Divine Priorities – Zechariah 7

God showers us daily with unlimited blessing.  We may not always appreciate or realize it, but they do come from His hand in a steady flow.  Food, shelter, the beauty around us, even the breath of life in our lungs.

What does the Lord ask of us in return?  He explicitly revealed this to the returned exiles from Babylon through the prophet Zechariah – that we acknowledge Him as Lord in our hearts and demonstrate it by our actions towards others.  He explained that the peoples’ failure to do so led to their exile from Judah in the first place.

The word of the Lord came to Zechariah: “The Lord of Hosts says this: Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another. 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder; they closed their ears so they could not hear. 12 They made their hearts like a rock so as not to obey the law or the words that the Lord of Hosts had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of Hosts. 13 Just as He had called, and they would not listen, so when they called, I would not listen,” says the Lord of Hosts. 14 “I scattered them with a windstorm over all the nations that had not known them, and the land was left desolate behind them, with no one coming or going. They turned a pleasant land into a desolation.”  Zechariah 7:8-14 (HCSB)

These words still have important meaning and application for us today.  God’s priorities never change. Will we be perfect about this?  Never.  But He is perfect in His forgiveness when we fail if we turn to Him in repentance and seek to make right the harm we have done.

When asked about the two most important commandments, Jesus replied to love the Lord God with all of our heart, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Not easy to do, but it is important to Him that we make the effort.

Bad habits and attitudes are like weights that slow us down and trip us up on our life’s journey.  They are addictive and hard to strip off without God’s powerful help.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:

16 Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, 18 and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.  Romans 6:16-18 (HCSB)

We are righteous because our faith in Christ covers us with God’s holiness and purity.  His strength helps us to put down whatever sin is entangling us and leads us away from those old familiar paths of destruction.  We are blessed to live in an era of grace and mercy because of the loving sacrifice of Jesus.  Let us not turn a stubborn shoulder to the amazing God who loves us so much that He did not even spare His own beloved Son for our eternal redemption.

Reflection

Father God, through Your Holy Spirit make Your priorities the priorities of my heart.  Forgive me for all the times I have shown coldness and hardness towards the vulnerable ones whom You love so much.  Help me to make amends for my foolish words and actions, and to become a useful and holy instrument for Your purposes. Free us from harmful addictions or slavery to evil.  We ask this in the loving and powerful name of Jesus Christ.  Amen!

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.  Hebrews 12:1 (HCSB)

Behold the Man – Zechariah 6

After Zechariah’s series of visions were complete, the Lord directed him to go collect a gift from the silver and gold brought back from Babylon and take it to the house of the high priest, Joshua.

The Lord’s instructions continued:

11 Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. 12 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying:

“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!
From His place He shall branch out,
And He shall build the temple of the Lord;
13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord.
He shall bear the glory,
And shall sit and rule on His throne;
So He shall be a priest on His throne,
And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” ’
Zechariah 6:11-13 (NKJV)

Here God is painting a very clear picture though Joshua of the Messiah, the Branch, who will be both a king and high priest.  These dual roles, exclusively held as separate offices in previous generations, will be fulfilled by Jesus Christ when He returns to earth to rule over the whole world from His throne in Jerusalem.

But before Jesus could return as king, He needed to come first as an atonement for sin.  By His sacrifice on the cross, the curse of sin that separated a holy God from imperfect people was removed. 

13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  Galatians 3:13-14 (NKJV)

And by Christ’s resurrection from the dead, we are raised to a new life in Him.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  Romans 6:4 (NKJV)

But Messiah Jesus did not come only for the Gentiles.  He came first and foremost as king and high priest to His own people, called out to be a separate kingdom of priests through Abraham.  The law and the prophets of the Old Testament all look forward to the Messiah’s coming.

The prophet Isaiah wrote of the Branch of the Lord and the glory He will restore to Judah in the last days.  After a final Satan-led rebellion under Antichrist is defeated by God and His angels, Jesus Christ will begin to reign as king and high priest from His throne in Jerusalem.  The seven-year Great Tribulation period prior to Christ’s return will bring a terror like nothing the world has ever experienced.  But God has promised a great victory over the powers of evil, and that His glorious presence will fully comfort and restore His people in its wake.

In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious;
And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing
For those of Israel who have escaped.

And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.  Isaiah 4:2-5 (NKJV)

When the very foundations of the earth begin to shake, where can we turn?  In Christ we have a strong tower to run into and be safe no matter the intensity of the storm.  Jesus has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Are you with willing to seek Him today?

Reflection

Just prior to condemning Jesus to be crucified, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate had this to say:

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”  John 19:5 (NKJV)

Without realizing it, Pilate was quoting a portion of Zechariah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah.

Jesus came the first time to humbly bear our sins and shortcomings as a sacrifice on the altar of the cross.  When He comes the second time, it will be a very different matter.  He will come in overwhelming power and unlimited glory to assume His rightful role – King and High Priest.  He will live in the midst of those who choose to turn away from the pursuit of sin to be a part of His kingdom of God.  

We believers are not perfect by any means but are perfectly forgiven when we fall.

Father God, we cannot even imagine the ever-changing wonder of Your glory in Jesus Christ.  Your mercies are new every morning, and we will never reach the end of your amazing goodness. We are in awe as You continually reveal Yourself and Your boundless creation to us.  Draw us close to You so that we may seek to be purified by the cross of Christ and resurrected by His river of living water, the Holy Spirit. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Zechariah’s Ninth Vision – Zechariah 6

Around the time that the Jewish exiles had begun their return to Judah after seventy years in Babylon, the prophet Zechariah was given a series of nine visions from the Lord, all occurring in one night.

In reverse order, these visions included the woman in the basket, the flying scroll, the golden lampstand with the two olive branches, the Branch and the stone with seven eyes, the High Priest Joshua being accused by Satan, the man with the measuring line, four horns with four craftsmen, and the red, sorrel, and white horses found among the myrtle trees.  There is a meditation provided in this series for each of these visions.

Zechariah’s ninth vision is of four different color horses, each with an accompanying chariot driven by four spirits from heaven.  Leaving Jerusalem, they carry out a global reconnaissance patrol at God’s request. 

If God is everywhere, why does He need reconnaissance?  He doesn’t. God is omnipresent, but His created beings such as angels can only be in one place at a time.  Just as He does with humans throughout the Bible, perhaps the Lord loves to include angels to work alongside Him as He goes about His work.  This allows the spirits to see for themselves what is happening.

Zechariah’s ninth vision begins as follows:

1 Then I looked up again and saw four chariots coming from between two mountains. And the mountains were made of bronze. The first chariot had red horses, the second chariot black horses, the third chariot white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all strong horses. So I inquired of the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?”

The angel told me, “These are the four spirits of heaven going out after presenting themselves to the Lord of the whole earth. The one with the black horses is going to the land of the north, the white horses are going after them, but the dappled horses are going to the land of the south.” As the strong horses went out, they wanted to go patrol the earth, and the Lord said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth. Then He summoned me saying, “See, those going to the land of the north have pacified My Spirit in the northern land.”  Zechariah 6:1-8 (HCSB)

The Lord’s pacified Spirit in the northern land is possibly a reference to the returning exiles from Babylon, as one usually travels north first when embarking for there.  The two bronze mountains that the four spirits left from are likely Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives.  These are prominent elevations in Jerusalem, a place repeatedly referred to in His word as God’s special home upon the earth, His portion of the Holy Land.

Although there are differences, there is an apparent correlation between this vision and the vison of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse given to the apostle John in Revelation 6.  Rather than a reconnaissance, John’s later vision tells of an end times judgement period when a final global rebellion against God led by Satan and the Antichrist will be put down once and for all by the Lord. A new era of peace without tears will begin.

What were the angels looking for as they made their way across the surface of our planet?  The next big event on God’s calendar after the exiles return from Babylon and the reconstruction of His temple will be the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Perhaps the angels were taking an inventory of the state of the world, measuring the readiness of the population for this ultimate event.  Human empires would still come and go, but a much bigger thing will be taking place in Bethlehem when Jesus is born – the first step in the salvation of people and the installation of God’s eternal kingdom on earth. It is far too good of a gift to pass up on.

Reflection

Looking at your spiritual condition, how would you assess your own inventory in preparing for the presence of the Lord today?  What are your biggest obstacles?  May the Lord bring you peace today.

Lord, we present to You the problems, difficulties, and obstacles that lie before us today.  Some are external but others are strictly internal – they are within us.  We confess our sins and shortcomings and admit that we are unable to overcome many of these in our own power.  We humbly ask Your forgiveness and healing, and for Your help in forgiving those who have harmed us.  We rely upon Your grace, mercy, and love to make a way for us to walk in peace and serenity with Jesus today.  We ask this in His name, Amen.

A Woman in a Basket – Zechariah 5

Zechariah’s vision of the woman in a basket is quite bizarre and mysterious, and it is difficult to be dogmatic about its interpretation.

This vision follows the one about the flying scroll. In this one, the prophet is shown a large measuring basket, and a woman is revealed to be inside after the basket’s top is removed.  She is referred to by an attending angel as the personification of wickedness.  After the heavy lead top of her basket is replaced to hold her captive inside, she is carried off by two winged women to the land of Shinar, a reference to Babylon.  Here she will be placed in a temple and be worshiped.

One interpretation of this vision is a warning about the false god of materialism.  The Jewish people had just returned to Judah after a seventy-year exile in Babylon.  They had finally put away all the idol worship they had acquired from the peoples around them, but this vision suggests that a new temptation is before them and the entire world.

As Francis Bacon is quoted as saying, “Money is a great servant but a bad master”.  The obsessive pursuit of money can draw our focus and purpose away from worshiping the Lord and can also tempt us to deal less than honestly with those around us when seeking to maximize our own profit.  As with so many things, the answer lies in wisdom and balance. 

After seeing the vision of the flying scroll, the angel told Zechariah to look up to see what was coming next.

I asked, “What is it?”

He replied, “This is the measuring basket that goes out.” He continued, “This is their eye in all the land.” Then behold, a lead cover was lifted and a woman was sitting in the middle of the measuring basket. The angel exclaimed, ‘This is Wickedness!’ Then he shoved her back inside the measuring basket, throwing the lead weight over its mouth.

After this I lifted up my eyes and behold, I saw two women emerging with the wind in their wings (they had wings like the wings of a stork) and they raised the measuring basket between the earth and the heaven.

10 I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “Where are they taking the measuring basket?”

11 He said, “To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar. When it is prepared, she will live there in her own place.”  Zechariah 5:6-11 (TLV)

As mentioned, it is hard to be certain about what Zechariah’s vision is pointing to.  The main hint here is the use of a measuring basket, a widespread tool of commerce at the time.  Another principle to use when interpreting scripture is to refer to other scripture as a guide.  For instance, in the New Testament book of Revelation, there is another vision given to the apostle John which includes the same concepts of evil commerce, greed, and immorality as represented by a wicked woman of power in Babylon.

The apostle John’s vision includes the following:

1 After these things, I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his glory. He cried out with a mighty voice, saying:

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
    She has become a den for demons,
    a haunt for every unclean spirit
    and for every unclean bird
    and for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all the nations have drunk
    of the wine of the fury of her immorality.
The kings of the earth have committed
    sexual immorality with her,
    and the merchants of the earth
    grew rich off the power
    of her self-indulgence.”

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,
    lest you participate in her sins
    and receive her plagues!


As she has exalted herself and indulged herself in luxury,
so give her the same measure of torment and grief!
For in her heart she says,
    ‘I sit as a queen—
    I am no widow;
    I shall never see grief.’  Revelation 18:1-4,7 (TLV)

Many commentaries have been written to explain the meaning of this end times prophecy of global wickedness represented by the figurative woman of Babylon, and her ultimate demise at the hand of the Lord.  Suffice it to say that there is evil on the earth, and its perceived luxuries can be seductive to anyone who is not grounded in faith and under the protection of the Lord.  With God’s help, we believers can “put a lid on it”.

Reflection

What evils and temptations do you find the most difficult to resist? 

Lord, please strengthen us to resist the temptations of evil today, especially in those areas where we struggle the most.  Help us to successfully put a lid on wickedness today.  Thank You for loving us through our life’s journey.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Flying Scroll – Zechariah 5

“Getting honest was the beginning of my healing and recovery” – Jessica.

Scripture lets us know that it is very important to God that we live honest, fair, and truthful lives with each other, respecting Him and His name in the process.  The prophet Zechariah’s next night vision reflected these concepts.

1 Once again I lifted up my eyes and behold, I saw a flying scroll!

Then the angel asked me, “What do you see?”

I replied, “I see a flying scroll twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide.”

He said to me: “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land: everyone who steals will be swept away from here according to it, and everyone who swears will be swept away from here according to it.” “I will send it out”—it is a declaration of Adonai-Tzva’ot—“and it will enter into the house of the thief and into the house of the one who swears falsely by My Name and will reside inside his house destroying it, both its wood and its stones.”  Zechariah 5:1-4 (TLV)

(Note: A cubit is around a foot and a half in length, a bit less than half a meter, and Adonai-Tzva’ot means the “Lord of Hosts”).

God’s coming kingdom will one day replace all of the human governments and empires that preceded it.  It will be a government of a completely different nature, not tolerating theft or corruption or using the name of the Lord in vain for blasphemous speech or to swear to untruths. These practices have been rampant in the interactions and business dealings among people and institutions throughout much of history.  God will root these transgressions out of His kingdom, referring to them as a curse upon the whole land.

The flying scroll in Zechariah’s vision represents the God’s holy law in the Ten Commandments, which brings judgment upon the entire earth.  The scroll is open, and on one side is written judgement for thievery, and on the other for lies and blasphemies.

The problem is that scripture tells us in Romans 3 that all people have sinned and fall short of the perfection and glory of God.  We have all lied at one time or another, or taken something that belonged to someone else, or even used the Lord’s name in a blasphemous way in a moment of anger.  Some of us have done all of this on a regular basis.

So, what hope do we imperfect people have of spending eternity with a God so far above us in purity and holiness?

Our hope is totally in Christ.  We have been offered the gift of grace and complete forgiveness through His sacrifice on the cross.  The choice is ours whether we want to accept and receive His offer or not.

The path before us is well-illustrated in the gospel account of two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus.  One thief joined with the crowd and mocked Jesus as He hung there for His humiliating “defeat”.  But the other thief was penitent for his sins.  While recognizing that he deserved his punishment, he defended Jesus as being totally innocent and unfairly suffering a cruel death.

39 One of the evildoers hanging there was jeering at Him, saying, “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself—and us!”

40 But the other one, rebuking him, replied, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? 41 We’re getting what we deserve for our actions, and rightly so—but this One has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Yeshua, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 Yeshua said to him, “Amen, I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:39-43 (TLV)

If we take an honest account of our sins and shortcomings, how we have hurt God, others, and ourselves with our selfish words, thoughts, and actions, we can humbly bring them before the Lord for His forgiveness.  And like the penitent thief on the cross who came to his senses and in faith asked for Jesus’ forgiveness, we too will be welcomed by Christ into the Paradise of His eternal kingdom.  The Lord will never turn away any sinner who humbly and sincerely seeks His grace and mercy, no matter how wayward our lives have been.  As long as we have breath, there is still time for each one of us to approach the cross of Christ in faith to seek the gift of eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  John 3:16-17 (ESV)

Reflection

There is a benefit to taking a regular inventory of our behavior, both good and bad, and use what we find to bring our failures before the Lord for forgiveness and to see where we need to make amends to others. 

Where have we taken something or cheated someone else out of something that really belonged to them?  We give it back.

Do we routinely use foul language to emphasize a point or tell filthy jokes to fit in with a crowd?  We stop doing so.

Did we lie or “bend the truth” in order to avoid consequences or responsibility?  We come clean.

Do we watch things on the television or online that are blasphemous to the Lord and the principles of His kingdom?  We put it down.

It is easy to fall short in any of these areas, but the vision of the flying scroll is there to tell us that God expects us to do our best in all these areas.  When we have fallen down, we humbly approach Him for forgiveness, get up and seek His power to help us be more successful the next time.  It is a lifetime process of learning to lean upon Jesus to live a more holy life.

Father God, we thank You so much for Your limitless grace and mercy towards us.  Like the penitent thief on the cross, we come to Christ for complete forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings.  Help us to walk in the Light of goodness and be a person reflecting Kingdom principles.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Not By Might – Zechariah 4

So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.  Zechariah 4:6 (HCSB)

The angel who roused Zechariah from sleep for a series of visions in the night was giving the prophet another important message about the coming of God’s kingdom.  Unlike the great human empires before it, this one would come from small beginnings, starting with the rebuilding of a modest temple in Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the seventy-year exile in Babylon.   

Zechariah continues describing his conversation with the visiting angel.

He asked me, “What do you see?”

I replied, “I see a solid gold lampstand there with a bowl on its top. It has seven lamps on it and seven channels for each of the lamps on its top. There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”  Zechariah 4:2-3 (HCSB) 

The seven-branched lampstand was identical to the one the Lord instructed Moses to make for God’s tabernacle and subsequent temples.  It burned a fuel of olive oil, representing the Holy Spirit, and its light the Presence of the Lord.  The lamp itself pointed to His called-out people, Israel, whose mission was to shine God’s light into all the world to draw new believers unto Him.

The prophet Haggai had already delivered God’s message to the returned exiles to resume their work on the temple under the leadership of their Governor, Zerubbabel, and their high priest Joshua (or Jeshua).  Problems had arisen after they laid the temple foundation, and work on the project was stopped for many years while their own homes were completed.  God spoke through Haggai to address their priorities and tied their work stoppage and lack of faith with an observed reduction in the quantity and quality of the recent blessings they had been receiving.

Zechariah continues:

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Zerubbabel’s hands have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent me to you. 10 For who scorns the day of small things? These seven eyes of the Lord, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”  Zechariah 4:8-10 (HCSB)

The rebuilt temple would be modest in comparison with the one Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed.  But it was a new beginning.  It would point to God initiating His new kingdom under the leadership of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, and point to a day when God would not reside in a building, but in the hearts of believers worldwide through the Holy Spirit.

The number seven is often associated with the Lord, being the number of completeness.  Seven eyes, seven spirits, and seven qualities of the Spirit all point to the perfection and purity of God.  Sabbath rest on the seventh day or seventh year of a field’s harvest is a direct acknowledgement of His blessing and our total reliance upon Him.

Zechariah asked the angel about a detail in this vision.

11 I asked him, “What are the two olive trees on the right and left of the lampstand?” 12 And I questioned him further, “What are the two olive branches beside the two gold conduits, from which golden oil pours out?”

13 Then he inquired of me, “Don’t you know what these are?”

“No, my lord,” I replied.

14 “These are the two anointed ones,” he said, “who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”  Zechariah 4:11-14 (HCSB)

The olive oil from the two trees and two branches represents a continual feeding of the lamps just as the Holy Spirit continually builds God’s church, one person at a time.  New believers are drawn to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, through God’s generous prevenient grace.  Though human world governments have been continually evolving towards their final form since the fall of the Roman Empire, the eternal church of Christ has also been quietly growing throughout this time.  Not by might nor by power, but by God’s Spirit witnessing through His word into the hearts of women and men all over the globe.

There is a parallel passage in the book of Revelation about two anointed witnesses who will appear in the last days to make one final appeal to the world on behalf of Christ.  They will be almost universally opposed and killed, only to rise from the dead themselves three and a half days later.

I will empower my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.”  4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.  Revelation 11:3-4 (HCSB)

God’s great and final empire will not initiate with a massive invading army like those of Alexander the Great or Nebuchadnezzar.  It will grow slowly in the hearts of people.  When Christ finally does return in glory with the New Jerusalem, He will put down all who actively oppose Him and His people.  His throne will be located on the foundations of the work begun by Zerubbabel, humble servant of the Lord and a member of the genealogy of the coming King, Jesus Christ.

12 Then after the exile to Babylon
Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel,
Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel fathered Abiud,
Abiud fathered Eliakim,
Eliakim fathered Azor,
14 Azor fathered Zadok,
Zadok fathered Achim,
Achim fathered Eliud,
15 Eliud fathered Eleazar,
Eleazar fathered Matthan,
Matthan fathered Jacob,
16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary,
who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.  Matthew 1:12-16 (HCSB)

Reflection

What great blessings in your life did the Lord initiate with small beginnings?  What “small things” might He be working on around you now?

Many of us who came to faith in Christ did so in small increments, while others did so with a sudden revelation.  As infinite as God is, there are an unlimited number of ways for people to be drawn to Him by His love and grace.  May He continue to do so in our lives and in the lives of those we love, live near, or work with.

Precious Lord, thank You for being constantly at work in our lives.  Continue to bless us, protect us, and use us to advance Your kingdom.  May we reflect Your Light to others as anointed vessels, purified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and continuously filled with the “oil” of Your Holy Spirit.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 Branch and Stone – Zechariah 3

The prophet Zechariah’s vision of Judah’s high priest Joshua in the court of the Lord continues:

Then the Angel of the Lord charged Joshua: “This is what the Lord of Hosts says: If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here.

“Listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring My servant, the Branch. Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“and I will take away the guilt of this land in a single day.  Zechariah 3:6-9 (HCSB)

Plucked as a brand from the fire, the Lord’s people and their representative high priest Joshua were saved after seventy years of destruction and exile imposed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  With renewed and faithful hearts, they were restored to a position of honor before the Lord.  After rebuilding His temple, they would be responsible for His courts, and be the center of God-worship for the entire world.

More than that, they would be a sign that the Lord was planning to do a much bigger and better thing – He would install the Branch, the Messiah of the Lord.  There had been several mentions of the Branch in previous prophecies, including from the prophet Isaiah.  This branch, or Messiah, would come in the line of Jesse, King David’s father, even after the line of kings in David’s line had been cut down to a stump by their unfaithfulness and subsequent defeat by Babylon.

1 Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.  Isaiah 11:1-2 (HCSB)

The Branch is a direct reference to Jesus Christ, who would be born of the Holy Spirit to a virgin, Mary, in the line of David.  The seven eyes on the stone set before the high priest Joshua may refer to the “seven spirits” of God which will imbue the Messiah: the Spirit of the Lord, with His wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and fear, or reverent obedience to His Father.

Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“and I will take away the guilt of this land in a single day.  Zechariah 3:9 (HCSB)

Six centuries after Zechariah, Jesus would take away the guilt of the land on the day of His crucifixion.  Though Jesus came to fulfill the role of Messiah to the Jewish people, His pure life, selfless sacrifice, and victorious resurrection from the dead paves the way to eternal life for all believers worldwide, no matter our heritage.  He will return one day to reign as King over the fifth and final world empire, the kingdom of Heaven.

God gives us great responsibility not because we are so good, but because He is.  His mercy and grace are without limit, and He often gives us the most when we deserve it the least.  As imperfect humans, it is sometimes difficult to understand the amazing nature of the Lord – He just seems too good to be true.  And thankfully for us human beings that He loves so much, He is.

Reflection

Have you yet experienced the grace and mercy of a loving and forgiving God?  He is ready even now to settle all accounts and bless you beyond imagination.  His goodness far exceeds all of our faults and failures.

Lord, thank You for being so good to us!  We praise You and thank You for loving us enough to die on a cross to redeem us from the punishment that we deserve for our sin.  May we rise as You did from the dead to spend eternity in Your presence in God’s kingdom.  Bless and protect us and our loved ones in the here and now and guide us to be of loving service to You and to others.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Accusation and Redemption – Zechariah 3

In Zechariah’s next vision in the night, he was shown Joshua, the high priest of Judah, standing in a heavenly court with the accuser, Satan, and Joshua’s defender, the Lord. 

Joshua’s appearance represented the spiritual condition of the people of Israel.  Coming at the end of their seventy-year exile in Babylon which had been imposed on them to root out extreme idolatry and unfaithfulness, there was much for Satan to point to when accusing them before the Lord.  But Joshua and his people were the apple of God’s eye, and the Lord was simply not going to allow Satan’s accusations to prevail against them.

Zechariah describes his vision:

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the Angel. So the Angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then He said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.” Zechariah 3:1-3 (HCSB)

Before we criticize Joshua, let us remember that this is actually what we look like when we initially approach the Lord.  Many believe that when we encounter God, He will look admirably upon our good deeds, and at some point, He will.  But first, He must remove the filthy garments of sin that cover each one of us.  He is able to do this for believers because Jesus Christ bore all of the selfishness, hurtfulness, and filthiness we committed in our life when He voluntarily hung on a cross to pay our penalty.  We deserve to suffer the death that Christ suffered for us.  Jesus, the precious and pure Lamb of God, surrendered Himself to be an all-encompassing sacrifice.  God’s grace and mercy is offered today to all who would partake of it by humbly reaching out in faith to Christ.

As the apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament book of Romans:

1 Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:1-4 (HCSB)

Just as we have a Savior in the Lord Jesus Christ, scripture tells us that we also have an accuser who is trying to work against us to trip us up.  This is also seen in the book of Job, where Satan accused one of God’s favorite followers of being faithful only because he was so blessed and favored. (In what follows, the word “fear” means faithful respect and obedience).

Adonai said to the satan, “Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth—a blameless and upright man, who fears God and spurns evil.”

Then the satan responded to Adonai, saying, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not made a hedge around him, his household, and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will certainly curse You to Your face!”  Job 1:8-11 (TLV)

With God’s permission, Job ended up going through some incredibly difficult testing and trial at the hand of Satan, yet the Lord would later heal him and restore him.

10 So Adonai restored what Job had lost, after he prayed for his friends and Adonai doubled everything that Job had before. 11 Then all his brothers, all his sisters and everyone who had known him before, came to him and ate bread with him in his house. They consoled him and comforted him for all the calamity that Adonai had brought upon him. Each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.

12 So Adonai blessed Job’s latter days more than at his beginning. He had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters.  Job 42:10-12 (TLV)

We all face times of accusation and suffering.  Some bad times may come at the hand of dark beings from Satan’s realm, more we likely bring on ourselves due to our own sin and shortcomings, but probably the majority of the bad things which happen in our lives occur just because we live in a fallen world. It is God’s plan to bring us into His future kingdom without any more accusers, tears, sickness, or death.  Because of Jesus Christ, we believers will indeed stand in that world one day.  As a former jail chaplain used to tell his inmate church goers, “Be there!”

Reflection

Lord, thank You that we do not face accusation from You, rather, redemption through the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary.  We acknowledge our sins and shortcomings to You and live in eternal gratitude that You took the punishment for all of them in our place.  Your goodness and love are without limit.  Please place a hedge of protection around us and our loved ones and bless the work of our hands for You, blessing us to be a blessing for others.  We ask this with thanksgiving, praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Measuring Line – Zechariah 2

The prophet Zechariah’s series of visions in the night continued, coming to him near the end of the seventy-year exile in Babylon:

I lifted up my eyes—and behold, I saw a man with a measuring line in his hand.  I asked, ‘Where are you going?’

He answered me, ‘To measure Jerusalem to see how wide and how long it is.’

Then behold, the angel speaking with me left and another angel went out to meet him, saying to him, ‘Run, speak to this young man saying: “Jerusalem will be inhabited as a village without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. For I”—it is a declaration of Adonai—“will be a wall of fire around it and I will be the glory inside it.  Zechariah 2:5-7 (TLV)

At the time of this vision, Jerusalem and Judah had been lying as a complete wreck for the entire exile period. God disclosed His plans to not only rebuild, establish, and protect Jerusalem, but He has promised to reside there bringing His glory to it.  Although Jesus would first present Himself there as King during His triumphal entry the Sunday before His crucifixion and resurrection, this prophecy will be completely fulfilled at the time of Jesus’ second coming.

Adonai-Tzva’ot, the Lord of Hosts, promises to treat those who punish Jerusalem the same way He treated Pharaoh and the Egyptians after they had enslaved and abused the Israelites.  He freed them after the ten plagues, and with the Israelites taking plunder with them as restitution. Furthermore, God promises Zechariah that when He returns to the land, He will draw people to Himself from all over the globe.

12 “For thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot, He has sent me after glory to the nations that plundered you—because whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye— 13 ‘For behold, I will shake My hand against them and they will be plunder to their servants.’ Then you will know that Adonai-Tzva’ot has sent me.

14 “‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will live among you’—it is a declaration of Adonai15 ‘In that day many nations will join themselves to Adonai and they will be My people and I will dwell among you.’ Then you will know that Adonai-Tzva’ot has sent me to you. 16 Adonai will inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land and will once again choose Jerusalem. 17 Be silent before Adonai, all flesh, for He has aroused Himself from His holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:12-17 (TLV)

God made His choice for a nation called out through Abraham to be holy and held close as the apple of His eye.  But His mission through them was to be a blessing to the entire world.  He loves each and every one of us whatever our heritage, and longs for each of us to turn our hearts towards Him.

Jerusalem holds divine importance to God through history and will into eternity.  He refers to Judah here as “the holy land”, perhaps the only place in the Old Testament that expression is used.  The angelic measuring line is the first step in God’s plan to rebuild the chosen spot for His throne and heavenly footstool on the earth.  It is where He had instructed Abraham to bring His precious son Isaac in Genesis 22, and where His own precious Son Jesus would be crucified as a sacrifice for our sins and resurrected on the third day.

Six centuries after Zechariah’s record, the apostle John would share His own divine vision of Jesus’ return to the holy city in the book of Revelation.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

I also saw the holy city—the New Jerusalem—coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  I also heard a loud voice from the throne, saying,

“Behold, the dwelling of God is among men,
    and He shall tabernacle among them.
They shall be His people,
    and God Himself shall be among them
    and be their God.
He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes,
    and death shall be no more.
Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer,
    for the former things have passed away.”

And the One seated upon the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” Then He said, “Write, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Then He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will freely give from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21:1-6 (TLV)

The promises of God are too amazing for us to even visualize with our limited human capacity.  But they are also too wonderful to just walk away from and ignore.  God is so good and full of so many blessings for us to experience and share with others.  May His name be praised in heaven and on earth and may all open their hearts even just a crack with an ounce of willingness to consider Him and His wonderful love for us.  May we all thirst for a spiritual drink from the spring of living water.

Reflection

God loves to share the end from the beginning all throughout His word.  Many prophecies point to the coming of Christ, first as a divine sacrifice to purify and make us holy, then coming again as our loving King and Shepherd.  May He guide us through eternity into the magnificence of His presence.  May we all seek His grace and mercy to be there with Him!

Lord, bring us into eternity with You through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.  May all of His believers rise from the dead with Him, covered and redeemed by His blood and bathed in His pure holiness and light.  Thank You for all the goodness and blessing You have showered us with.  We thank You and praise You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

4 Horns and Craftsmen – Zechariah 2

Zechariah’s next vision contains a familiar reference to the four great human empires from the times of the prophets until today.  Just as in Daniel’s earlier prophecies, four horns will represent the four great leaders of the world empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Ancient Greece, and Rome.  At least portions of these empires would oppress and scatter Jerusalem in their time.

1 Then I lifted up my eyes and behold, I saw four horns! I said to the angel speaking with me, ‘What are these?’

He said to me, ‘These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.’

Then Adonai showed me four craftsmen. I asked, ‘What are these coming to do?’

He answered, ‘These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could raise his head, but the craftsmen have come to frighten them, to cast down the horns of the nations that have lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.’  Zechariah 2:1-4 (TLV)

The first three empires, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece were defeated and incorporated into the empire that followed it.  These were three of the four victorious “craftsmen” sent by the Lord to punish the previous empire because of what they had done to God’s people. 

In the case of the fourth empire, Rome, it was never conquered by an outsider, but fell apart from within.  Its remnants survive today in the form of its descendant countries and their former colonies.  Scripture tells us that there will be another attempt to reunify that nation of iron in the end times, ten nations led by the Antichrist, corresponding to the ten iron and clay toes in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2.  But this final world government will be defeated by the fourth craftsman, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He brings in the kingdom of Heaven to reign over the earth forever.

As God had told Abram (later renamed Abraham) at the beginning, when he was first called out to initiate a chosen people:

My heart’s desire is to make you into a great nation, to bless you,

to make your name great so that you may be a blessing.

My desire is to bless those who bless you,

but whoever curses you I will curse,

and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.  Genesis 12:2-3 (TLV)

This promised blessing to all families on earth would come through their Messiah, Jesus Christ.  By His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead, all believers around the globe now have direct access to the throne of God, and by the blood of Christ have been purified and cleansed and are able to live in God’s holy presence forever.

The promised curses against those who curse and attack God’s people, even when the Lord permits it as a chastisement, are just as certain to come about in the Lord’s timing.  That is not a side of history one wishes to be on.

Reflection

Israel is and has been the apple of God’s eye even when going through times of punishment.  Today, God is calling out to all humankind through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  We, too, may be walking far from the path of God when His call to us comes, but His call is irrevocable.

25 For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer shall come out of Zion.
    He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
27 And this is My covenant with them,
    when I take away their sins.”

28 Concerning the Good News, they are hostile for your sake; but concerning chosenness, they are loved on account of the fathers— 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 in like manner these also have now been disobedient with the result that, because of the mercy shown to you, they also may receive mercy.  Romans 11:25-31 (TLV)

Lord, show us Your mercy for all the times we have been disobedient to You.  Draw us close to You so that we may abide under the shadow of Your wing and enjoy Your great blessings and protection.  Thank you! We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.