Tag: Redeemed from Ruin

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.

Royal Treatment

Zechariah 10:1-12 

 This chapter the middle portion of “burden” from Zech. 9-11, followed by second “burden” in 12-14. Primary (but not exclusive) emphasis of first burden is on first advent and following period; emphasis similarly of second burden on second advent and following. If Zechariah was preaching prophet, each burden represents content or essence of single sermon, about 10 minutes long.

Jewish people needed message of hope – circumstances not looking very promising. And… was part of God’s long-range plan to keep feeding information about his intentions – iow, progressive revelation. Giving Zechariah’s contemporaries more insight into person and work of the Messiah, also for benefit of future generations.

Also needed strong reminder: watch out for drift – something God’s people of all ages susceptible to. Common for people to be slowly influenced by surroundings, adopt views / principles of the majority. Without continual support / reminders / encouragement believers at risk of drifting away from truth and getting mired in error. Zechariah reassures his hearers that those who follow the true shepherd, the Messiah, will be given Royal Treatment. and… btw, God is not happy with ungodly shepherds, he will deal with them.

A. the royal shepherd hears and answers  v.1-3

pray for rain and he sends it

don’t bother with Baal, ask YHWH to supply needs – avoid the temptations of going back to old habits

and don’t get sucked into what the world (maybe including friends) holds up as good solution

fyi, may be thunder / lightning with some of the rain – can seem like a frowning providence, not exactly what we had in mind

what YHWH sends to his people produces good – remember who the shepherd is, and how he treats / cares for sheep – he will sacrifice himself rather than sacrifice his sheep

teraphim, if they speak, tell lies

more of that culture creep – not necessarily replacing YHWH but adding to – ok to believe in God, just not exclusively

applies to their spokesmen – not always obvious who an authority figure really serves – true both then and now

caution: more distance between person and authority increases risk – books, internet, media vs. personal relationship – be sure to do your homework, check sources/accountability

make promises they cannot keep, lead in directions that cannot help – false gods have false worldview, wrong assumptions

the people are in trouble and the LORD is displeased

those acting as shepherds not effectually leading… or are leading astray – no question what God expected from shepherds and they weren’t doing it

God himself will address the problem – does not always intervene personally, this time he will… by means of Messiah

God will bring genuine transformation – quite the visual here, sheep transformed into warhorses… image of victory

certainly kind of imagery we understand more fully from NT, believers “more than conquerors” over sin and Satan, then participating in Christ’s future total victory

B. the royal shepherd comes from Judah  v.4-7

three symbols that point to Messiah and how he will care for his sheep, and he will come from tribe and land of Judah

as a cornerstone

idea referenced both OT & NT, specific connection to Messiah/Jesus – Psalm 118:22, Matthew 21:42 Isaiah 28:16 1 Peter 2:6-7 

cornerstone of the church, foundation – further elaboration from Paul why important in relation to the church

defines the structure – shape, pattern, location, orientation – is first piece put in place, everything else relative to it

faithfully leads the sheep – giving shape and definition to the church requires effective leadership, making sure the right people are in right places for right structure

as a tent peg

Isa 22:23-24  “I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, And he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house. They will hang on him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the posterity, all vessels of small quantity, from the cups to all the pitchers.”

an anchor for the hopes of the people… secures the future of the sheep – peg will not move, people can hang on to it, no need to find another peg in the future

strength, stability, security – shepherd is source of strength, firming up their confidence, giving secure footing, is perfect antidote to all fears / uncertainties

unlike false shepherds, Royal Shepherd’s promises absolutely certain, no possible chance of failure… ever

as a battle bow

taking the lead in warfare… to protect the sheep – remember who their most important enemy is, not the Philistines

greatest threat: Satan and his agents – Shepherd takes the lead in waging war against spiritual enemies, starting with Satan

two objects: sin and Satan – defeated power of both at Cross and empty tomb… sin cannot trap in captivity, Satan cannot threaten with death

Messiah victorious over both… for the sheep – not for himself that he waged war, was for benefit of sheep… although his victory will ultimately bring more glory to him

other faithful shepherds

follow on after the Chief Shepherd – this is good test: is the under shepherd following the Chief Shepherd?

will care for the sheep as he would if present – Royal Shepherd cares for his flock through them, his delegates

C. the royal shepherd gathers his flock  v.8-12

he calls for them

John 10:3-5, 16  the royal shepherd knows his flock – when he calls, he knows without error when all are present

the flock knows the voice of their shepherd – the ones who really belong to the flock will hear and respond to Shepherd’s whistle, wherever they may be

the shepherd does all necessary to bring them together – all of Good Shepherd teaching of NT applies to Royal Shepherd, his personal care for his sheep… individually and collectively

they will be a large flock

just like in Egypt, time in captivity / exile not intended to destroy – intended to be purifying experience

sowed/scattered/dispersed for purpose – also intended that they act as witnesses, producing fruit/harvest in “foreign” places

expected to live “normally” even in exile – increase into huge flock – Shepherd intends sheep will not put life on hold because of circumstances… still need to be doing sheep-ish things

includes significant growth – remember the Lord Jesus is to be “the firstborn among many brethren

if newly reconstituted earth to be our eternal home, have to be enough of us to manage it well – will take huge number of people, enough to “fill the earth”

he accompanies and strengthens them

passes through the waters – Royal Shepherd not watching the drama from shore… he’s out in the stormy waters with the sheep

this Royal Shepherd a God like no other, comes down to “level” of sheep and raises them to new / better standing

subdues the waters – does so by his presence and action… remember disciples in the boat!!

when circumstances would overwhelm sheep, Shepherd modifies them and goes through storm with them

strengthens his sheep – once again, he does so for a purpose… so they will live as God’s people should, incl. witness

both words and witness are important in this life – next life, proper behavior of sheep will be a given

The Royal Shepherd is still caring for his flock today, messages of hope and promise still apply to his flock. Much to encourage his people, to give us confidence as we pursue the tasks he has appointed to us. We can count on his leading, growing, protecting, strengthening his flock And… his presence with his people more powerful and pervasive than in Zechariah’s day – we are indwelt, equipped and empowered by Holy Spirit in even richer and fuller way. One more thing – are even closer to that great day – maybe we will be the ones who see Jesus return to bring this age to a close! Until that time… 

Rewriting History

Zechariah 9:1-17 

 

Seems like everybody and his brother wants to take everything distasteful or makes certain people uncomfortable, erase it from landscape. Certainly are things about the history of any people or group that were not pleasing to God. To simply pretend they didn’t happen doesn’t change the facts. Often mandated ignorance causes its own set of problems. Israel was no exception, and neither is our nation – erasing the past does nothing to set a right course for the future.

Many would say the American experiment of “government of the people, by the people and for the people” has been a colossal failure. Similar could be said for the Israelite experiment also. What God instructed his ancient people to do after deliverance from Egypt never fully materialized. Were to purify land of Canaan, removing people who had so polluted land by idol-worship and related practices. We know how that didn’t happen – instead much of what they did set trajectory for failure, eventually disappearing from distinct peoples of the world.

God had already changed what would expect for result from a people being absorbed into culture of world superpower. Had moved Cyrus to issue proclamation, later powers to treat Jewish cause with favor. In this second portion of Zechariah’s prophecy God declares how moving forward he will continue to rewrite the history of his people. Notice: God will do, among other things, what his people should have done by defeating their enemies. They could have succeeded with God’s help but instead tried it on their own. Good lesson there for people of all times… including ours.

First portion of book centers attention on Coming Kingdom, final 6 chapters on the Coming King. Are number of quotations / allusions to chapters 9, 11, 12, 13 in connection with Lord Jesus primarily in Gospels. Jesus of course the King in view here, seen particularly in verse 9. Obvious to us, not so much to Zechariah and contemporaries. And keep in mind, throughout rest of book, timing of events not always explicit. Prophetic perspective often does not “see” time lapse between events – present chapter looks at whole sweep from Zechariah’s day to Second Advent.

Just as important (maybe more) is the who / what / how, not so much the when. God will defeat enemies of him and his people, cause his people to triumph, will govern his people with justice and righteousness… in person of Son, the Lord Jesus.

A. enemies defeated 1-8

the wise  1-2

a heavy message for Hadrach, Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, Sidon – neighbors / enemies to the north

were by no means uncivilized dummies – to think of people in those times as less advanced, more primitive comes from evolutionary worldview, not biblical one

Tyrians shrewd enough to build new city half mile offshore, successfully defended against Alexander the Great for 7 months

the wealthy  3-4

wealth of Tyre in particular had come at expense of neighbors to the south, coming in part from human trafficking carried out by others of Israel’s enemies

had used their skill and financial resources to advance their own cause at expense of others – no match for wisdom and resources of God

the warlike  5-6

Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, Ashdod – leading Philistine cities, enemies to the south – continual thorn in Israel’s side for generations

they among more cruel of Israel’s oppressors – breaking up families, reducing to starvation, confiscating all Jewish means of defense for own use – God would erase them as unique people from later history

the false worshipers  7-8

these the ones who did the most damage – seducing people away from true God – deserved to be thoroughly annihilated by God… yet would preserve remnant even among them!

God doesn’t leave his people to wonder: He will defeat their enemies and will continue to defend / protect from future harm

B. king anticipated 9-10

a Savior?

call to rejoicing, celebration – the one who has made all this happen coming to the city… on a donkey, yes, a real donkey

previous kings who had come oppressed and enslaved the people, even their own – have to keep war machine going somehow

this king will be true deliverer, bringing his people out of bondage into genuine and lasting freedom

a servant?

how he will rule evidenced by how he enters the capitol – no train of captives, no loud boasting over accomplishments

this king really has good of his subjects as a priority – no campaign promises later broken, came to serve, not be served

a peacemaker

not only comes in peace to his people, he comes to bring them peace… to establish peace like no one else has or can

universal dominion

here’s one clue there’s more in view than just Jesus’ first advent – had its beginning then, is still in progress

strong implication that his dominion not limited to the church – this King’s rule will extend over all the earth (after the Rapture?)

C. people triumphant 11-17

whole host of reasons why God’s people have reason to be full of joy and celebration… because of what God has done, is doing, will do

redeemed  11

easy for us to read spiritual / redemptive overtones into this statement – looking back through cross, can see nature of deliverance from God’s perspective

restored  12

here is response to one who complains about how much must give up to be a Christian – all that has been lost due to oppression of sin will be restored… abundantly

raised up  13

may appear that enemies of God and his people have upper hand, better / higher station – only temporary, at most applies to this life but not the next

especially in our country and time, need to remember this is God’s doing and not result of political / legislative action – must both trust and rejoice in God and his provision

protected  14

matters not what direction what direction the threat to peace (shalom, well-being) comes from – God between it and his people

defended  15

if we really believe God will defend his people, then whatever comes our way is by God’s design / permission, for good not harm

saved  16

commonly think / talk about being saved from… sin, hell, etc. – don’t forget what God’s people are saved to!

God not only rescues brand from fire, he cleans it up and makes it beautiful and useful, then puts in place of honor

blessed  17

perhaps greatest blessing, source of joy for people of God: have blessing of participating in God’s plan for the nations

we are not just passive recipients, uninvolved bystanders watching God do all the work – he allows, even expects us to serve him by serving others

and… it is a sure thing because it is God’s work we are doing – whenever we are participating in God’s agenda, can be sure of success according to God’s definition

Have much reason to be joyful – Christ is king, he is ruling and extending his kingdom according to his perfect plan. Can count on him supplying all our needs, protecting us from harm, will bring us safely home along with people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation”.

Words of Hope

Zechariah 8:1-23 

 10x – “thus says the LORD of hosts / LORD”. Is to be no doubt about who is speaking and doing. Not a manufactured feel-good message – may sound too good to be true (see v.6) but… consider the source: the LORD of hosts, YHWH Tsebaoth.

Temple nearing completion, potential reason for celebration but… still many unanswered questions, much uncertainty about the future – of the city, the church, the nation, and of course the people… individuals and families. Last 20 years in many ways not real encouraging: city not well-populated or secure; church struggling against powerful opposition plus discouragement; nothing in sight anywhere for nation to be other than territory subject to powerful neighbor.

Sure, they had promises made to the fathers… but they lived centuries ago. More recent prophets had published their divine messages… but not enough about them clearly stated to give kind of encouragement people of God needed. Keep in mind: we look back at many of those prophecies through lens of fulfillment. We not only have rest of God’s word, have record of how he has kept many of his promises… Zechariah’s neighbors didn’t have those things to give them understanding and hope.

Both Haggai and Zechariah made plain to people what God’s expectations were, how they had failed to measure up. Knew what they needed to do, needed just as much to hear / know what God intended to do, what his plans for their future were, maybe some of how God planned to bring that about. Just as God was intimately involved in their punishment through exile, so he would be just as involved in their restoration and renewal.

A. a renewed city  v.1-8

restored relationships

=>with God – no longer angry at his people but zealous for them – had turned his favor away from Zion (his people)… would “reverse” that

God intended people to seek and find him in Jerusalem, God would bring about transformation in people, producing in them qualities/characteristics he wanted

would be significant enough change to give city a new reputation – should be equally true of the church

place where truth can be found, dwelling place of the God who has power to act, place/people devoted exclusively to his use

=>with one another – picture of harmony among all ages – says much about a community when includes both old and young gathered together

very old and very young usually first casualties when conflict / hardship begins – and… children don’t play in streets in middle of fighting

kind of picture that portrays relative safety/security/prosperity – people living amicably, conducting business, absence of fear and uncertainty

=>with neighbors – no longer at the mercy of their enemies – because of God’s zeal for Zion, will rescue/deliver his people and bring back to place of safety

once they are there, God will protect/prosper/preserve his people – remember who is talking: LORD of hosts, LORD of armies

“nothing is too difficult”

=>from human perspective – impossible – God’s people even all together did not have sufficient resources to make it happen… their history for last 100 years proved that

e.g. were making best effort with Temple rebuilding, not even close to original… and that related only to material things

=>from divine perspective – a done deal

Jer. 32:17 “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.”

was God who got them into exile, who used sinful desires of their neighbors to make that happen, he obviously had all necessary to reverse the process

really small potatoes in big picture, especially when factor in deliverance from sin and bondage to Satan

B. renewed prosperity  v.9-17

temple will be completed

cheer up, roll up your sleeves, don’t give up this close to the goal – again, remember whose house it is, he won’t let it fail

God intends to live there, see v.3, does not intend to be “homeless” – will use his power to restrain/oppose enemies

sound familiar? Matt. 16:18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

it is God who prospers the church, uses human instruments to bring about – but apart from God’s favor, nothing we do will bring genuine prosperity to Christ’s church

otoh, when God intends to prosper the church, nothing we lack can hinder his good purpose

NOTE: a community will not experience genuine and comprehensive prosperity without a healthy prosperous church

there will be peace

=>person to person – was God who relaxed his restraint, allowed selfish and evil desires to foment animosity

truth is in some sense God was against them also, determined to bring hardship/punishment/judgment he promised as consequences for disobedience

until God is for his people, they will not be at peace with one another because they are not a peace with God

=>with God – declares he will be at peace with his people, determined to do good to them – he would bless his people so they would in turn be a blessing to others

once God and his people are at peace, no longer any need (or cause) for fear – powerful reason for encouragement, renewed effort at God-given task

if God has given us the task of building up his church, he will prosper us, he will prosper his church, and we need not fear opposition or failure

=>on condition: things they/we must must do (v.16-17) – in both church and community must do what pleases God

while temporal blessings are promised – good harvest, good home, good health – motivation must come from hearts devoted to God and pleasing him

C. reasons to rejoice  v.18-23

fasts turned into feasts

when God has purposed to bless his people once again, is time for real “joy and gladness and cheerful feasts” – time for fasting (during withdrawal of God’s blessing) is over

feast vs. fast based on what God is doing, not circumstances or appearances… and should fuel love for God, for truth and peace

people will seek the Lord

not only God’s people whose hearts are stirred – God also at work in hearts of other people in other places… all over the world: “ten men from every language of the nations”

notice how he does it: they will “grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

God will use what they see and hear from God’s people to attract them to God’s house… and God’s truth

Some of these promises fulfilled back then. Richer fulfillment happening since… and today in the church. Means we need to be doing it right, living as we ought, both Acting In and Acting Out.

Why Do You Fast?

Zechariah 7:1-14 

Approx. 2 years have elapsed since night of visions. Is thought perhaps Temple about half completed, would take another 2 or 3 years to finish.

Group of exiles who had returned to Judah were looking for guidance, sent group of men in leadership to seek answers to their question. Is small “difficulty” with text, since preposition not present in Hebrew. Were men sent to Bethel, “the house of God” (2) or from Bethel to “the house of the LORD” (3)? Since they asked priests and prophets serving in “the house of the LORD”, means they went to Jerusalem and the Temple. Since “house of God (El)” nowhere else refers to Temple, is very likely were people of Bethel who sent delegation to Jerusalem.

God graciously supplied what they needed, even though probably more than they were looking for! As always, God gets to heart of matter, addressing not only surface issues but also underlying cause. Similarly, God expects his people to think, to remember, to connect dots and reach conclusions that will lead to growth in godliness.

A. question  v.1-3

right place  (2)

any number of options, where to go to find answers to important life-questions – in previous times had chosen badly

OT filled with examples of bad choices: seeking guidance from peers, false prophets, witch, idols, foreign rulers

Sherezer, et al. confident they would receive proper direction from those serving true God at Temple – should be no identity questions there

principle reinforced by Paul’s statement about the church: declared to be “the pillar and ground (mainstay) of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15)

right person  (3a)

wanted to hear ultimately from God – first thing on list of tasks: “pray before the Lord”, seeking God’s favor/direction

were also prepared to hear what priests and prophets would say – expectation being they would speak truth

had confidence God’s servants would speak God’s word to them accurately, that God speaks thru other people

probably part of their prayer – that God would show favor by speaking, that they would hear accurately

wrong question  (3b)

several likely causes for mourning / fasting: loss of national sovereignty; overthrow of Jerusalem; destruction of Temple; forced relocation of citizens (exile)

current situation: declared 70-year exile over; substantial number of Jews returned to homeland; temple in process of being rebuilt

what is proper behavior under present circumstances? is time for mourning past? now time to rejoice?

question assumes something important to be true: that fasting / mourning for past 70 years pleased God

B. answer  v.4-7

favorite kind of answer – more questions! intended to get people thinking, dealing with more than just the obvious (external conformity to a particular standard)

why did you fast?  (5)

this an especially pointed question: majority of those fasting at time of question too young to remember “old days”

what personal stake did they have in their mourning? was it simply tradition, something expected by leaders and neighbors?

another way to put it: what was the connection between their religious observance and their relationship with God?

how did fasting and mourning demonstrate a spiritual reality in their lives, how did it enhance devotion / obedience to God?

even more important, are their religious practices / acts of worship ones that God expected them to perform? …and who decides if they are acceptable? so much for getting a yes or no answer!

why did you not fast?  (6)

if mourning and fasting had spiritual purpose, does reason for not fasting have spiritual component also?

or… are you most interested in relief from something that has become a burden and not spiritually productive?

question delegation asked focused on actions, were probably sincere in asking – motivation just as important to God

and… God could easily have asked “what have you really learned during last 70 years about God? about yourselves?

seems like answer would be: not much, not all they could have learned – still want to treat God like vending machine… put in token religious practices, get back rewards

why did you not obey?  (7)

if what they had done were enough, why didn’t they try that 70 years before? if all God wanted was external conformity, could have avoided exile

if they were really paying attention, this a smack between the eyes: sinners can’t make themselves acceptable to God no matter how hard they try, how good they look

their ending up in exile for 70 years clear evidence God requires more than anyone on their own can achieve

bottom line: acceptance by God is impossible based on man’s effort, only possible when God graciously accepts substitute and for his sake accepts man’s imperfect efforts

C. follow-up  v.8-14

perhaps significant pause between what God said v.8 and then v.9ff – time to think through personal and group answers to God’s questions, begin considering consequences of those answers… some of if-then’s

review (8-10)

before, during, after exile… no change in God’s standard, expectations – are to love neighbor because we love God

in order to be light to the nations, God’s people were to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God

right behavior – justice, mercy, compassion – must be overflow of right heart… in order to be pleasing to God

God expects same things of his people today, biggest differences: we have Jesus’ example, greater help from Holy Spirit

response  (11-12a)

pretty typical, actually – even God reminding his people of his expectations only made hearts harder, more resistance

we like sun, melts snow and ice with all attendant benefits – same sun bakes mud into bricks, hard enough for construction – works that way with hearts, too

good reminder for us: declaring God’s truth often provokes violent reaction – isn’t that people can’t hear, they won’t hear

at same time, God didn’t stop speaking to them through prophets – and some did hear and respond properly

we must not lose heart, keep praying that God would soften hearts, that they would hear / heed his truth we share

recompense  (12b-14)

God is everything he declared to Moses: “…merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”  (Ex. 34:6-7)

at same time, he is just and follows through on declaration that sin and sinners will not go unpunished forever

was merciful and gracious, repeatedly encouraging his people to do right and leave off their sin yet…

“Just as He had called, and they would not listen, so when they called, I would not listen,” says the Lord of Hosts.” CSB

no guarantee that when lost person is finally ready to cry out to God, he will listen – cannot presume on his mercy forever

God gave strong rebuke to his people through prophet Zechariah… and they deserved it. But wait, there’s more, wonderful promises of what God intended to do through his often faithless people, great acts of power and grace that would change the world.

All together, should encourage us to remember these things: God wants our obedience but he wants our love first. When we show our love for God by obeying him and loving our neighbor, God is pleased with us. And… when we do right thing out of right heart, God will bless it.

 

Behold, the BRANCH

Zechariah 6:9-15 

Zechariah’s “marathon at the movies” is over, back to standard prophet mode: “the word of the LORD came” introduces divine message given to the prophet for communication. This one included specific task for Zechariah – things to do as well as say. As always, God’s timing was perfect – people had lost focus, were discouraged, needed help to get on track and then stay on track. Sound familiar?

“This vision was given to Zechariah that he might inspire weak minds with better hope; for the Jews found that they were hardly pressed on every side by their neighbors, inasmuch as enemies rose up against them before and behind, so that there was no end to their troubles.” Calvin

Message may have been given 2500 years ago but still profitable today. For starters: makes plain that God has an all-inclusive plan that he is following. He knows where we are in the plan, what our needs are, he is not surprised by anything, and it all centers on his son the Lord Jesus.

That principle really the ultimate key to what Zechariah had seen in series of visions, question both he and people of God likely to have. Ok, so God has given all these awesome promises about how things are going to turn out. Inquiring minds wanted to know: how is God gonna pull that off? how will he make it all happen?

In dramatic show and tell, God through prophet both does and says startling and unprecedented things that should have made his people sit up and take notice. Over and over God declared this is what shall take place – timing and method may not be clearly known but the outcome is certain. It has God’s guarantee!

A. coronation  v. 9-11

hear a word, not see a vision

one difference readily apparent: time and again with visions Zechariah asked: what does this mean? did not have need to ask for further clarification this time

at same time, are not completely dissociated from visions – key figure Joshua has already had prominent part in fourth vision

receive an “offering”

are three fellows from among exiles who have recently arrived from Babylon – nothing stated about their purpose, how long they intended to stay

perhaps have heard how poorly things had gone with Temple, now beginning to progress again, brought contribution for work

whatever their reasons, were there in Jerusalem by God’s appointment, intended to be means God used to supply specific need

and btw, what was made from their offering would remind future generations both of their generosity & what it signified

make a crown

slight difficulty in the text: crown (`atarah) is plural, not singular – yet context indicates it/they are intended for one person

Zechariah to take both silver / gold, make “elaborate crown”, “crowns”, what would be called a crown that signified two things

first idea: crown, king, someone from kingly line, Zerubbabel… direct descendant of David in line of kings who had ruled

put it on the priest?

not the direction God tells Zechariah to go: set it on the head of the high priest – what in the world does God mean by that?

are different ways of answering question:

“presumably this oracle originally referenced both Zerubbabel and Joshua as recipients of these crowns, but subsequent political events prompted the removal of direct references to Zerubbabel. In short, the evidence that original references to Zerubbabel were removed or replaced from this oracle is quite strong, and this action suggests a deliberate attempt in the text’s redactional history to downplay Zerubbabel’s role as political leader who might threaten the Persian king Darius.” Book of the Twelve, Nogalski

another suggested solution: crown Joshua while giving Zerubbabel the eye – “they were careful to avoid any suggestion of treason. They therefore placed the crown on Joshua instead of on Zerubbabel; but the words used in the ceremony referred to Zerubbabel.” Bridgeway

evidence for amending the text is asserted but not given – since we have the text and not the evidence and the inspired explanation follows, that’s what we’ll go with

B. explanation  v. 12-14

remember Isaiah

second time Zechariah has referred to the BRANCH – Zech. 3:8 and here

“Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, For they are a wondrous sign; For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.”

this is 520 BC, Isaiah prophesied 740 BC and later… more than 200 years before – these references to BRANCH set off all kinds of lights and bells

terminology understood by Jewish people as referring to Messiah – introduced by Isaiah, continued in Jeremiah and Daniel, then Zechariah adds significant clarity… focusing more intensely on Messiah through rest of prophecy

the type

type: person or thing that prefigures what will come later – antitype: person or thing that comes later

e.g.: Rom. 5:14 “…Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. …For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.”

in Zech., Joshua was a type of the BRANCH, prefiguring / foreshadowing the one who would come later

two particular statements: (1) “From His place He shall branch out”; and (2) he “shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne” – something not permitted under Mosaic law

remember who is being crowned… Joshua the priest, being given role of king in addition – oh, the brain pain!

the antitype

so who is the BRANCH that grows out of the roots of Jesse, the descendant of David who would be both king and priest?

only one who fits the description: the one further revealed in rest of Zechariah’s ministry, Jesus the Messiah – further confirmation God intended to keep promises made

the BRANCH would accomplish far more than Joshua ever could – would have “ministry” far beyond Temple itself

C. propagation  v. 15

they will come

God gives three assurances about things yet future – but at same time not unqualified: promises come with a condition

“those from afar” phrase used to identify people beyond borders of covenant community – Gentiles would participate in building

you will know

Gentile participation must be more than simply use of contractors from away – already happened at first temple, would not count as sign of God’s faithfulness

their involvement will obviously be a “God thing”, implying they would be acting for religious rather than simply financial reasons

it will happen

a double assurance here: declares what will happen, then says again “it shall come to pass” – intends there to be no mistake

about what will happen, why it will happen, under what conditions it will happen – what comes after “if”

if you obey

condition should not be surprise: God expects obedience from his people, esp. important since disobedience brought exile

notice also which part each plays in this scenario: people obey, do what God commands, God brings about the outcome

Have already seen part of fulfillment – the BRANCH came, did his preliminary priestly work, now sits as priest on his throne. Our part in growth of his kingdom: faithful obedience, doing what we know God expects of us, trusting him to provide results. God does not expect us to do what gets results; he wants us to live by / act on principle – doing what is right because it is right, because he told us to do it. We can rest assured when we do that he will keep his promises.