Monthly Archives: January 2015

Zechariah 12: Under Attack

Zechariah 12 gives a prophecy that speaks to a future time when Jerusalem will be under siege. Understanding the accuracy of Biblical prophecy, this could make the people nervous. I think that it would make me nervous. If God doesn’t fail, and God is saying that I am going to be in a siege, it could certainly be frightening news.

However, even with that assurance, there is also positive prophecy as well.

Zec 12:2  Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.

Zec 12:3  And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

Verse three is powerful. Anyone who tries to burden themselves with Jerusalem is going to be defeated. God first assures Jerusalem and all of Judah that they are going to be attacked, but He also assures them that if they are attacked, they are not going to get very far.

Now, I’m not claiming that this prophecy is directly about the lives of the individual Christians today, but I do think there are parallels. For example, we are promised that there will be difficult times in the world. We might be under attack at certain times, and we might feel like there are more difficulties than we could ever want. However, there is a similar theme in the New Testament that Jesus has overcome the world, so we do not need to fear anything that happens in the world. Jesus overcame death itself.

As we look at this promise made to the people of Jerusalem and Judah, it is somewhat easier in my mind to try to parallel what might be at least comparable for those of us today.

Zechariah 11: 30 Pieces of Silver

Zechariah 11 is kind of a difficult passage because it is a conversation regarding the Messiah, but it is being conducted through Zechariah. Zechariah is not the Messiah, but God is speaking to him as He would speak to the Messiah. Therefore, when God says, “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter,” in verse three, He is not really talking to Zechariah. We know that because when you go down to verse seven, they is clearly related to the Messiah who was not Zechariah. It is kind of a strange literary device, but we get another very strong piece of Messianic prophecy in this chapter.

Zec 11:12  And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.

Zec 11:13  And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

His wages were 30 pieces of silver for what He did on earth. This has a double meaning. The obvious connection is to the bribe given to Judas Iscariot for the betrayal of Jesus Christ. That was the price that was paid for the information.

The other connection is from Exodus 21:32. If the servant was killed by an ox, the owner of the ox had to pay the owner of the servant 30 pieces of silver and the ox would die. It is interesting that Jesus was betrayed for the price of a servant.

The double meaning is very significant here, and it is again a solid example of a fulfilled prophecy. I have no way of knowing this, but I wonder if there was any discussion among the Jewish leaders about how much money to give to Judas. I mention that because they were obviously knowledgeable about the Old Testament. These passages in Zechariah point to the Messiah rather clearly, and it is surprising that no one put the pieces together and realized that they had just done their part in fulfilling another piece of prophecy.

I think that the lesson here is that Jesus was not what the religious leaders expected. He did not come as a military or political leader, and that was problematic for some people. Instead, He came and fulfilled prophecy to the letter. It is interesting what people were looking for.

Zechariah 10: Meeting the Criteria

In Zechariah 10, we have more Messianic prophecy. In the beginning, God is talking about how the shepherds who were put in charge of overseeing the flock of Israel had been doing a bad job. As a result, there was going to come one who was much better.

Zec 10:3  Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.

Zec 10:4  Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together.

Zec 10:5  And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded.

There are a few interesting things. God has made Judah a strong force in battle, but out of Judah is going to come someone interesting. Jesus Christ is certainly the chief cornerstone. This word for nail also means a peg or is translated in the ESV as a tent peg. It makes me think of an anchor who will hold on tightly. The battle bow reminds me of someone who is coming to war and who is going to bring a sword as well. Oppressor is a word with different connotations today, but the original word according to Strong’s Numbers is from a primitive root meaning to drive. The ESV translates it as ruler, and the commentary of John Gill agrees with the oppressor translation, but he believes it has a positive connotation as shown in Isaiah 60:17. I would agree with that given the context of the verse.

This is very indicative. It seems like a tall order. First of all, the Messiah had to be from the tribe of Judah, and the Messiah would have to exhibit all of these characteristics. When you combine that with the variety of other prophecies that point to the Messiah from around the Bible, it makes a pretty strong cumulative case that the simple fact that Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies is powerful. The odds are against it, but Jesus seems to have done it.

Zechariah 9: Worldwide Kingdom

There is a Messianic prophecy alert in Zechariah 9.

Zec 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

Zec 9:10  And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.

This entire chapter is a futuristic vision, it is pretty clear how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in verse nine. He rode into Jerusalem on a colt on Palm Sunday. However, verse 10 is also significant. He will speak peace to the heathen, and His kingdom will extend across the world.

It is interesting because I would argue that Christianity was the first global religion. I am obviously not a professional historian, but when I think about the religions of the world that existed prior to Jesus Christ, most of them were for particular countries or areas. Judaism was not necessarily evangelistic. When I reflect on Native American religions, they were largely tribal although there were similarities between tribes. In Egypt, they certainly had a pantheon of deities, but it wasn’t as if that worship extended much beyond the Egyptian borders. Maybe there is some instance out there that I’m not thinking of, but it seems to me that prior to Christianity, the statement would have been particularly shocking.

No religion extended that far. No one had the means to spread a religion on that scale. Here is a prophecy then that is something different. It must have been controversial at the time. Who would be able to have that kind of kingdom?

Today, there are Christians all over the world. We live in a time where, after I post this article today, it is possible for someone in South Africa, Russia, or Australia to read this simultaneously. Having this type of global reach is routine for us today, but thinking back to the time of Zechariah, I bet that this was controversial and somewhat questionable. It was arguing that something would happen that seemed virtually impossible. It happened though.

Zechariah 8: Secular Values

God gives Zechariah a vision of a more peaceful Zion, and it is interesting because He outlines some things that will and will not be happening in this great future.

Zec 8:16  These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:

Zec 8:17  And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.

People are going to be honest. Notice that truth is mentioned twice. People are going to be honest with each other, and judgment is going to be executed based on the truth. There will not be twisted or unfair judgment.

In verse 17, it basically says that there will not be any dishonesty. You will not have these hidden feelings inside that you want to hurt your neighbor. That is a form of dishonesty. You will not make a promise you can’t keep. God takes promises very serious, and James even warns against them. Why? They are hard to keep, and if you do not, it is a form of dishonesty.

This chapter sounds like a very bright future, so it is very significant that if the people want that future, they ought to do what they are advised here.

I don’t think it is really rocket science that we should be honest. Most of us know that, and we have been taught that from some of our earliest memories. However, here is the challenge. I believe that we ought to be honest because we are commanded to be by honest here in Zechariah as well as in other places. However, I wonder if there is a basis for honesty from a purely secular worldview.

Notice that I am not saying that it is impossible to be honest without religion. That is not what I am saying at all. I am asking if there is an ethical principle in a secular worldview that teaches that it is good to be honest. I don’t know that there is.

I know that people like Sam Harris would argue that there is a way to objectively ground morals in a secular worldview. I am not as convinced. Secular people can certainly value honesty, and I would argue that almost all of them do. However, why do they ascribe that value? I would say that maybe they have been brought up in a Christian environment that has a reason for embracing honesty, and as a result have realized it works. They want that part of Christian values, but they don’t want the Christian part.

I just honestly do not understand where objective values like these can be grounded in a secular worldview. Let’s talk about it.

Zechariah 7: Why I Am Writing

I wonder how often we can go through the motions of religion for our own benefit. We can go to church because it makes us feel better. We can pray because it makes us feel more at peace. I don’t deny that these can both be benefits of church and prayer respectively, but as we see in Zechariah 7, motivation is important.

Zec 7:4  Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,

Zec 7:5  Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?

Zec 7:6  And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

Zec 7:7  Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?

Earlier in the chapter, two men had been sent to ask the priests whether or not they need to continue observing the day when the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. Apparently, according to Jeremiah 3:12, this is a ceremony that the people were supposed to remember. It seems that now that the Temple was being rebuilt, some people wanted to get beyond this ceremony.

The response from God was to challenge the motivation of the people. He wanted to know why they had been doing the ceremonies in the first place. Had they truly been honoring God through the ceremonies, or had they only been doing it for themselves?

In fact, He broadens the discussion. Even in their everyday lives when they were eating and drinking, did they even do that for the glory of God?

That seems applicable. It makes me think about going through the motions. I think about this post I am writing for you now. Why am I writing it? Am I doing it for myself? Am I doing it as a kind of way to get people to think I am living a good life?

I am not perfect, but I try to avoid this kind of trap. I try to avoid falling into using the Bible and my writing about it as a vehicle for self-promotion. Rather, I try to first of all keep my focus on learning more about God as I go see this journey. Again, I try to write what I can so that I can share it with you.

Are my motives always perfect? I am sure they are not. Have I ever been perfect? I most surely have not. However, we don’t want to go through the motions like these people in Zechariah. We want to be the type of people who do what we do for the glory of God.

Zechariah 6: A Political Messiah

I think about the people of Israel during the time of Jesus, and, as you remember on Palm Sunday, they were expecting the Messiah to be a spiritual leader but also a military and political leader. Maybe someone will finally be able to get rid of Rome once and for all. If anybody could, certainly the Messiah would be able to. I am not an expert on popular Jewish culture of the first century, but I wonder if part of that came from passages like we find in Zechariah 6.

Zec 6:12  And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:

Zec 6:13  Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.

I think that as you read this, it could certainly be taken as political. The Branch seems to stand out as the Messiah and according to the commentary of John Gill, the Targum affirms this reading. Beyond that, He is going to build the Temple and sit on the throne. In order to do that, you need some form of political power. An iterant preacher and carpenter by trade did not seem to fit the job description. An average person would not have the authority to do these things.

However, when He was finally marching into Jerusalem, it seemed to be the time. Maybe He was finally going to grab all of this political power that the people of Israel had been waiting for. He had supernatural power, and He seemed to fit some of what the people wanted. Maybe He could take the political part as well.

Jesus did indeed build the Temple, and He does sit on the throne. It might not have been what the people were expecting, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Zechariah 5: Breaking the Law

Zechariah 5 must’ve been kind of a weird experience. A giant flying scroll floats into the picture.

Zec 5:1  Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.

Zec 5:2  And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.

Zec 5:3  Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.

Zec 5:4  I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.

I find it interesting that this document is a curse. What is the purpose of the curse? Sinners are going to be cut off. On one side of it talks about stealing, and on the other side it talks about falsely swearing oaths.

Both of these are sins, and both of them tied directly to the 10 Commandments as the latter is a form of bearing false witness in my opinion. What is interesting is that on the basis of sin, people are going to be cut off.

This is a very standard picture of sin. There is a law. There is a standard, and we all have violated that at one point or another. We avoid the big ones like murder, but we all have hurt someone else at some point. We all have offended God at some point. I have never met anyone who is perfect.

In that sense, the law is our curse. It is ultimately what will condemn us because we have broken the law. Justice will be done.

Oh, you know the good news of the gospel?

Joh 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Joh 3:17  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Joh 3:18  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

God loved the world, and He sent His one and only Son to pay the penalty. Justice was done. The consequence of our violation of the law is being cut off. However, because of what Jesus Christ did, we will not perish. We will not be cut off if we believe in Him as our one and only Savior.

It is a hard thought, but humanity is sinful. That should be blatantly obvious when you see the broken world around us. That being said, God paid the price. It really is an amazing thing.

Zechariah 4: Testable History

In Zechariah 4, God presented a very testable prophecy. The angel told Zechariah that that the Temple was going to be completed under the rule of Zerubbabel.

Zec 4:9  The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.

I emphasize this one part of the vision because the Bible is a book that can be verified historically. It describes real people who were a part of actual history. It describes actual buildings that were built, and it tells us about kingdoms that rose and fell.

The Bible has plenty of moral wisdom. It has plenty of statements about how we ought to live, but interspersed within these passages, we have history. The Bible could be just a collection of guidelines for good living. The problem with that type of list is that it would not be able to be put into a specific period of time.

We know that Paul went to Athens. We know that he spoke to philosophers there. That is consistent with everything we know about Athens. It was a real place that was very interested in philosophical discussions. What Paul taught is very important as well, but it is significant that he went to Athens and not Atlantis.

Coming to this passage in Zechariah, God encourages this type of test. He said that when Zerubbabel finished the Temple, it would be proof that God knew what He was talking about. I think that we can extend this to the Bible today. It is not just true because we say it is true. It contains historical data that we can verify. It then raises the question that if the Bible was accurate on the less important matters of history, could it possibly be right on the more significant issues of eternal life that the authors surely thought was more important?

Zechariah 3: Clean Clothes

In Zechariah 3, we have Joshua the high priest. Presumably, this is not Joshua of Jericho fame, and even though Joshua means Savior, I don’t think we’re talking about Jesus Christ here either. Rather, I think that he is religious leader, and I also think that he had challenges.

Zec 3:3  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.

Zec 3:4  And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

Zec 3:5  And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.

The symbolism of the vision seems rather obvious. Even though he was a high priest, his garments were filthy. He had a privileged position, but he still needed to be cleansed by God. You would think that if he knew he was going to be standing before God he would have cleaned himself. However, it is obviously he did not do that.

I am not sure that it was for lack of trying. I think that the bottom line is that he was not able to do it himself. The cleansing could not could not come from the inside.

What is that mean for us? We can try to fix ourselves. We can try to become better people, but even people who might be highly trained in the things of God have faults. We’re not perfect, and we can never do it on our own.

As a result, we need to come before God like Joshua did and get this new clothing. God is the source of our transformation, and our minds and lives can be renewed.