The Lord Sings – Zephaniah 3

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made the following declaration:

    
“Blessed are the meek,
    for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:5 (TLV)

This statement gets ignored by many of us, as it appears to be just the opposite of what we observe in our day-to-day lives.  The meek and humble almost always seem to get brushed aside as the proud and confident gather more and more of the abundance of the earth and its possessions.

But Jesus is speaking of what will happen in the last days, sometimes referred to as the Day of the Lord.  Multiple prophets refer to this time of extreme trial and tribulation when all nations will gather to battle against Jerusalem.  It will be a purifying trial for the nation and the world.  The Lord Himself in the person of Jesus Christ will return on the scene to defeat all of God’s enemies in the physical and spiritual world and to hand the kingdom over to the meek and humble of the earth.  He will reside in their midst as King and Lord.

The prophet Zechariah shares God’s words with His beloved people about the new era which will be brought in by this coming event:

11 On that day you will no longer need to be ashamed,
    for you will no longer be rebels against me.
I will remove all proud and arrogant people from among you.
    There will be no more haughtiness on my holy mountain.
12 Those who are left will be the lowly and humble,
    for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.
13 The remnant of Israel will do no wrong;
    they will never tell lies or deceive one another.
They will eat and sleep in safety,
    and no one will make them afraid.”

14 Sing, O daughter of Zion;
    shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
    O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
    and will disperse the armies of your enemy.
And the Lord himself, the King of Israel,
    will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
    and you will never again fear disaster.
16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be,
    “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  Zephaniah 3:11-17 (NLT)

God will not only live and reign among His people, but He will even sing over them with joyful songs.

In fact, for those living today under the grace of God who have been forgiven and purified through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord is likely singing over us today whenever we are walking in His will, just as we might whistle or hum a tune when we are feeling happy.

We are all works in progress.  Pride or anger can erupt at any time, and we and others will be the worse off for it.  But as believers, God’s Holy Spirit is alive within us.  Though our poor behavior will grieve the Spirit, we can quickly reconcile with the Lord by humbly confessing our sins and seeking to make restitution with others.  And God promises that the fruit of the Holy Spirit will continue to grow within us if we let Him.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23 (HCSB)

The fruit of God’s love exhibits patience, gentleness, and self-control.  For some, these can be the most difficult fruits to bear, especially when we have been provoked.  Zephaniah tells us that a day will come when we will no longer encounter provocations such as lies and deceptions.  But in the meantime, we are living in an imperfect world, and without leaning upon the fruits of the Spirit, we can easily be drawn right into the worst of it.

May the Holy Spirit continue to grant us restraint, humility and love even in the midst of trial.  When we prevail, likely the Lord will smile and perhaps sing a joyful song over us.  May you enjoy His great blessing today.

Reflection

Lord, we turn to You for help to live a humble, honest, and generous life.  May the fruits of the Holy Spirit grow within us and help us to share the love of Christ with those around us in all circumstances.  Forgive us for the times we have failed and help us to make amends with those we have hurt.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Spirit of Grace – Zechariah 12

God has promised through multiple prophets that the great world empires of history, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and its modern-day derivatives, will all one day be replaced by a different kind of government led by God Himself, Jesus Christ.

But we are also warned that this final government will not come without birth pains.  With a general lack of God-connection among people in the last days, this will allow them to be misled by one last global leader, the Antichrist.  Without the spiritual discernment that God’s Spirit provides, Antichrist will be able to attract the masses with mesmerizing, devil-empowered signs and wonders.

This false god leader’s final act will be to draw all of the nations of the earth into a battle against Jerusalem.  What initially looks like an easy victory for them will find the attackers coming up against God Himself.  No army of any size could ever hope to overpower Him.

1 The word of the Lord concerning Israel.
A declaration of the Lord,
who stretched out the heavens,
laid the foundation of the earth,
and formed the spirit of man within him.

2 “Look, I will make Jerusalem a cup that causes staggering for the peoples who surround the city. The siege against Jerusalem will also involve Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who try to lift it will injure themselves severely when all the nations of the earth gather against her.  Zechariah 12:1-3 (HCSB)

Attacking Jerusalem will turn out to be a tremendous stumbling block.  The invaders will be repelled by overwhelming divine retribution.

On that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that on that day the one who is weakest among them will be like David on that day, and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the Lord, before them. On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  Zechariah 12:8-9 (HCSB)

 On that day Yahweh will become King over all the earth—Yahweh alone, and His name alone. 

11 People will live there, and never again will there be a curse of complete destruction. So Jerusalem will dwell in security.

12 This will be the plague the Lord strikes all the peoples with, who have warred against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. 13 On that day a great panic from the Lord will be among them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of one will rise against the other.  Zechariah 14:9,11-13 (HCSB)

In this remarkable victory, Jesus will be revealed to all of His people as the True and Victorious Messiah.  All vestiges of human government will be eliminated, and a spirit of forgiveness and grace will be poured out upon the people.

10 “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10 (HCSB)

It is hard to imagine what else the prophet Zechariah might be referring to other than a belated recognition of the Messianic credentials of the crucified Jesus Christ.  Zechariah emphasizes the Lord’s mercy and grace being poured out without limit.  God’s forgiveness of sins is extended today to all who come to faith in Christ, no matter what they have done in their past and how late their awakening may be.

1 “On that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity. On that day”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“I will erase the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered. I will remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.  Zechariah 13:1-2 (HCSB)

As the apostle Paul later wrote in the book of Romans:

25 So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

The Liberator will come from Zion;
He will turn away godlessness from Jacob.
27 And this will be My covenant with them
when I take away their sins.  Romans 11:25-27 (HCSB)

Reflection

Jesus wondered if He would find faith when He returned from heaven.  We know from the prophets that His return will come at a time of great world turmoil and rebellion against God, led by a powerful and deceiving Antichrist.  But God has promised to prevail over all opposition, and that He will never forget His beloved,

29 since God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable.  Romans 11:29 (HCSB)

Lord, keep us strong in the faith and grant us patience and self-control to live a holy life through the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Show us where we can be useful to You and to the growth of Your kingdom today.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The Bad Shepherd – Zechariah 11

In the gospel of John, Jesus differentiates between Himself, the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep, and a hired shepherd, who leads the sheep but has no commitment to them:

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. John 10:11-13 (HCSB)

Alluding to His coming crucifixion, a voluntary sacrifice which will atone for the sins of His believers, Jesus continues:

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.  John 10:14-15 (HCSB)

Despite Jesus’ deep willingness to die for our salvation, the actual act of rejecting and betraying Him was still a tremendous afront to God.  The prophet Zechariah wrote of Messiah’s rejection and physical wounding at the hands of the Romans, whom temple authorities had handed Jesus over to for execution.

Zechariah writes:

If someone asks him: What are these wounds on your chest?—then he will answer: I received the wounds in the house of my friends.

Sword, awake against My shepherd,
against the man who is My associate—
this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.
Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will also turn My hand against the little ones.  Zechariah 13:6-7 (HCSB)

When Jesus was struck down and crucified, His disciples were scattered in fear until they saw the risen Christ.  After His ascension into heaven forty days later, they gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem to pray and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had instructed them.  Ten days later, they would receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost.  From here onward, they would preach the gospel of salvation with great boldness wherever they went.

But despite rapid growth of the church through their witness of the risen Christ, much of the world rejected Him, and still do today.  With their rejection of the Good Shepherd, God the Father will permit the rise of a false shepherd, the Antichrist, whose spirit is already in the world wherever Jesus is being mocked, attacked, and rejected.  Antichrist will appear to be a great and wonderful leader but will have nothing but evil in his heart.

16 I am about to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are going astray, and he will not seek the lost or heal the broken. He will not sustain the healthy, but he will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hooves.  Zechariah 11:16-17 (HCSB)

The book of Revelation speaks of the rise of this physical Antichrist, called the beast, who will be a very popular world leader in the last days.  This false shepherd will assume and hold authority through the power of the devil, who is referred to in Revelation as the dragon. 

Antichrist’s seven-year reign will be split into two parts.  The first three and a half years will bring world peace to the amazement of his many followers.  But his final 42 months will bring great war and suffering in what is called the Great Tribulation period, which according to Jesus will be a time of great trial unlike any the world has ever seen.  Antichrist will finally be defeated when Jesus returns to earth to establish His eternal kingdom.

The apostle John writes about the dragon, or devil, and the beast, or Antichrist:

They worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?”

A mouth was given to him to speak boasts and blasphemies. He was also given authority to act for 42 months. He began to speak blasphemies against God: to blaspheme His name and His dwelling—those who dwell in heaven. And he was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered.  Revelation 13:4-8 (HCSB)

Because of a global rejection of the Messiah, the Bad Shepherd will be permitted to flourish in the end times with the full approval and praise of all those under him.  But like the devil himself, Antichrist’s time to mislead and bring suffering to the nations will be limited.  Neither the dragon nor the beast will ever be permitted into the kingdom of God, which will be under the complete authority and protection of the Good, loving, and ever-committed Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He will rule and reign from Jerusalem forever.

Reflection

Jesus told a parable about a good shepherd with 100 sheep.  When one of His sheep became lost, He left the ninety-nine to go search for it until He found it.  When He found it, there was great joy on earth and in heaven.

The Lord is still searching for lost sheep today, be it in a lonely flat or apartment, a bar, a jail or prison, in a crowd, or anywhere someone has lost their way or their purpose and is searching for a solution.  Jesus is there to fill the emptiness inside with His loving presence. He is right there.

Lord, keep us safe always from the bad shepherds.  Grant us discernment and wisdom to keep us away from their lures and charms.  Help us to walk closely with You, the true Good Shepherd, bathed in Your great light and love, and surrounded with Your protection.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thirty Pieces of Silver – Zechariah 11

After his prophecy about Jesus entering Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, the prophet Zechariah was given another piece of information about the coming Messiah. 

Zechariah writes:

12 Then I said to them, “If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” So they weighed my wages, 30 pieces of silver.

13 “Throw it to the potter,” the Lord said to me—this magnificent price I was valued by them. So I took the 30 pieces of silver and threw it into the house of the Lord, to the potter.  Zechariah 11:12-13 (HCSB)

Jesus would be betrayed by one of His twelve apostles, Judas Iscariot, who agreed to sell Him for 30 pieces of silver to the religious leaders who were trying to kill Him.

14 Then one of the Twelve—the man called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?” So they weighed out 30 pieces of silver for him. 16 And from that time he started looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.  Matthew 26:14-16 (HCSB)

Judas told Jesus’ opponents when and where they could find Him to arrest Him in the night.  When they arrived, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of friendship on the cheek.  As God, Jesus could easily have resisted any kind of attack, but He permitted Himself to be taken into custody without resistance, knowing that He would be brutally beaten and crucified unto death as a result.  He did this voluntarily, knowing that He alone could be the only acceptable sacrifice worthy of providing complete atonement for the sins of the world.

The rest of Zechariah’s prophecy was then fulfilled:

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said.

“What’s that to us?” they said. “See to it yourself!”

So he threw the silver into the sanctuary and departed. Then he went and hanged himself. 

The chief priests took the silver and said, “It’s not lawful to put it into the temple treasury, since it is blood money.” So they conferred together and bought the potter’s field with it as a burial place for foreigners. Therefore that field has been called “Blood Field” to this day.  Matthew 27:3-8 (HCSB)

Jesus was fully aware of everything that was happening around Him.  This was the reason He had come to earth to begin with – to establish a new covenant between God and People, with complete forgiveness to be provided by faith through His death on the cross and the shedding of His blood.  At His final Passover meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and presented Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

As the apostle Paul later wrote:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 gave thanks, broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

25 In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (HCSB)

Forty days after rising from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  He will return one day to rule and reign over the world from Jerusalem as both Lord and King.  In the meantime, He has directed us to remember Him and His loving sacrifice on the cross through the bread and the cup of the new covenant.

Reflection

As believers in Christ, we are encouraged to participate in the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, to celebrate Jesus’ wonderful sacrifice and the grace that flows to us as a result.  None of us is worthy to stand before God on our own merit or goodness – we require the complete washing and purification that only the death and resurrection of Christ can provide through faith in Him.

If you do not yet have this cleansing, won’t you invite Him into your life to drink of His living water today?  He has been with you every moment of your life, through all the joys and the sorrows, and He deeply loves you.

Lord, thank You for being with me in every moment, through the tears and the laughter, the successes, and the failures.  Help me to walk closely with You and to live a holy and blameless life, one day at a time.  Though I do fail often, I seek to get up and do a better job of reflecting Your love to others at the next opportunity.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Triumphal Entry – Zechariah 9

The prophet Zechariah was privileged to be given this prophecy to share with the world about the coming Messiah:

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
        Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
    Behold, your king is coming to you,
        a righteous one bringing salvation.
        He is lowly, riding on a donkey—
        on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  Zechariah 9:9 (TLV)

When the future Leader of God’s kingdom was introduced in Jerusalem, He was recognized by these specific signs and qualities:

  • He will be righteous.  No human being is righteous on their own goodness.  We all have sins and flaws.  Except for one – the only person who lived without sin is Jesus Christ.
  • He will bring salvation.  Only God can give the gift of salvation, eternal life.  The only person who is 100% God and 100% human is Jesus Christ.
  • He will present Himself to His people while riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 

Of all humanity, only Jesus fulfills these Messianic requirements.  As He prepared to enter Jerusalem on the Sunday before His death on the cross, He gave certain instructions to His disciples:

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
even on a colt,
the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!  Matthew 21:1-9 (HCSB)

Upon His entry, Jesus was received by the crowd with great fanfare. They fully expected He would assume His kingship immediately and overthrow the oppressive Roman empire.  Jesus’ credentials as Messiah were fulfilled by the countless miracles and healings He performed, so they had no reason to think He would not immediately fulfill this role.  But there was a problem – sin.  Because of people’s sin, they would not be able to live as His righteous subjects in a holy and pure kingdom.  The hard fact was that there first had to be a remedy for sin. 

The solution planned from the beginning of time was for Jesus to lay His life down as the holy sacrifice for the sin of the world.  After three days in the tomb, He would be raised from the dead and bring new life to all believers.  This is the great hope that Christ-followers have to this day.

Jesus will return to Jerusalem one day as glorious King of the final world empire, the Kingdom of God.  So many of the Old Testament prophets write of this day.  But it had (and has) not yet arrived, and the crowds that worshiped Jesus at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem did not understand what was happening.  When Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested on groundless accusations then beaten and crucified as an atonement for sin, almost all of the people around Him abandoned Him in disappointment and fear.

Jesus’ horrible crucifixion was also prophesied about, first in the Psalms:

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
18 They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.  Psalm 22:14-18 (HCSB)

Then by the prophet Isaiah:

Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:4-6 (HCSB)

We believers are eternally grateful that God loved us enough to permit such sacrifice on our behalf. And He is calling all people to Himself through the power of the cross.

Reflection

Lord Jesus, thank You for going to the cross for us.  We have all sinned and fallen short of Your righteousness.  We ask for Your forgiveness and mercy and for Your help in extending mercy and forgiveness to those around us.  We ask this in Your Name, Amen.

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.