Archive for February, 2014

Esther 1

Esther 1 is a man’s dream scripture if interpreted incorrectly.  The short story is that the queen disobeyed the kings request and he, following the suggestion of his advisor, put her away to never come before him again.  It would be easy to interpret this passage as saying that man is the ruler of woman and if she does not obey, she can be put away for ever at his whim.  Sounds pretty appealing doesn’t it?  But that isn’t exactly what this passage is about, so lets dig in a little deeper.

It is true that King Ahasuerus threw a big party to celebrate with people from all over the world at that time.  They came and “he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days”.  Not only did they eat, and drink, and drink, and be merry, but there was some chest pounding going on as well.  The king allowed his staff to enjoy the party and also allowed Queen Vashti to give “a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus”.  Everyone was having a good time and enjoying the party.

But on the seventh day, “when the heart of the king was merry with wine”, the king asked his men to bring Queen Vashti “before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at”.  Now the show and tell was going beyond his riches and glory to showing off the Queen. And in his drunken stupor, it is believed he wanted her to show with only her crown – in the nude as a display for the other drunken men of his court.  But that wasn’t the result.  The Queen refused the king’s command that was delivered by his eunuchs.  She disobeyed his order and the King got extremely angry.

One of his key men, Memucan, suggeseted that this might get out of control if left unchecked.  All the women of the kingdom would believe they could treat their husbands in the same way, and that could not be tolerated.  The king had to take action to correct the disobedience to his order.  “For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt”.  He convinces the king to issue a decree that “that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus”.  Probably not a just punishment given the request that he had made.  But the king followed the suggestion and sent letters to every province that “every man be master in his own household”.  This sets a search in motion to find a new queen

Zechariah 14

Zechariah 14 is described by the scholars as difficult to interpret with lots of different options offered.  Coffman says “Jesus defines some truth in the 24th chapter of Matthew where the subject under discussion is exactly the same as the theme of Zechariah here, “the destruction of Jerusalem (and the temple),” and “the time of the end of the world” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus’ reply comprises the whole subsequent chapter, in which he clearly indicated that Jerusalem the literal city would be destroyed, making it at the same time a type of events of final world conflict and the Second Coming of Christ.”

What we do know is that “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle….Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him”.  The battle will be the Lords.  When God determines what He will do, it will not depend on our might or power, it will be a battle that will be taken on by the Lord Himself.  We won’t be fighting alone.  And in fact, we may not be fighting at all.  God will be in control.

Scripture says “On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light”.  God isn’t limited to the standard fighting schemes.  He has control of the entire universe.  He can manipulate the light and dark, the cold and heat, the weather and every other facet of the day.  God will win when He decides to enter the battle.  The fight will not be ours, but will belong to the Lord.

We need to “worship the King” as the victor.  God is not only worthy of our praise, He deserves and demands it.  We need to place Him where He belongs, on the throne of our lives and His creation.  We need to focus on pointing to His holiness and goodness, and give Him the honor and glory He is due.  We need to present ourselves as His servants and children, and walk with Him as our Lord.  God desires a relationship with us.  He wants us to hold Him high as Lord and Master of His universe!

Zechariah 13

Zechariah 13 tells us of God’s purification of His people.  “On that day there shall be a fountain opened….to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness”.  God not only opened the fountain, but it remains open to cleanse us from sin.  Spurgeon wrote “This provision is inexhaustible. There is a fountain opened; not a cistern nor a reservoir, but a fountain. A fountain continues still to bubble up, and is as full after fifty years as at the first; and even so the provision and the mercy of God for the forgiveness and the justification of our souls continually flows and overflows.”

God has a plan to set us free from sin.  He dealt with it then through His fountain, but has since created a fountain of forgiveness and cleansing for us through the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross.  That never ends either.  God sent His Son to the cross to provide a way to cleanse us from sin and uncleanness.  He did that once for all.  It doesn’t matter when we are born or when we die.  Jesus blood covers a multitude of sin and will set us free and cleanse us.  But we have to receive that gift of grace.  We have to take it as our own.

Zechariah tells us that idols will be removed, and false prophets stripped of their place.  God is in the business of making things clean and pure.  And that extends to our lives as well.  He is going to purify us.  “I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested”.  We will go through difficult times to be refined.  The dross must be burned out of our lives.  It is not just easy sailing – there is junk that has to be removed.

But God doesn’t send us through that testing alone.  He is there with us all the way.  “They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God”.  Our God stays with us.  He will walk with us through the fire.  That doesn’t make it easy, but we certainly will not be alone.  We will not have to face it on our own.  Are you clinging to the Rock that will sustain and uphold you through times of trial?  He is there.  He is willing.  He is able!

Zechariah 12

Zechariah 12 has the prophet getting “The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel”.  Sometimes God’s truth can be pretty overwhelming.  The city of Jerusalem will be destroyed and then rebuilt some 70 years later.  “All the nations of the earth will gather against it”.  Certainly sounds a lot like things in the Middle East today doesn’t it.  The Jewish people have had a target on their backs for centuries. And Zechariah has to deliver some tough news, but then some fantastic news.

What changed?  God says He will step in.  “But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness”.  God is our protector and our strength.  He is an ever present help in time of trouble.  And the world was coming against His people, so He gives Zechariah the promise of His protection.  He gives them the answer to how He will step in and deliver them from their enemies.  God is able – more than able – to do as He says.

God is going to fulfill His promise of faithfulness to His people.  “The Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah”.  God is going to restore the glory that was previously experienced by His people.  He will take action and “on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem”.  God is going to protect His people.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn”.  But it is more than just saving their necks.  Part of this great outpouring of strength and might to defend Jerusalem will be an outpouring of the Spirit for grace and supplication. God will move among Israel and bring saving grace and repentant prayer.  He wants to save His people in multiple ways – physically but also eternally.

Zechariah 11

Zechariah 11 is quite a contrast from the previous chapters of blessing and hope by revealing the coming punishment side by side, alternating from one to the other.  The Savior himself recognized and used exactly that same means of communication. For example, the same chapter speaks of heaven and hell, blessing and cursing, light and darkness, etc.; and this pattern appears in practically all of the prophets. So Zechariah is absolutely consistent in moving from the glorious promises just related to this sad prophecy of the final overthrow and destruction of God’s People, the removal of their government, the destruction of vast numbers of their population, and the delivery of those that remained into the hands of the false shepherds they had preferred to the True Shepherd.

We see a very familiar story here as it relates to the story of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus that led to His crucifixion on the cross.  30 pieces of silver makes it pretty easy to connect the dots to Matthew’s depiction of what happens with Christ.  This chapter is about the rejection of Christ as Savior.  And while there are commentators that don’t seem to interpret it that way, the majority see clearly that Christ is the story line here and the punishment of those who reject Him as Savior the major theme.

This prophecy of the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot for thirty pieces of silver is one of the most remarkable in the Bible. It is not a single prophecy, but a whole collection of prophecies.  As we look at many places in scripture, we see the prophets foretell what is to come.  And history reveals that it has. Yet we struggle to accept the scripture as truth.  Why is that?  Why do we struggle so much to believe?  We need to look closely at God’s truth and realize that everything He has recorded either has, or will happen.  Which puts us at a very important fork in the road.

If God’s Word is true, which it absolutely is and has been proven time and time again, then what will we do with Jesus who is prophesied over and over in the Old Testament and reveals so very clearly to us in the New Testament.  But it goes beyond that broad question to this very personal one.  What will you do with Jesus?  He came to earth and lived as a man before going to the Cross to die for your sin.  You are at a fork in the road regarding eternity.  Will you choose to receive the Shepherd that Zechariah shares with us here, and we see throughout scripture?  Or will you resist the saving grace that Jesus offered when He died on the cross and face eternity on your own merit?  That won’t end well, but it is a choice you must make!

Zechariah 10

Zechariah 10 has the prophet speaking of our relationship with God.  He begins with a promise that is music to the ears of a farmer.  “Ask rain from the Lord…..and he will give them showers of rain”.  God is the almighty provider.  He alone makes the storm clouds.  He alone can make it rain.  And God desires that we come to Him with our requests, even about things that may seem as simple as the need for rain.  He is God of the big and small.  He is in control of the big and little, the details and the big picture.  God is God and above all.

There is a lot of misinformation and untruth that is shared in the world.  And God says “Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd”.  God holds those who are leaders accountable.  He says “I will punish the leaders for the Lord cares for His flock”.  God does not look the other way when people are misled and taken advantage of.  He holds people accountable to lead and teach in truth, not from man’s selfish ways.  God gets angry when people are taken advantage of.

God speaks of the restoration of His people.  “I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them”.  What a change from the pain and suffering His people have experienced for so long.  But God is going to restore them because of His love and compassion.  He is listening again and will not ignore their cries for help.

God says He will “gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before”.  What a change lies ahead.  God scattered, and now He will call them back with a whistle.  He struck them down and now He will restore and build them up.  He will “make them strong in the Lord and they shall walk in His name”.  God’s love is powerful.  His restoration is complete.  He can turn any situation from disaster to blessing and make a way for us.  We only need to seek Him.  We only need to obey and listen to His Words.  We can have the same if we follow Him!

Zechariah 9

Zechariah 9 has “the burden of the word of the Lord” coming to the prophet.  God’s Word is heavy.  It contains the truth of life, and death. It is the source of judgment, but also salvation.  And unlike the prophets of the old testament, who had to wait for God to speak truth into their lives, God has given us a written Book that contains all His Word.  We have the complete and perfect Word of God available for our reading and understanding every day.  We only need to open the Book and read it.

God reminds us “the Lord has an eye on mankind”.  God is watching.  God knows our heart.  God sees our actions.  How foolish to believe that we can get away with anything.  We sometimes make choices believing we will manage to fool some or hide our actions.  But even if those around us are fooled, God never is.  And He is watching and knows exactly what we do and why we do it.  He knows the condition of our sinful heart, and we will stand before Him and give account for what we did and didn’t do someday.  And we’ll hear exactly what that was because He sees all and knows all.

God speaks of the demise of many peoples and nations, and how He will “encamp…as a guard” and protect His people.  And He tells the people to rejoice greatly and shout out loud the goodness of His love.  Zechariah writes of Jesus coming when he says “your king is coming to you, righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey”.  God will make a way for us to overcome the penalty of sin and be able to spend eternity with Him.

God promises to restore the covenant with His people, and to protect them and return them to their former glory.  “On that day the Lord their God will save them”.  He will act and bring them back to His city.  “For how great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty”.  God is worthy of our praise.  He is the king of kings and Lord of Lords.  He is faithful to His word.  Even though His people did not walk in obedience and live as He required, even so, He still loves us.  He still made a way for us.  And He is calling us to come home!

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