Monday, October 3, 2011

Zechariah Part 5: Continued Prophecies of the New Covenant

Text: Zechariah 12, 13

This section of Zechariah continues the prophecies from the previous chapter. These prophecies are not in chronological order; they are looking at the same event from different perspectives.

In Chapter 12:1-9, there is a prophecy about an event that will occur "in that day" (v.3). What is the day being referred to here? This can be identified as the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. The day of His coming and establishing His kingdom marked the fulfillment and bringing to an end of the Old Covenant.

The blessing on Israel as a physical nation was ended. The New Covenant spiritual Israel is what is in view in this chapter -- a kingdom that will be trembled at.

There is a blessing here on the house of David. Christ, the seed of David, will be exalted. All of His followers will have the courage and strength to overcome trouble and testing in that day.

Verses 10 and 11 give a better understanding of that day -- it is the day when they will look upon Christ and see Him pierced (His death on the cross).

Verses 12-14 describe a mourning. This will not be a national mourning, but rather a particularized mourning. It is an individual thing, as the New Covenant is made up of individuals. Individuals must each mourn their sin and the death of their Savior by themselves.

Chapter 13:1 identifies the Lord Jesus' death on the cross. He is the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.

Verses 2-6 describe the result of the finished work of Christ. No false teaching will be tolerated in the Kingdom. People will recognize the truth and tolerate nothing that diminishes Christ's glory. Apostles and prophets will demand truth and will refuse to hear false prophets. False prophets will repent and be corrected and ashamed of their false teaching. They will be brought to repentance by their friends.

Verses 7-9 are a section that Jesus quoted. God smote the Shepherd; He slayed His only Son and the sheep were scattered. Note that two thirds were cut off -- but a remnant was saved.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Zechariah Part 4: Further Prophecy of God's Dealings With Israel

Text: Zechariah 9-11

In Chapter 9 of Zechariah, we see prophecies speaking to the coming New Testament time. God told His people of what was coming, regarding the establishment of the Kingdom and the coming of Christ. These words were sufficient for the next 400 years of silence.

A number of people groups are listed -- Syria, Phoenicia, the Philistines -- and their destruction is prophesied. This destruction came 200 years later when Alexander the Great destroyed these groups. But Alexander did not go on to Jerusalem; He received a vision from God that he was not to touch Jerusalem. When the Philistines saw this deliverance, many trusted God -- the remnant here described.

This passage also prophecies how the north and south kingdoms were united by the Macabees and they defeated Antiochus Epiphanes. This was Ephraim and Judea, the "bow and arrow".

In Chapter 10, the prophecy elaborates on the blessings that Ephraim and Judea will receive. Also, we see the introduction of the theme of a shepherd, and that the Lord has a people and will take care of them.

In verse 1, they are told to "ask for rain" -- this is an example for us, to be bold and ask God for blessings. Also, they are told to ask at an appropriate time, at the time for the spring rains.

In verse 6, we see that God will restore His people and have compassion on them. He will call, gather, and redeem. These are the blessings the Jews were to be asking for.

We see the people are in a bad state -- they are "without a shepherd" (without a leader). And God is not pleased with their leaders. He is angry at the shepherds. It's no good to follow the wrong leader. Misguided ritual is of no use. There is no excuse for following someone who is leading you astray; God will not hear of it.

Verse 4 is the key verse in the chapter. Christ is the prophesied immovable, eternal "corner stone", the tent peg holding all together.

Chapter 11 is a prophecy of an upcoming civil war. The leaders were unable to collect their tax monies (the howling of the shepherds), and they asked the Romans to come in and put down the rebellion. In doing so, the Romans ruined the country, destroying the great forests at Lebanon and Bashan.

In verses 7-14, the prophecy discusses the Messiah. God will feed the true Jews (pasture the flock doomed to slaughter). Then we have the prophecy of the two staffs -- "Favor" and "Union". "Favor" represents Israel, and "Union" represents the union of Judah and Ephraim.

Verse 8 speaks of annihilation of the "three shepherds". This is not literally three people, but represents the leaders in three realms: civil, religious, and prophetic -- corresponding to the king, priest, and prophet. These leaders were failing in their duty and would be destroyed.

God shows He no longer has a care for false professors. When Christ was crucified, the "Favor" staff was broken -- the covenant with Israel was over. The "Union" staff was broken as well. Animosity would remain between Judah and Israel.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Zechariah Part 3: A Call to Reality

Text: Zechariah 7-8

This passage begins with men from Bethel asking the priests if they should continue to fast in the 5th and 7th months. They had been fasting in the 5th and 7th months -- as well as the 4th and 10th -- to commemorate different events associated with the fall of Jerusalem.

Years had passed since that fall, and progress was being made to rebuild the wall, so the men were wondering if they should continue fasting, or if it was the time to renew hope and begin rejoicing.

God gives the answer to their question in the following chapters. He is going to show them how to worship, and show that worship is not just a hollow ritual but true worship is combined with a changed life.

Verses 4-7 of Chapter 7 begin with a stern correction for their fasting. Their fasting didn't do any good! It wasn't commanded in the Law; they were adding to the Law. And God speaks directly to their inward motivation, rather than this outward ritual.

Their motivation to fast was to get something from God; they wanted to feel good about themselves. But the proper motivation in worship is always to give something: to show homage and give glory to God.

God said (paraphrasing): "You should have listened to the old prophets! You didn't need to create this ritual." The message: submission unto the Lord and repentance from sin is what God seeks in His worshipers.

In verse 8-14, God makes it clear that what they needed was to have real life in their hearts. Their religious ritual meant nothing because they weren't worshiping Him in their lives. They gave 70 years of fasting, rather than living before God in their lives. Ritual is easy -- do we worship as ritual, or are we coming prepared and ready to meet with God?

In Chapter 8, God lays out the blessing He has in store. He had always purposed to love and bless His people, but He would not have them follow after other gods. God was as determined to bless them as He was to bring curses upon them when they went astray.

This is now a time for rejoicing, not fasting and mourning. God promised to make His people a blessing. They were receiving a down payment on the restoration. And God commanded them to do certain things (v16, 17). God encouraged them in their work, just as He encourages us in our work now.

This prophecy at the end of the chapter is concerned with a future day, "In that day" -- this would be the day when Jesus was to come. A time awaited when the Messiah would come and people would flock to Him. The Jews would be blessed to be the first to receive that message. People from all nations would hear about the Messiah and come to God. The prophecy shows plainly how the Gentiles would take hold of the Jews and become one people, the true Israel, following God.

God blessed the world through the Jews; through the Jewish disciples of Jesus, He brought in many Gentiles. The Jews would be part of the coming Kingdom of the Son, Jesus. They would be the first fruits among the nations.