Archive for April, 2017

Zechariah 10

Zechariah 10 has the prophet reminding the people that God cares about the details of life.  “Ask rain from the Lord….and he will give them showers of rain”.  Ancient Israel had no irrigation system, and relied on rain to water their crops. In a time of drought, nothing grew – so Israel relied on rain falling from the skies to keep their crops alive and growing.  It might have seemed a bit insignificant, but Zechariah reminds them that God is responsible for all things and we need to seek His hand to provide.  He reminds us to be bold enough to ask, and God will answer your prayer. God will provide what only He can provide.

There is a leadership problem among the people.  The people have listened to false and deceptive leaders, and part of the reason is because there is a lack of godly leadership.  God expects His leaders to step up and lead the people well.  Where there is no leadership, the people fall. “The people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd. My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock”.  Leadership is serious business and God expects leaders to lead well.

Part of leading well is to realize that God, not the leader, has the answers.  God has a plan for all eternity and reminds us through Zechariah that Jesus was that plan.  “From him shall come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler— all of them together”.  Guzik points out:

  • Jesus is the cornerstone: the foundation, measure, and standard
  • Jesus is the tent peg: holding all things securely
  • Jesus is the battle bow: a strong fighter for good
  • Jesus is the leader over every ruler of His people

Jesus is God’s plan for His people, not merely for salvation, but also as Lord!

Finally, Zechariah reminds us again that God is in the restoration business. “I will whistle for them and  gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before….I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall walk in his name”.  The promise to gather Israel is repeated often.  God has been doing it for generations and centuries.  He has a plan to restore His people and that plan is underway and well on its way to completion.  We need to keep in mind that when God gathers Israel and defeats their enemies they shall walk in freedom and liberty again, just as He has promised.

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Zechariah 9

Zechariah 9 has the prophet receiving a heavy word from the Lord.  “The burden of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach and Damascus is its resting place”.  Zechariah sets up the picture of the judgment that is to come.  Most see this burden against the land of Hadrach as fulfilled by the armies of Alexander the Great when he conquered this region.  Delivering God’s truth is often not easy, and can even feel like a burden.  But His truth never changes and we need to give it to people straight as God gives it to us.  Sugar coating not required – just a dose of truth.

Tyre attempted to make itself strong and immune to the attacks of others.  “Tyre has built herself a rampart and heaped up silver like dust, and fine gold like the mud of the streets. But behold, the Lord will strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire”. Tyre was one of two major cities north of Israel, in the land of Lebanon. Tyre was an important commercial city that was thought of as impossible to conquer, but Alexander did it in seven months.

Zechariah prophecies of many changes that were to come, but he gives assurance that Jerusalem will be spared.  “Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again march over them, for now I see with my own eyes”. When Alexander the Great marched through Lebanon and the Promised Land towards Egypt he did not conquer or attack Jerusalem. God promised to protect and spare His house during this time, and He did through a remarkable chain of events.

Zechariah tells us of the coming Savior and King – Jesus Christ.  “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.  We’re told to rejoice and shout and celebrate the coming King.  God has had a plan for our redemption for a very long time.  His name is Jesus. He alone can deal with the sin problem we have in our lives.  God is faithful and He will restore us to Himself.  What a blessing.  What a glorious and loving God. “For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty”!

Zechariah 8

Zechariah 8 has the prophet hearing a direct word from the Lord.  “I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain”.  God’s coming back.  His people and city will be transformed by His presence.  Because of God’s presence the city will be transformed into a place of truth and holiness. When God’s presence is real and embraced in our life, we become people of Truth and Holy people.  God’s power in our lives makes us different people.

Zechariah assures them that things will change.  They have been in bondage and scattered across the nations.  But now they have been restored and while there were many who were unable to make the trip back, life will move toward normal again.  “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets”.  Young and old will be there and life will begin to return to normal.

God gives them a promise to cling to.  “I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.  And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness”.  God promises a gathering from exile to come that will far surpass the present gathering.  Not everyone has been able to come home, but that day is coming.  The gathering God promises will not just be a physical gathering, but also a spiritual gathering. It won’t just be that their address changes, but their heart also.

Life changes when God is in control.  God has promised His love and care for His people.  They have returned to Jerusalem to live with Him there.  When God is allowed to be our all, people notice.  “In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”.  People are drawn to seeing God at work in us and through us.  The prophet reminds people that their lives are on display and people are watching.  It’s true for us today.  People pay attention to how we live and what we do.  Are you shining Jesus on those in your patch?

Zechariah 7

Zechariah 7 has the Word of the Lord again coming to the prophet.  If there is one consistency between all the prophets of the Bible, it is the reality that they were connected and communicating with God.  They didn’t just make things up or provide their personal interpretation.  They heard directly from God and got it ‘straight from the horses mouth’ so to say.  “The word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month”.  Do you hear from God?  Do you make it possible to hear from Him?  Sometimes we don’t listen, or create enough quiet that we can hear even when He tries to connect with us.

Zechariah tackles one of the traditions of his day – the yearly fast that was done in the fifth and seventh months and had been going on for 70 years.  But God questions the motivation.  These fasts were not commanded by God, but instituted by man. Yet because they were traditionally practiced for so long, they developed an authority of their own. People had done this for so many years, they wanted to keep doing it whether it was God honoring or not.  We can get trapped doing ‘good things’ for the wrong reason and that was true of these traditions – the people felt good but missed God.

And worse, they missed what matters most – how they lived out their daily lives.  God’s expectations were to “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart”.  God cared about how they treated each other, not whether they were following some tradition and missing the mark completely.  We have to be careful to stay focused on what matters to God – our walk with Him, and how we love people in our patch.

But Zechariah knows his people are failing and God has some harsh words.  “They refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through  the former prophets”.  The people made a deliberate choice to disobey what God expected and stay true to their long honored traditions.  The fast had lost it’s focus, and what really mattered in taking care of people around them, had been lost.

We’re guilty of the same today.  We get caught up in just doing what we’ve always done, with little to no regard to what God may be asking us to do.  Rather than seek and listen, we just keep living how we want.  We all wrestle with change, particularly in our spiritual lives.  We like comfort and what feels good to us.  But that carries a price as God has expectations and requirements.  “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear, says the Lord of hosts, and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known”.  How we live matters and we need to seek God, hear God and then obey God.  It’s not about us keeping tradition but loving and serving a very living God!

Zechariah 6

Zechariah 6 has the word of the Lord coming to our prophet again.  This time, he sees horses, and not just any horses but specific colors of horses.  “The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong”.  Commentators tell us the usual Scriptural symbolism:

  • red speaks of war
  • black of famine and death
  • white of victory
  • dappled of pestilence

There is disagreement on exactly what these horses represent – some saying it aligns with Daniel’s prophecy and others that it is connected to what we are told in Revelation by John.

John Calvin said that these angels are compared to horsemen on chariots because “these ride swiftly as it were through the whole world to execute what God commands them.” If Zechariah had the technology of today he might picture the angels in fast cars or fighter jets, showing how swiftly and powerfully they move across the earth to accomplish God’s purpose.  “When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, Go, patrol the earth. So they patrolled the earth”.  The bottom line is that God will judge all people, and do it quickly and efficiently.

God takes a different approach from history with Joshua.  It was absolutely unusual to crown a high priest, because priests were never crowned as kings and kings were never priests.  “Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest”. There already was a strong, godly civil leader in Jerusalem named Zerubbabel. It seems like it would have made a lot more sense to crown Zerubbabel instead of Joshua . . . the high priest. But Joshua was crowned because the next descendant of David to rule would be Jesus, prophesied by the high priest Joshua.

This wasn’t about Joshua being king, but the crown for Joshua was a picture of the ruling Priest-King in the future – Jesus Christ. God was not focused on Joshua to taking control as king in the Jerusalem of his day.  It was an attempt to let His people know that there was something far greater coming, and He (Jesus) would serve the dual role as priest and king.  “And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.  And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God”.  Zechariah paints a picture of the future – a coming Messiah priest and king we know to be Jesus!

Zechariah 5

Zechariah 5 has the prophet seeing two visions form the Lord.  The first involved a flying scroll.  “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits….This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land”.  The scroll was approximately 15 by 30 feet.  It is apparently open to read because Zechariah can see how large the scroll is.  The text on the scroll contains the Ten Commandments.  “For everyone who steals shall be cleaned….and everyone who swears falsely…”.  The two sins, one from each side of the tablets of the Ten Commandments, represent all of Israel’s sin. God will curse the people who commit these sins and their house.

God will hold us accountable for how we live.  Sin carries a price.  We are all guilty – scripture is clear about that.  We will stand before God someday and have to give an account and explain to God about our choices.  We’ll stand there unholy and in judgment.  The penalty is eternal and will cause us to be separated from God unless we have received the shed blood of Christ through God’s free offer of grace that will cover all our sin and set us free.  God’s scroll is still flying through the lands.  We are under that reality, but we do have a way to overcome our sin today – Jesus Christ.

Zechariah then sees another vision.  “This is the basket….the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the basket”!  The woman, the basket, and the weight are associated with wickedness. They represent greed, materialism, and dishonesty for profit. Zechariah prophesied to those who returned from the Babylonian exile. God’s people came back from Babylon with a materialism problem, and this vision speaks to this problem.  God is going to fix their issue and clear the focus on stuff rather than Him.

God is sending the sin back to where it originated.  God has two beings with wings and “they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven” and carried it back to Babylon.  God will cause this evil, materialistic spirit to be returned to its starting-place: Babylon. There it will eventually be destroyed.  The problems of the people in Zechariah’s time are the same that many of us face today.  Materialism can get between us and God and make us feel self sufficient and not needing God at all.  That’s a dangerous place to be, and God will remove that feeling by wiping out that which we hold so dear.

Zechariah 4

Zechariah 4 has an angel awakening the prophet to reveal a vision of a golden lampstand.  Zechariah asks the angel what the lampstand and its parts was all about.  The angel describes a very unique lampstand with lamps that were self filling as they were directly fed by connections to olive trees.  That would be a very unique lampstand – as one of the duties of the priests doing temple service was to keep the lamp stands filled with pure olive oil.  That was a tedious and constant part of their job, but this vision showed a very different way.

The angel also gave Zechariah a word to tell Zerubbabel, who was a leader in Jerusalem and was responsible to finish the work of rebuilding the temple.  God gave these powerful words: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts”.  In order to finish the work, it wasn’t going to depend on man and the effort of the people.  Might refers to the collective strength of the group, where power refers to the individual strength of a single person.  God says it won’t be either that will get the job done, but it will be His Spirit.

One of the challenges we face as humans is that we trust our own strength and ability first and sometimes only.  But when God has a task for us, it often requires more power than we can muster on our own.  We often then reach out to others to try and put the collective might toward the task, but that too will often fall short of what is needed for a God given task.  We need to learn to trust God and His Spirit.  When we trust in our own resources – whether they be small or great – then we don’t enjoy the power of the Spirit.  God doesn’t step in while we are trying to do it on our own.

God wanted Zerubbabel to know that the Holy Spirit would continually supply his need, just as the oil trees in the vision continually supplied oil to the lamps on the lampstand. God wants His supply and our reliance on the Holy Spirit to be how we live life with Him.  Our success is not about our own power or ability to put together others might, but to learn to rely on and live in the presence of the Holy Spirit who is always able and available as long as we stay out of the way.  God desires to do great things through us, just like Zerubbabel, but we can’t get in the way.

God makes it clear that the temple will be completed.  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it”.  When the work is done by God’s Spirit there are not only resources to begin the work, but also to finish the work. God is a finisher.  He always does what He says.  The temple has laid in ruin for over 20 years, and now Zerubbabel is on task to finish.  God tells him not to ignore the small things.  “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel”.  Often the key to getting the big things done is to focus on the small things.  It’s the continual focus on taking the next step that allows us to complete the bigger task.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the small stuff had to be done.  Though the work was empowered by the Spirit of God, Zerubbabel still need his plumb line. He still needed to do the work. God could have given Zerubbabel a shortcut and instantly, miraculously finished the work. That’s isn’t God’s way of doing things, because His work in the life of Zerubbabel was as important to Him as His work through Zerubbabel.  God is about who we are and become, not what we do.  We need to never forget that building our godliness and holiness is job one!

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