Zechariah 1:7-17

On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.

During the night I had a vision, and there before me was a man mounted on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses.

I asked, “What are these, my lord?”

The angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.”

10 Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth.”

11 And they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.”

12 Then the angel of the Lord said, “Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” 13 So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.

14 Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, 15 and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.’

16 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the Lord Almighty.

17 “Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’”
(Zechariah 1:7-17 NIV)

In the first passage of the book of Zechariah, we saw Zechariah introduced, and God proclaiming His covenant toward His people again.  God pointed out that while He was angry with the Israelites’ forefathers, His covenant still transcended space and time. If the Israelites would return to the Lord, He would return to them.

Today, we begin with the first of a series of eight visions that the Lord gave to Zechariah the prophet.  This second word from the Lord to Zechariah came three months after the first prophecy, and two months after Haggai’s last prophecy.

The book of Haggai used a lot of practical teaching and examples with a little bit of symbolism thrown in.  By contrast, the book of Zechariah uses a lot of symbolism to teach and instruct.

In this first vision, we see this symbolism manifested, along with the spiritual significance that goes with it.

The date (the 24th day of the 11th month) was one week before their New Year’s Day.  In our modern calendars, this would equate to February 15th, 519 BC.  Their New Year’s Day typically signalled the beginning of spring.  Their New Year also began all building projects, as well as military initiatives.

From history, we know that King Darius and his army marched from Babylon to Egypt in 519 BC to ensure Egypt’s loyalty to Persia.  Their army would pass through Judah, likely through Jerusalem.  The Israelites knew about this upcoming event and were likely concerned about what would happen and how they would be treated by the King and his army.

The location of this vision is in a ravine, under a grove of myrtle trees.  Scholars believe this to be in the Kidron valley, outside Jerusalem.  The Lord’s house (the Temple) was not yet rebuilt, so there was not a place for the Lord to take up residence in Jerusalem.

The horses (vv. 8-10) were symbols of dominance and power.  Verse 10 tells us that the horses represented an angelic patrol dispersed across the earth; verse 11 says that they are gathered together because there is peace around the world.  This would be a great relief and reassurance to the Jewish people, knowing that the Lord was watching over them and that they had nothing to worry about with King Darius and his army passing through.

The angel then asked the next obvious question before Zechariah could say anything:  How long would it be until God would bless His people again?  Verses 12-13 tell us that the Lord spoke words of kindness and comfort to the angel.  Yes, the Lord had been angry with Israel’s forefathers (1:2), but now He was compassionate toward His people.

The Lord had now shifted His anger toward the nations that He had used to judge His people – these nations had taken things too far (v. 14).  The Lord is now jealous for Jerusalem and the nation of Israel (v. 13) and wants to protect and provide for them again.

For those of us as parents, does this sound familiar?  Our kids drove us nearly crazy sometimes with their childish ways and disobedience, and our constant discipline of them.  But if someone else (either an adult or another kid) started picking on or bullying our child, our immediate response was to protect them – the “papa bear” and “mama bear” instinct overrode whatever was going on between that child and ourselves.

The Lord reiterated plainly that He would return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and show mercy and compassion to His people (v. 16).  The Lord ends the vision by reassuring  Israel that He will restore the relationship with His people, and His blessing will return to the land and its inhabitants (v. 17).  Other translations of verse 17 repeat the word “again” four times to show God’s covenant promise to be true.

This vision was both a relief and a sign of hope for a weary nation.

May we also take comfort in the Lord’s words, and in His provision and protection.  Just as the Lord promised to be with Jerusalem and Israel in Zechariah’s day, Jesus promises to be with us in our day, until He comes again (Matthew 28:20b).

May we live humbly, securely, and confidently in HIs promise.

Blessings,
~kevin

Zechariah 1:1-6

In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:

“The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?

“Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’”
(Zechariah 1:1-6 NIV)

As we open the book of Zechariah the minor prophet, we meet him in verse 1.  As mentioned in the Introduction yesterday, Zechariah was likely born in Babylon and came to Jerusalem as a young man, with his father Berechiah and his grandfather Iddo (Nehemiah 12:1-4).

Zechariah’s first recorded prophecy came about two months after Haggai’s first recorded prophecy (Haggai 1:1) and somewhere between Haggai’s second (Haggai 2:1) and third (Haggai 2:10) prophecies.

So what was the word that the Lord gave to Zechariah?

“Return to me, and I will return to you.” (v. 3)

In other words, repent and restore their relationship with God.

The message was old (Jeremiah 3:12, 4:1), but its hearers new.  The Lord was angry with the Israelites’ forefathers because they did not obey the Lord, nor did they want any relationship with Him (vv. 2 and 4).

The Lord then asks the people two questions (v. 5):

  1. Where are your forefathers? (assumed deceased)
  2. Where are the prophets who spoke to your forefathers? (also assumed deceased)

The Lord then reminded them that His covenant relationship with His people transcends the measures of space and time (v. 6).  The Lord also reminded His people that their forefathers eventually came to their senses and repented, although it was only after they felt God’s anger and wrath because of their hardened hearts and their disobedience to Him.

May we remember that the Word of the Lord and the Lord of the Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8 and John 1:1-5).

Remember that God is with you and me today; we have all the provision we need.

Blessings,
~kevin

Introduction to Zechariah

Today we begin a new study as we look at the Old Testament minor prophetic book of Zechariah.

Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai and Ezra and served as a prophet to the leaders and people of Israel during the reconstruction of the Temple.

Zechariah was a common name in ancient Biblical times.  Scholars note that there are approximately 30 different people with the name “Zechariah” found in Scriptures.  The Zechariah whom we are studying is the son of Berechiah and the grandson of Iddo.

Zechariah was born in Babylon as a exiled refugee; he came to Jerusalem as part of the group sent to rebuild the Temple and re-establish Jewish worship.

The author of Zechariah for the first eight chapters is clearly Zechariah, as he often refers to himself in the first person, or he is named in the text.  The authorship of the second part of the book is not as clear but scholars generally attribute Zechariah as the author.

The literary style of the book of Zechariah is generally considered both prophetic and apocalyptic.  The prophetic style is applicable to the first eight chapters, while the apocalyptic (end times) style is applicable to chapters 9 through 14.

The major messages of the book are as follows:

  1. Restoration of the Temple (chapters 1 – 8)
  2. Coming of Messiah first. and then His Eternal Kingdom (chapters 9-14)

There are a lot of important topics and key verses in this book.  The overarching theme, however, is the nations’ desire to know the One True God:

20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”

23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”
(Zechariah 8:20-23 NIV)

In this minor prophet, we see the major message of Israel’s restoration of their relationship with God, and the world’s longing to know Him, the Lord of all.

May our longing to know God more deeply and to be in abiding relationship with Him be our desire as we study the book of Zechariah.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 2

Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2 NIV)

With all of the news and social media up in arms about what’s going on in the world, I often yearn for a fresh perspective from all the tired “us vs. them” rhetoric that gets tossed to and fro.  Everyone’s talking, and no one is listening.  It seems that the world has forgotten how to participate in civil discourse that leads to solving problems and making forward societal progress.  Instead, the problems perpetuate and all people suffer the consequences of selfish political agendas, bitter rivalries, and inaction on the part of those who are charged with making this world a better place.

Verses 1 – 3 sound so much like our world today, don’t they?  What a mess!

I’m not espousing any particular view point here – left, right, or otherwise.  I am simply pondering what God must think of all this mayhem.

When I re-read this Psalm recently, I was reminded of God’s perspective on all this.  Verses 4 – 6 capture such a refreshing reminder of God’s view.

First, we see God having a sense of humor, as He laughs at the situation at hand (v. 4).  Next, he reminds everyone that He alone is sovereign and that He has set His ruler in place over all the kings and kingdoms (v. 6).  And what is the reaction of all the earthly rulers squabbling like little children over their “piece of the pie”?   They are rebuked and terrified by God’s display of power and holiness (v. 5).

So what is the psalmist’s response?  To remember what God has said, to be dependent on Him for provision, blessing, and protection (vv. 7 – 9).

And what are the psalmist’s words of advice to us?  To serve the Lord with fear (deep respect), to celebrate His sovereignty, and take refuge in Him (vv. 10 – 12).

It’s easy to dismiss this Psalm by rationalizing that you and I are not kings or rulers in the political sense, isn’t it?

However, I think there are two important applications of today’s text as it pertains to us:

  1. While we may not be kings or rulers, we are responsible for our own lives and also accountable for how we interact with and treat others.  We must be under God’s sovereignty for those interactions and relationships.
  2. For those in office and positions of human responsibility over us, this is certainly a great way to pray for them.  God is sovereign, whether they like it or not.    The sooner that those in authority realize God’s authority and place themselves under Him, the better life will be for them and those under them.

 

May we practice living under God’s sovereignty and authority and pray for those over us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 113

Psalm 113

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, you his servants;
    praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
    both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
    his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
    the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
    on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
    with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
    as a happy mother of children.

Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 113 NIV)

Join with me today as I read and think about this Psalm.

As I read verses 1 through 4, I imagine a large group of people worshipping the Lord, with men, women, and children from every nation and ethnicity represented, all focused on the Lord and giving Him glory.

As you read verses 5 through 9, can you, in your mind’s eye, see Jesus sitting beside the Father in heaven, as Jesus stands up, steps out of heaven and onto the dusty soil of earth?

Can you see Jesus stoop down to speak with a poor soul who has given up on life, to hear their story, to offer love and hope both now and for eternity?

Can you see Jesus speaking to you in your hard times, listening intently, as He dries your tears, helps you stand, and walks with you?

May you experience God’s favor and sense His presence today.

Blessings,
~kevin

Haggai 2:20-23

20 The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21 “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. 22 I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.

23 “‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
(Haggai 2:20-23 NIV)

In our previous passage, the Lord blessed His people for their obedience in rebuilding the Temple.  God redeemed His people as only He could do, forgiving their sin and restoring them to right relationship with Himself.  Because of the Israelites’ obedience, the Lord lifted the consequences of their sin and restored His blessings upon them.

In today’s passage, the Lord speaks through Haggai the prophet a second time on the same day.  This time, the message is not for the Jewish people, but rather, for Zerubbabel the governor.

In the same way that God blessed the Jewish people for their obedience and removed the consequences of their disobedience, the Lord is blessing Zerubbabel for his obedience in leading the people to rebuild the Temple and removing the consequences of his forefathers’ disobedience.

Remember that Zerubbabel was in the Davidic line that led to the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:12).  And who was in Zerubbabel’s family tree?  None other than several ungodly, evil kings, including Jehoiachin (1 Chronicles 3:17), also known as Coniah.

To understand the significance of the Lord using the image of the signet ring as His blessing, we have to go back to Jeremiah 22:24, where the used the signet ring image as a sign of displeasure against Jehoiachin, Zerubbabel’s grandfather.  The Lord told Jehoiachin that if he were a signet ring on God’s hand, God would take him off because of Jehoiachin’s willful disobedience to the Lord.

Now we see the Lord saying that Zerubbabel is God’s signet ring, His seal, His mark that He is leaving on the world.  God has blessed Zerubbabel’s obedience and removed the consequences of his grandfather’s sin.

So what is the Lord going to do?  He is going to “shake the nations”, destroying the man-made power bases of the nations, intervene on behalf of His people, and establish Himself as the ruler of heaven and earth (vv. 21b-22).

Looking forward from Zerubbabel’s perspective, this was initially fulfilled on a spiritual basis through the Messiah, Jesus Christ during His first coming to earth.  Jesus promises to come again, this time fulfilling His role as Lord of heaven and earth once and for all.

May we look forward to that day when Christ comes again, knowing we live in a broken world in desperate need of a Savior.

And may we be faithful like Zerubbabel, stepping by obedience and faith into whatever God calls us to do, finishing well despite hardships and opposition that confronts us.

Do you know someone who is persevering for the Lord despite their circumstances?  Write them a note, give them a call, and let them know the positive impact their life is making on yours, how their faithfulness encourages you in your walk with Christ.

Blessings,
~kevin

Haggai 2:10-19

10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai: 11 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: 12 If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’”

The priests answered, “No.”

13 Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”

“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.”

14 Then Haggai said, “‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the Lord. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.

15 “‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on—consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple.16 When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. 17 I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not return to me,’ declares the Lord. 18 ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: 19 Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.

“‘From this day on I will bless you.’”
(Haggai 2:10-19 NIV)

After Haggai spoke the first word of the Lord to the leaders and people of Israel, rebuking them for not rebuilding the Temple as they had been commissioned, the people repented, listened, and began the rebuilding work.

About a month after the Lord had rebuked the leaders and people, the Lord spoke again, this time to encourage the leaders and the people to be strong, take courage, keep working, and not to let fear stop the rebuilding work.  This was a crucial moment in Israel’s history.  Even though this Temple was smaller than Solomon’s original Temple, the Lord promised to fill this new Temple with more glory than the original one.  And more importantly, the Lord promised to bring peace, something the leaders and Israelite had not known for a very, very long time.

As we step into today’s text, we see the Lord speaking through Haggai the prophet again, this time approximately two months after He spoke words of encouragement to the leaders and the people.

The Lord directed Haggai to ask two questions to the priests:

  1. If something consecrated (such as a piece of cooked meat offered on the altar) touches something common (such as other food), will the common things become holy?  The priests’ answer was “no”.
  2. If someone ceremonially unclean touches anything, whether holy or unholy, will that thing become unclean?  The priests answered, “yes, it becomes defiled (unclean)”.

The Lord used these two questions to show that He had considered the people ceremonially unclean.  The Lord had set Israel apart (made them holy) to do His work (rebuilding the Temple).  But the leaders and people had stopped for fifteen years, and the Temple stood like a dead corpse in the middle of their city, a testimonial to their unfinished work and disobedience to the Lord.

With the entire city pronounced as unclean before the Lord, this affected not only their status before the Lord but also their well-being.  The famine, droughts, and pestilence were all a direct result of their disobedience to the Lord.

Thankfully, this was not the end of the Lord’s word through Haggai the prophet.  In verses 18-19, the Lord does something no one else can do – He offers salvation by His grace and blessing to His people once again.

Let’s take a quick look at the calendar to understand the context of the Lord’s statement.   The original word of the Lord was in late September, during the harvest.  This third word from the Lord was three months later, in December.  The harvest was complete, the fall tillage was done, the late autumn rains had fallen, and the winter seeds were sown, and the uncertainty of spring lay ahead.

And yet now, in December, the Lord offered His blessings due to the obedience of the people in rebuilding the Temple.  The Lord predicted that there would be great physical harvest as a result of His blessings on His people, just there would be a great spiritual blessing on His people because they obeyed and were rebuilding the Temple.

May we see the image of Christ painted in today’s story – how we who were unclean with no hope of redemption were pronounced clean and holy by God’s grace, through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. and how we are promised God’s blessings of eternal life, just as the Lord promised the blessing of an abundant crop next September while the seed lay dormant in the December ground.

May we see how we are promised God’s blessings of eternal life through Christ, just as the Lord promised the blessing of an abundant crop next September while the seed lay dormant in the December ground before spring and summer had come.

May we see that like that seed that lay in that soil, unless we die to self, we cannot produce a harvest and multiply His glory as the Lord intended.

Blessings,
~kevin