Monday, 29 December 2014

(364) December 30: Zechariah 12-14 & Revelation 21

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 God promises to do.

To ponder:
The structure of chapters 12-14 is incredibly difficult to discern. 14v1-19 covers the same event as 12v1-9, so they cannot be chronological. More likely, these sections speak of God’s final deliverance of his people, bracketing the section between them, which refer to what will happen before then.
            First, God speaks about Israel, affirming he is the mighty creator who also forms the spirit of man. He declares Jerusalem is going to be a cup – a picture of his wrath. All the nations will besiege both Jerusalem and Judah, but he will make the city like an immovable rock injuring those who seek to move it. He will watch over Judah, but blind and cause panic to the horses and riders attacking her. The people will then say Jerusalem is strong because the Almighty is their God. We’re told on that day Judah’s leaders will consume all the peoples like fire, and God will save Judah first so it doesn’t look like he’s honouring the city and David before the rest of the people. The point is that all will be treated equally. And because of God’s protection, it will be as if the feeblest in Jerusalem will be as strong as king David, and his house, ie. descendent, like God - here clearly equated with the Angel of the LORD going before them into battle as he did in leading Israel to the promised land. It is on that day God will set out to destroy the nations attacking Jerusalem (12v1-9). This resonates with other predictions of a final attack on the people of God at the time of the end (Ezek 38-39, Rev 20v7-10), and keeps the persecuted church forever watchful for the day when the LORD finally rescues them through his divine-davidic king, by destroying their oppressors in judgement.
            In the next section God speaks of a time of grief by the people as they somehow “look one” the LORD as one they have “pierced” (as Jn 19v37). In context this surely refers to how they rejected him as their shepherd (11v12-13). The point is that despite this, God has still acted favourably towards the nation as he is clear that this right attitude will come only by his work, as he pours out a spirit of grace and supplication on both the davidic line and Jerusalem – ie. he graciously changes their hearts so that they repent. Repentance can come no other way. And so it is then stressed that every clan, and especially those of the royal (David) and priestly (Nathan) lines will mourn what they did to the LORD as in mourning the death of an only son (consider Acts 2v36-39). This should have intrigued the reader as God cannot die. It must therefore refer to God in the form of a man, which has already been hinted at (see 12v8).
               As with other prophets, “on that day” (13v1) compacts the coming section with the previous one. In it God promises that a cleansing fountain will be opened to the Davidic line and Jerusalemites, to cleanse them from sin. And so he will remove their idols, false prophets, and impure attitudes. What follows is a note that any false prophet who still prophesies will be killed. So they will refuse to engage in or even admit to their role (13v1-6). The note about saying wounds on their body are from a friend may refer to the false prophet explaining away pagan marks he had put on his body. The sense is that God will purify the people’s worship.
            13v7-9 seems to refer again to the rejected and pierced shepherd (as 10v13, 12v10). He is seen favourably as one close to God. Nevertheless, God calls the sword (of judgement) to strike him as he turns his hands against the sheep (ie. people) who will then be scattered. He states that two thirds will be killed, and the other third refined through fire so that they call on him in prayer. It is they who will then be his covenant people, with him as their God. Jesus referred this to his own death (Matt 26v31), implying his followers are refined as they then suffer for him (see 1 Pet 1v7). Taken together, 12v10-13v9 is a powerful prediction of how the LORD will renew a portion of his people after they put his Christ to death according to his purpose and will.
            Chapter 14 again speaks of God gathering the nations against Jerusalem. But now we hear that before being delivered, the people will suffer. They will see their belongings divided by their captors, Jerusalem captured, its women raped, and half the inhabitants go into exile. But then the LORD will fight against the nations. Here he is pictured standing on the Mount of Olives, which splits to form a valley through which God’s people can escape what God is about to do. He will then come with all his angels (holy ones). “That day,” implying the entire period begun by God’s deliverance, is then said to be unique, with no sunlight or seasons, yet constantly light – presumably because of God’s glory, and with water flowing across the world from Jerusalem – presumably bringing abundant life (see Rev 21v22-22v5). From then the LORD will be the only one worshipped and will be king of the whole earth. Jerusalem is here portrayed as the centre of the earth, raised up above the surrounding area, which is made like lowland (the Arabah). The point is not only that Jerusalem will be exalted, but that it will not matter if it is so visible, as it will be secure, never again to be destroyed (14v1-11).
            God’s “plague” against the nations who fought Jerusalem is then outlined as one in which their bodies rot whilst they remain alive, and that will attack their animals too, presumably so the enemy can’t escape. It’s added that they will panic and fight one-another. And Judah will also fight against them, plundering their wealth. But what is then striking, is that we read some from the nations will survive this and enter into Israel’s worship by celebrating the feast of tabernacles each year. This is no doubt mentioned as it is a harvest festival, and so will celebrate the abundance enjoyed within the world. However, it is noted that if any peoples don’t do this, they will receive no rain – a sign of God’s curse (14v12-19). Egypt is perhaps singled out as representative of the nations because it was the key nation that stood against Israel at her birth.
            In highly figurative language this whole chapter seems to imply a final attack on the church as the people of God and new Jerusalem, before Christ returns and reigns over a new creation filled with the glory of God. This really could be fulfilled at any time. But the text implies that during that final persecution, some will actually come to faith in Christ and join the worshippers of God, whilst some of those will also stop doing so. This would all have told the returned exiles building their temple, that after they strike the shepherd God sends them, things will get hard. But God will still fulfil his promises. The book ends speaking of how even the horses and the temple’s cooking pots will then be set-apart as holy to God, like the sacred bowls before the altar. Indeed, the people will no longer need special set-apart pots for the meals they would have as part of their worship. Instead they could use any pot. And there will no longer be Canaanites in the temple, as it only God’s people will be admitted (14v20-21). The point is that all defiling sin will have gone.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he will one day establish his glorious kingdom. Pray that you would not turn from worshipping him.

Thinking further:
None today.

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