Friday, 26 December 2014

(361) December 27: Zechariah 4-6 & Revelation 18

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what each vision teaches.

To ponder:
Perhaps to emphasize the importance of what follows, Zechariah is awakened into his next vision from a sort of in-vision sleep, and asked what he sees (4v1). He sees a gold lampstand, with an olive tree on each side of it. The lampstand has seven lights on top, fed with golden oil that passes to a bowl through two pipes from the olive trees, and then to the lights via seven channels (4v2, 12, see here). He asks the angel what these are, and the angel responds in a way that implies he should know. He then gives God’s word to Zerubbabel, the governor, in which he promises that the temple will be completed not my might, or power, but by his Spirit. So God rhetorically states that “a mighty mountain” is nothing before Zerubbabel, but will become level ground, with Zerubbabel bringing out the final capstone as people shout “God bless it” (4v2-7) This implies the mountain is the mountain of opposition to the rebuilding, and that it will be overcome without force – as occurred when God moved (by his Spirit) Darius to decree its rebuilding (Ez 6). God is well able to simply move human hearts to ensure his will is done.
            The certainty of the temple’s completion is then assured as God declares that having laid its foundation Zerubbabel will also complete it, and the people will then know Zechariah (or the angel) was sent to them, as the prophecy will have come true. This is important as a key reassurance that the temple wasn’t completed simply by human endeavour, but was a sign that God really was with his people again (4v8-9). It seems some who were keen for the rebuilding “despised the day of small things” – perhaps in the sense that they impatiently wanted to see God’s promises fulfilled dramatically, suddenly or fully, and may have thought God was not with this struggling remnant. But they will rejoice to see Zerubbabel with the plumb line that was used to test whether walls are vertical. This could mean a rejoicing at the work restarting or being completed (4v10). Whatever, it reminds us that we shouldn’t scoff at small things the Lord achieves through his people – the small church, the occasional conversion etc. They also remind us God is with us. And each is part of the big thing of the completion of his purposes in Christ.
            The candlestick is now explained: The seven lights represent the eyes (or “springs”) of the LORD that range throughout the earth. And after Zechariah asks twice to focus our attention, we learn the two olive trees (providing the oil) are the two individuals who are anointed (presumably with oil) to serve God. In context these must be Joshua (the priest) and Zerubbabel (the governor, ie. one closest to a king). The meaning of the vision seems to be that by their work, the temple will be established as a means of bringing the light and life of God to the whole world. As they are symbolic of things to come (3v8) it is legitimate to see this fulfilled in Christ, the priest-king from whom that light and life flows - and now through his body, the church.
            Next Zechariah sees a flying scroll, apparently unravelled, and measuring 20 by 10 cubits (30x15 feet). Its size perhaps stresses the fact that it covers the land, representing God’s curse on it, banishing every thief and everyone who swears falsely by God’s name. These sins are, no doubt, representative of sins against one’s neighbour and against God. And God declares it will enter the house of those who sin in these ways, remaining there until those houses are destroyed. It is therefore a scroll that declares the wicked in Israel will face God’s justice for their sin (5v1-4). The angel then draws the prophet’s attention to a measuring basket, representing the sin of the people, with a woman inside representing wickedness. The angel shut her in with a lead cover, meaning the basket was firmly closed. Zechariah then saw two women with wings like a stork. With the wind (or spirit) in their wings, they lifted the basket into the sky and took it to Babylon to build a house for it to be placed in (5v5-11). Babylon is to be seen as a city of wickedness (as Rev 18). The sense is probably that those of God’s people who commit wickedness are akin to the evil Babylonians, and when the time is right, will receive the same ultimate fate (as Matt 25v41).
            Now as Zechariah looks up, he sees four chariots coming from between two mountains of bronze – led by powerful red, black, white and dappled horses. The angel explains they are the four spirits of heaven going to the four poles of the world from God’s presence. The mountains might therefore be marking a sort of entrance to God’s presence like the threshold of the temple. The angel’s command and comment (6v7-8) show that he is the LORD himself! 6v8 implies that the angelic spirit going north has fulfilled God’s purposes there. This may refer to the judgement of Babylon and release of the exiles, or to the final judgement on the wickedness Babylon symbolises (as 5v10-11). And so God’s Spirit is at rest (6v1-8). No corner of the world is exempt from God’s will and purpose, nor his justice.
            6v9-15 is a climax to this vision section. God’s word comes, telling Zechariah to get silver and gold from some recent returnees and have it immediately made into a crown to be put on Joshua, the high priest. He is to tell him God says he, Joshua, is named the branch (a Messianic title, as Is 11v1), and will branch out and build the temple. This is astonishing as it makes the priest also king. Moreover, he will be clothed in majesty and rule on “his” throne – perhaps meaning Joshua’s, or meaning God’s! And so there will be harmony between priest and king in the one person. Having acted all this out, Zechariah is then to give the crown to some officials as a memorial before the LORD in the temple. This shows this crowning of Joshua will be fulfilled not in him, but sometime in the future. Of course it looks to Christ, who is king in ruling human hearts by his Spirit and word, and priest, in offering himself to atone for their sin. And this is necessary for God’s perfect kingdom. Previously the efforts of a godly king could be thwarted by an ungodly high priest and vice-versa. But not when they are the same. And it is Christ who will build the temple of the church.
            6v15 states that those far away will help build the temple so the people will know that Zechariah (or the angel) has been sent by the LORD, because he predicted it. But it will only happen if the people diligently obey God. As the temple by this time was on its way to completion, this seems to look ahead too, to the fulfilment of the temple as Gentiles join Jews in the building of the church (as 2v11, 8v22). All this should thrill us in the knowledge that we are part of God’s eternal kingdom under Christ the perfect priest-king. As such, we should give ourselves to building his church.

Praying it home:
Praise God that for ensuring a perfect kingdom through Christ. Pray that you would not despise the day of small things in the building of the church.

Thinking further:
None today.

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