? where is Babylonian Empire?

the Lord will prosper his church (16-17)

God has his timeline in view… as always, and now is the time – he will remove all hindrances to rebuilding of his house, and more

city will be rebuilt as well and prosperity of church and city will overflow to surrounding area – not looking forward to unending hardship, resistance to growth

Is difficult at times to see what God is doing in the world. Easy to judge state of world and church by how things are here. Here can be local church family, town, region, nation. Need to keep in mind: 2000 years ago NT church had 120 members (Acts 1:15). Look at it now… around the world. No nation on earth where Gospel is not known, where Christ does not have a church. And people are being added to the church daily. Christ is present in his church, among his people, carrying out his plan according to God’s perfect timing and methods. Take heart, there is no power that can frustrate it, slow it down, change its course. Our good and gracious heavenly Father can be trusted to complete his plan of redemption and lead all his people safely home.

 

Call to Repentance

Zechariah 1:1-6  

Zechariah common name, ~30x; means “the LORD remembers”. Young man (Zech 2:4), born during exile in Babylon. Perhaps adopted by grandfather (Ezr. 5:1; 6:14) – father died young? Iddo perhaps / probably priest identified in Neh. 12:1-4, 16 – makes Zechariah both priest and prophet (like John the Baptist). Also like John, similar focus / priorities: repentance in anticipation of coming Messiah.

“He presents Messiah as a king (Zech 9:9), a stone (Zech 3:9; 10:4 NIV), a slave sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:12), the smitten shepherd (Zech 13:7), the Branch (Zech 3:8; 6:12), and the glorious Redeemer and Ruler of Israel (Zech 14:1–4, 9, 16–17).” Wiersbe

Only certain knowledge we have relates to his prophetic ministry, none to rest of his life. His prophecies quoted or referenced at least 41x in NT.

described by Ezra as joint prophetic ministry (Ezr. 5:1) “Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem”

each had individual emphasis: Paul and Barnabas kind of team – Haggai the one who came first to prod people into action; then Zechariah, encourage them to keep going

neither self-appointed – “word of the Lord came”… with expectations – did not appoint themselves to prophetic ministry, God made clear what they were to do… e.g., Zech 1:3 “Therefore say to them…”

rebuilding began 23 days after Haggai’s 1st message; 1 month later, 2nd message, stirring up people to work on in spite of hostility and discouragement

Zechariah commenced following month after Haggai’s second message, Oct-Nov 520 BC, 18 years after first return from exile

Text of this evening introduces (preface to) series of eight visions, snapshots of what God intends to do to encourage his people, finishes with emphasis on coming Messiah. Throughout, theme is “God’s commitment to deliver His people from the discouragement that stands in the way of His worldwide eternal redemptive purposes.” Parker

In introduction, speaks of new direction people need to take, an old mistake they need to avoid, and a timeless truth that will give them courage.

A. a new direction v.1-3

God’s messenger

prophet-priest – greater emphasis on spiritual than simply practical – a complex man with a complex message for people of God

understood what prophetic ministry was like – knew first-hand that God had not left himself without a witness during exile

even though we don’t know much of Iddo, his name and office carried weight with readers of Zechariah, primary function as priest who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel

encouraging to piety – work alone not enough – had insider knowledge / understanding of pastoral ministry (preacher’s kid)

used by God to reinforce point that God wanted a holy people, not just a holy place – in part the lack of sincere worship that sent their fathers into exile

God’s anger

rightly displeased with forefathers – goes on to remind of some of their issues, related to covenant issues  indicated by YHWH

since he used personal covenant name, makes clear YHWH’s commitment to his covenant even though angry w/ fathers for abandoning / breaking it

also letting people know their time in exile not an accident of global politics – was purposeful by God’s design, for their good

risk return of his anger without change of course – spoke in past tense… “has been / was very angry”, implies he is not presently

God had not overlooked sins of previous generation indefinitely, would not for them either – God is longsuffering, slow to anger, but has his limits

way of life in Jerusalem needed to be different from that of Babylon – enthusiasm for rebuilding must be matched by enthusiasm for renewed relationship with the God who would be worshiped there

God’s challenge

return to me – might have returned to land but not to God – hearts / desires were still focused elsewhere – might have recommitted to rebuilding but not to right relationship

I will return to you – if they turn loyalty / devotion back to him, he would “make His face shine upon [them], And be gracious to [them]” (Num. 6:24-26) – if not… iow, needed to follow new direction

B. an old mistake v.4

they had prophets, too

Haggai & Zechariah not the first… nor would they be the last – many had come before… starting with Enoch, prophesying judgment on the ungodly of his generation (Jude 1:14-15)

ones most immediately in view: those God sent to warn Israel and Judah during rise of Assyrian power – Elijah, e.g., and ff.

few were well-treated – see Matt. 23:31ff, Heb. 11:32-38 – most important, how hearers responded to prophet’s divine message

at best, overwhelming majority paid no attention, treating as unimportant background noise – responses ramped up from there, covered spectrum… sound familiar??

urged to repent

turn from means turn to – whether stated or not, God expected his people not to move from one brand of evil to another

intended they should turn to the only true good… the true God, YHWH – btw, God’s message has always been exclusive

since belief governs behavior… no matter what claims individual may make – why Jesus said you’ll know the tree by its fruit

requires change of mind – for lasting change to behavior acceptable to God, must have new way of thinking, about God and self

refused to listen and obey

lack of desire, not lack of ability – were free to make any choice they wanted, those were the ones they freely made

needed change of desire along with change of mind – meanwhile, persisted in rebellious disobedience in spite of consequences

implied: rebellion brought ruin

God makes direct connection between rebellion and ruin – was their sinfulness that brought about harsh consequences – iow, they were responsible… and so was God

Zechariah’s generation (and ours) needed to be reminded: they were just as much at risk of ruin as their ancestors, personally if not nationally

— between repentance and redemption – God could justly respond with favor when they repented and turned back to him

old mistake: they could follow their own way even when God said different… and still somehow come out ok – they must not fall back into that same way of thinking

C. a timeless truth v.5-6

things change

forefathers and prophets long since gone – many died in conflict leading up to exile, more died in exile… how did they use time – did they leave a good legacy, what should you do about it

influence can persist… for evil (fathers) or good (prophets) – influence is important, whose would they choose to follow

God’s word and statutes endure

of first importance: God and his word outlive them all – prophets’ legacy worthy… because message / life pointed to God

have ministry report tucked in, second half verse 6 – people heard and responded to prophet’s challenge, declaring change of mind and acknowledging God’s faithfulness

confessed: God kept his word re: punishment, doing as he said – can expect will keep his word re: blessing… if they repent

Giod is faithful to his purpose

has plan to redeem his people from ruin – single comprehensive plan beginning with Adam, inclusive of all people groups in all periods of human history – see Rev. 5:9-10 

is doing his part to carry it out – showed by returning people from exile, sending prophets to inspire and encourage, all in preparation for centerpiece of redemption: Messiah

expects his people to do their part – not because God lacks power or ability to do it all himself; could if he chose, has not chosen

involvement contributes to sense of responsibility – missions team from away, constructed building for “natives”; later, “come fix your roof”

Call today the same as in Zechariah and Haggai’s – don’t make same mistake as those of previous generations, even among our own. Turn back to the one who is true, whose word is true, show by speech and action confidence in God and his faithfulness. Are 2500 years nearer the close of God’s redemptive plan, must be work for us to do since still here. Is just as reliable today as then, must urge the lost to turn to only true God without delay.

A Call to Confidence for the Future

Haggai 2:20-23 

 Once again God spoke to and through Haggai on same day: December 18, 520, anniversary of day when foundation for Second Temple (also called Zerubbabel’s Temple) laid. Each of these words from God came with identification of recipient – person or group God intended to hear his word. First: Zerubbabel, Joshua (1:1); second: Zerubbabel, Joshua, remnant of the people (2:2); third: the priests (2:11); fourth: Zerubbabel (2:20).

Don’t hear too much about Zerubbabel, was more than simple bit player with 15 minutes of fame on world stage. Had been appointed by Cyrus, was governor of Judah and co-leader with Joshua the high priest… shared political and religious leadership. Was one whom God thought it important to address specifically with prophetic word (3 of 4 sermons), the man with sufficient rank and title to be in charge of Temple reconstruction. Apparently had sufficient leadership ability to be a good choice, yet… had become discouraged and lost focus. Apparently needed more than one dose of courage, being stirred up again to decisive action, something God graciously supplied through both Haggai and Zechariah.

Zerubbabel not just any leader, either. Was in a really hard spot – grandson of last king of Judah, direct descendant of David, in reality a royal prince. Circumstances required something else of him, and, God had something of profound significance in view. Zerubbabel would have descendant of far greater importance than even his ancestor David. Yes, was in the line coming from David, and he was in that line leading to Lord Jesus (Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27). More on that in little while.

Is significant what God says he will do – without question the actions and achievements of God’s redemptive plan are essential to the plan. But… must guard against getting so caught up in the action we lose sight of who the Actor is. Any hope we have for the future cannot be limited to promised actions and events, no matter how iron-clad guarantee on promise is. If our focus is on events taking place, we will often be disheartened by what we see and what we don’t see – earthly powers acting while God delays. Our hope, our confidence must first be in God himself. Our hope is warranted because it is God, YHWH who rules. It is God who establishes his people. It is God who declares what He will do.

A. God rules  v.20-22

natural

God repeats what he declared earlier (2:6-7) and amps it up: “Once more… I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations”

when God shakes the universe, things happen – ultimately will be shaken and restored from results of the Fall and curse

the one who has power to do all that not inclined to leave natural world to its own devices in meantime – if rain falls on just/unjust according to his plan, calamities also under his sovereign rule

God’s good purpose in redemption extends to created natural order – looks like nature more out of control, reminds of what is wrong: everywhere we look with naked eye or assistance, see evidence of God’s creative genius and profound havoc sin caused

yet absolutely none of our universe (or any parallel universes) are beyond God’s wise governing… for his glory and ultimate good of his people

political

God committed to not only “shak[ing] all nations”, he will overthrow all earthly political systems that are contrary to his righteous rule… which on some level is all of them

national governments can implement all sorts of laws and policies designed to oppress and control and exploit, but God sets the boundaries, how far those practices can extend

rise and fall of governments throughout history used by God to advance his plan, to extend Christ’s kingdom – final overthrow when all Christ’s enemies are put under his feet, when all things are made subject to him (1 Cor. 15:26ff)

economic

remember… speaking to governor of Judah, not presently a nation, no currency, no military, no national leader, just a province subject to world power with impressive resources… by man’s measure

one important measure of nation’s strength: its economic clout – plenty of loud rhetoric going back and forth around world: US vs China, UK vs EU, economic sanctions against various rogue nations

then places like Venezuela where currency nearly worthless (prices double in 21 days); bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies of questionable speculative value

if prudent Christians shake their heads over money games, imagine what God thinks – especially since one day will be worthless

at time of God’s choosing, present measures of value and strength will lose all significance – only how things of economic value have been used to advance Kingdom that will endure

military

at that time, Persian empire was world superpower – controlled territory from Greece to India, Aral Sea to Arabian Sea, incl. Libya, Egypt, part of Ethiopia

whether their military or that of subsequent world powers, would be no match for the one God raises up to overthrow them

Assyrians noted for first military used for expansion, barbaric even by ISIS’ standard – gave way to Babylonians, then Medo-Persians, followed by Greeks and Romans… all under God’s direction

yet day will come when pattern will change, God brings about something similar to Gideon and Midianite army – turned on one another while were running away (Judg. 7)

on that Day, all military powers will be overthrown and rider on white horse, Lord Jesus himself will prevail over all

social

not just military action in view where most casualties from friendly fire – is upheaval of social order with everyone for himself

personal loyalty, family ties no longer sufficient to keep aggression and violence in check – will be move to total autonomy

in all this shaking, upheaval, overturning of powers and structures as we know them, one entity comes through changed yet unharmed – Christ’s church

truth is, purpose of all of this is the good of God’s people – enemies of God and his people will be subdued, God will be glorified and his people purified

everything world trusts in will be overthrown: availability of natural resources, political structures, economic might, military power, interpersonal fabric of society – as God orchestrates all that, will be moving his people toward his goal for them

B. God establishes his people  v.23

prince, yet only governor

Zerubbabel knew who he was, where he “should” be sitting, what he should be doing… yet, were strict limits to power / authority

God graciously sent prophet to him specifically with direct message – what God intended for his future – in spite of how it looked, God not done with line of David

had promised an enduring “dynasty” to David (2 Sam. 7:12ff), then to Solomon (1 Ki. 9:4-5) – God intended to work his plan… including Zerubbabel in it… to reestablish throne… a better one

a signet ring

even though Zerubbabel highly favored of God, he would not become king – he would point to the king, a symbol of future restored royal line

the one with the ring has significance because of who the ring represents – Zerubbabel in his role as God’s man governing remnant of his people would help to keep them mindful of God’s promise

also a key figure in Messiah’s story – responsible for overseeing restoration of Temple where that promised greater glory would someday be apparent

and viewed as significant in minds of Gospel writers – genealogies in Matt. & Luk. run together as far as David, then diverge until Shealtiel & Zerubbabel, diverge again until Joseph – Zerubbabel evidence of God’s intent to send Messiah

a chosen one

change of fortunes not going to be result of typical political processes – negotiations, treaties, even military action

will come about by God’s overruling choice and action – necessary because of who is ultimately in view… Messiah, his present and his eventual ultimate rule on that Day

C. hope in God

repeatedly, in this final message through Haggai, is God declaring what he will do – message of great promise and blessing for sure

yet only has value and meaning because of who is speaking – if only Haggai, pay no attention; if YHWH Sabaoth, take to bank

Psa. 42:5, 11; 43:5 

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.”

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”  2x

if all we consider is condition of world, of church, of family, of government… no question – will be cast down. Looking only at promises, counting on promises, waiting….. for promises, will be disappointed

must look at promises as given by God, confident in God who keeps his promises, and remembering this: God does not keep his promises because we are such wonderful people – he keeps them for the sake of “His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). We will share in those promises if and only if we are in Christ.

If that is all really true, and we really believe it, then… all those apart from Christ are as Paul described, Eph. 2:12 –

“without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

As we get closer to that Day, is more urgent we do all we can to bring others to understanding of genuine hope, saved and lost alike. 

A Call to Holiness of Life

Haggai 2:10-19 

Brief timeline to catch up: first message September 21, 520, people repented and got to work; second message of encouragement October 17; now third message, December 18 with further cautions and exhortations. This particular date, 24th day of 9th month not associated with festival but… is most important date in all of Haggai – repeated 3 times (v.10, 18, 20), significance identified in v.18

“from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid;”

A day of great significance / importance to Jews living in Jerusalem and surrounding area, the date when the Temple destroyed by Babylonians was refounded. 3 months after work started up again – ok, we’re doing the right thing but we’re still poor; what’s up with that? Had the outward marks of obedience, conformity to God’s expectations, but little had changed for the workers personally.

Would appear was not only construction crew that needed help, Temple staff hadn’t been doing all their job either. Got out of practice during time in captivity, had not recovered all their skills during 15 years back in Jerusalem. Were at least covering basics of religious rituals – regular sacrifice, observance of at least some of the feasts… no record of Passover being observed from time Solomon’s temple destroyed until after Zerubbabel’s completed. One thing lacking in interim: regular pastoral instruction designed to teach God’s people how to live pleasing to him. Haggai’s questions (supplied by God) help point that out to priests. Haggai’s dialogue carried on between him and priests but had people as whole in view.

Important part of work belonging to priests and Levites – 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.” At least in matter of holy living, had not given adequate teaching and application of God’s Word. Haggai begins with holiness – where does it come from, how do you get it, why do you need it. Then he moves ot how the past relates to the future in relation to their way of life and their circumstances. Finally, addresses the possibility of change in the present bringing about change in the future.

A. what about holiness?  v.10-14

where it comes from

holiness is not contagious – not airborne, not transmitted by contact – something holy cannot make something else holy

holiness cannot be self-acquired or self-administered – no action can give it, no place can make person or thing in it holy

any ritual that is carried out may signify that something is holy, set apart for God’s use, but does not make it intrinsically so

holiness must ultimately come from the one who is perfectly holy – God alone meets that condition, he alone has authority to define terms of holiness

how you get it

holiness is not something you do, it is a condition of who you are – no one has the ability to change their nature or status before God

is something that God supplies, most powerfully by the presence and action of his Spirit – is what God does in us that also has external evidence

individual can make choices, engage in behaviors and ways of thinking to encourage growth in holiness – one who is genuinely holy (converted) will do so in some measure

e.g., regular sacrifice, attendance / participation in stated feasts, instruction from Law of God, close association with others who feared God and kept his laws, pattern of daily life consistent with godly principles

why you need it

God’s desire and intention that his work be done by holy people – according to his standard unholy people cannot offer satisfactory gifts to God

principle articulated earlier still applies: 1 Sam. 16:7 “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

external appearance of person and gift might appear to meet God’s requirements but… without changed heart dedicated to pleasing God out of love for him, will not receive God’s approval

so… here’s starting place: if work on temple since restart to be acceptable to God and receive his blessing, people must be God’s kind of people doing it God’s way… in all respects – right work done right way by people living right and desiring what is right

B. how does the past relate to the future?  v.15-17

3x – “consider it” (v.15, 18, 19), looking forward – if you want a different future, you need to take these things into account

what you were doing

situation perhaps best expressed in way we can all relate to: the faster I go the behinder I get – harder I try to get ahead, more ground I lose – exactly what Haggai described in 1:6, summarized in 2:16-17

were doing right things, probably many of them good things – problem was they were not the “first” things, most important

God expected that his work would have first priority, then they could attend to own needs – in that order, would be adequate resources for both

putting personal needs / goals first, failing to meet them, adding more time and energy but with no positive change in results

what your circumstances were

didn’t matter how hard they tried, was never quite enough – more effort actually resulted in them losing ground, further behind

once again, God takes direct credit for their hardship – God caused their calamity… on purpose… to give  reason to turn to him

and yet… persisted in pursuing own solution… to their great disappointment – good reminder: if our way isn’t working, stop and check.. is it God’s way

does this sound familiar? anyone you know that might fit same pattern? a good set of principles here to challenge saved / unsaved family or friends

if God thought was good idea to remind both saved & unsaved of what he expected, what he was doing to get their attention, we shouldn’t be shy about using same reminders

C. how does the present potentially change the future?  v.18-19

what changed

people had changed in response to Haggai’s message – they obeyed God, they came and worked on the house as they were challenged

construction began again, serious enough effort that got Tattenai and Shethar-Boznai’s attention – correspondence w/Darius

apparently from God’s perspective: was a change but… was an outward / external change prompted by fear of God’s presence

same kind of motivation that keeps (at least for now) majority of citizens law-abiding – fear of consequences motivates compliance

what didn’t change

had returned to Jerusalem expecting certain things: basically smooth sailing in spheres of life… home, church, public arena

encountered opposition to their efforts – had material help, supplies and money, but… were opposed in their work by enemies and then (after they had changed focus) by God

from soon after first work on temple stopped, life got hard and stayed that way – everything came at great sacrifice w/ little joy

by God’s design, since in face of hardship they continued to do same thing same way for same reasons but maybe with more energy and greater effort, results did not change

what needs to change

was all about what they could see, what they could achieve or acquire… but see what God said he wanted, v.17 – he made life hard and they turned back to the work – God wanted them to turn back to Him

at beginning they had a desire for the temple, needed a desire for the God of the temple – lots of nostalgia for the way things were… sights, sounds, rituals of a religious culture, longing for the good ol’ days

God’s desire was for something different – he wanted hearts of his people first, then the work of their hands – he wanted them to want him first and most

desire for God is soon followed by desire to please God which then leads to desire for God’s benefits… as evidence of his favor

what will change

when all God had done – sent calamity and then sent prophets – brought about his desired result, then he promises to bless them

does require trust – that when we devote time and energy to God first, what we have left will be enough to meet our own needs

would actually be the reverse of their experience – more work brought less results, when God is first less work brings more results

means they had to trust God to provide results of his choosing when they lived and acted his way

Simply doing work of ministry guarantees only one thing – you’ll be tired at end of day. If we are to experience God’s blessing, must be committed to doing all of life his way… at home, at work, in community, in church.

What is “real” goal – that lots of people would show up, or that God would be present? The real goal as in what comes first and without it nothing else matters. That we would have this that or the other, or that God would bless the work of our hands as he sees fit?

Have opportunities each day to engage people who are just like Haggai’s neighbors. We know the principles to tell them, something else can have even greater influence – our own story, when/how God has blessed our devotion and obedience. And… let’s be sure we have right desires and attitudes about ministry work.

A Call to Find Courage in God’s Promises

Haggai 2:1-9

Entire time of “serious” building approx. 4-1/2 years:

Hag. 1:14-15 they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius. (Sept. 21, 520 BC)

Ezr. 6:15 Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. (Mar. 12, 515 BC)

Wasn’t all smooth sailing. Tattenai, Shethar-Boznai and allies challenged Zerubbabel and Joshua – who gave permission for this? (Ezr. 5:3ff) Gave straight answer, was Cyrus who issued decree, etc. Persians, of course, had to verify – sent to Darius, check the archives, tell us what to do. Darius took situation seriously, work on temple had first begun during his lifetime before his time as king with access to royal archives. Commissioned a search, decree of Cyrus found. Darius responded; gave partial quote of Cyrus’ decree, then gave his own orders:

Ezra 6:6-7 “Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site.”

Doesn’t take long to tell the story, took much longer for it all to play out – mail back and forth, extended search (first at Babylon, then Achmetha 300 miles away). Meanwhile, Jews back at Jerusalem wondering how would all turn out, continuing to work and look over their shoulders. Several things that could certainly cause discouragement:

almost immediate opposition… again; left-over shame from prophet’s rebuke in first sermon; perhaps questioning by those who had not heard message (you sure about this?); and then the whole thing about comparisons… this worship center compared to that worship center.

7 weeks after first sermon… time for another – this to be a one-two from Haggai and then Zechariah a couple weeks later. Not meant to beat God’s people down, rather to build them up. Yes, there are elements of rebuke in last three prophets, but far outweighed by focus on glories yet to come. Even though intended to incite people to “labor for the kingdom”, prophets made it clear would be God’s power, God’s plan, God himself working his purpose through his people. Also keep in mind: prophetic lens doesn’t always give clear indications of perspective… how near or distant events in view are.

A. expanded audience v.1-2

cp. 1:1 and 2:2 – ” the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest” vs “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people

first message to political and religious leaders

would need their leadership if work was to get started again – and could not be half-hearted or people wouldn’t get on board

first sermon focused on principle, need to make God and his work the prioirity… even for those in ministry – simply being busy about church work doesn’t guarantee right / best things are being done

included ones leaders were directly responsible for

expected that Zerubbabel would call together government workers, declare to them what prophet had said, make sure they all knew what right response would be

similar scenario for Joshua and all religious workers associated with Temple (priests and Levites) – would hear from Joshua if not directly from Haggai

both groups of leaders needed to be on-board, committed to the work – in face of opposition, any weakness from leaders would spread like wildfire through the people

second message directed to same plus the remnant (2)

reinforcing message to leaders, one of encouragement to leaders and people – Haggai spoke as if they were all present and all on same page

was next to last day of third pilgrimage festival, excellent time for addressing crowd and drawing attention to work yet to be done

B. encouraging message v.3-5

doesn’t look like much (3)

real need for encouragement – seventh month the busiest one on calendar… three feasts: Feast of Trumpets (1), Day of Atonement (10), Feast of Tabernacles (15-22)

all taking place in middle of construction zone – “competing” interests… keeping the feasts, getting the work done, hard to do both

foundation had been laid, walls started, opposition halted progress but… obvious from what was done would never rival Solomon’s

be strong (4a)

is easy to hurry through verse 4, shouldn’t do that – those words were spoken by Haggai face-to-face with intended hearers

looking directly at Zerubbabel, making eye contact, maybe even up close and personal, given God’s personally directed exhortation

same for Joshua, the high priest, given God’s individual message to them in sight and hearing of crowd gathered for festival

then was crowd’s turn to hear same words – “be strong, all you people of the land” – some powerful associations: “be strong” 3x, the land… end of the Exodus / beginning of Entrance to Canaan, Josh. 1:6-9

almost a given: big promise coming up – just as God did big things in giving them land he promised, would again do big things

work (4b)

but… for promise to be fulfilled, God’s people needed to do their part – go back to work, complete assignment while trusting God

reminder that God’s presence is not always obvious – looked like God had left the job site, why progress halted… not true

could / should begin work again… even though nothing obvious had changed… yet there was change: two prophets on site, tangible representations of God’s presence and care

do not fear (5)

and… no need for fear if they move forward in his strength and directed / accompanied by his Spirit – after all, it’s God’s project

God who kept promises 1000 years before has not forgotten – God’s purpose to redeem his people from both slavery and sin still very much in force… and moving forward

C. expectant future v.6-9

God has the power (6-7a)

entire universe will be shaken up – heaven and earth – and all the inhabitants – sea and dry land and all nations

not something that could be mistaken for “forces of nature” at work, even in response to mankind’s presence and meddling

this the kind of response of earth in particular to immediate presence of God – Haggai’s listeners would make quick connections

during Feast of Tabernacles, time established by God for them to remember Lev. 23:43 “that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

at beginning of wilderness time Ex. 19:18 “Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.”

Sinai was preliminary example, Calvary another, will be final shaking when current order of things totally upended, restored

NOTE: don’t forget – people were being called to work, to do job God had assigned but… would be God exercising his power that changed the world

God has the Person (7b, 9a)

this poor substitute temple will be filled with glory, glory that far exceeds any associated with former (Solomon’s) temple

the place where this remnant were laboring would be place where desire of all nations would be met, would satisfy them

on that spot God would worship God – the Son worshiping the Father, the place where effect of Christ’s atonement first displayed… the rent veil, signifying free access to Father through Son

God has the provision (8)

God declares he owns all the resources, that statement the “filling” between “I will fill this temple with glory” and “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former”

yet God never states his intention to make gold and silver the glory of the temple – people needed to look for glory in something other than construction materials

whatever God provided for materials would satisfy him, should satisfy them – glory would come from who was there, who was worshiped there – Person greater than Solomon (Matt. 12:42) would give greater glory to Temple

God will perform (9b)

God, YHWH Sabaoth, repeatedly declares what he will do – their future and future of Temple entirely in God’s hands

their responsibility to do the work, God is responsible for outcome/results – not to be distsracted by appearances… either potential hindrances or humble building

God could give the world a king from a stable; a savior from a criminal’s cross and borrowed tomb in city governed by pagans

Should not be either distracted or discouraged by appearances… if is clear God is at work. Is presence and power of God that gives glory to individuals as temple of Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19), a place of worship whether dedicated sanctuary or simply place where God’s people gather (Acts 16:13). Our responsibility to trust in God and his promises, work diligently at task he has assigned, count on God to bring about results according to his eternal plan.