Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 1:1-6; Haggai 2:10-19; Ezra 5:2; Haggai 2:20-23; Zechariah 1:7-5:11
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I've been talking about a lot of obedience in recent blog posts. Here's a great verse of a promise of a blessing from God for obedience, from Haggai chapter 2 verse 19: "I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn, before you have harvested your grain and before the grapevine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have produced their crops. From this day onward I will bless you." Below is a Greek icon of the prophet Haggai from the 18th century:
Today we start the book of the prophet Zechariah! You’ll note that we are now at the 2nd to the last book of the Old Testament. Malachi is after Zechariah. Zechariah was a prophet during the post-exile (returned from Babylon) period at about the same time Haggai was a prophet. Both started their prophecies in 520 B.C. – however, Zechariah prophesied for many more years going forward – probably until about 480/475 B.C. Zechariah’s name means, “The Lord remembers,” which is fitting for this book. God is remembering his covenant promise to the Israelites in this post-exilic period. Zechariah’s prophecies are similar to Haggai’s in that he is encouraging the Israelites to rebuild the temple. Zechariah is a wonderful book, filled with 8 night visions, 4 messages, and 2 oracles. A good overview of the book of Zechariah is online at bible.org at this link.
Chapter 1 verse 3 stood out to me in today’s readings: “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD Almighty.'” What a great calling and promise from God! Return to me – and I will return to you. Are there areas in your life where you need to change your ways and return to God? If you change our ways, or repent, and return to God, do you believe that God will also return blessings to you for this act of repentance? Will you return to God? Why would this be wise? Is it a risky waste of time to be apart from God? Will you no longer turn back?
In verse 8 we begin to read about Zechariah’s night visions. It is interesting to note that all 8 of his visions in this book take place in 1 night. Visions are different from dreams in that Zechariah is an in an awake state while these visions occur. You’ll note that the four horsemen described here are very similar to the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” described by John in Revelation chapter 6, which we recently read. The four horns in verse 18 are thought to represent Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Persia and the four blacksmiths in verse 20 are thought to represent Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. Below are the visions of Zechariah from a 14th century illuminated Bible:
Today in Zechariah we read about the future prosperity of Jerusalem, the Exiles being called home, and cleansing for the high priest. Chapter 2, verses 4 & 5 stood out to me in today's readings: ""Hurry, and say to that young man, `Jerusalem will someday be so full of people that it won't have room enough for everyone! Many will live outside the city walls, with all their livestock--and yet they will be safe. For I, myself, will be a wall of fire around Jerusalem, says the LORD. And I will be the glory inside the city!'" My mind took me to the thought of the holy heavenly Jerusalem being chocked full of people who love God! And a wall of fire - holy protection - surrounding everyone in a heavenly Jerusalem and providing safety. And God's glory reigning eternally... I don't think this is quite proper exegesis on this passage... :) but I like the thought!
Chapter 1 verse 13 also jumped out at me: "Be silent before the LORD, all humanity, for he is springing into action from his holy dwelling."" I think sometimes we get so busy during the Christmas season that we forget to be silent and to be still. We can just go, go, go - rush, rush rush - and maybe miss the true meaning of Christmas? Don't forget the song, "Silent Night, Holy Night...." Can you find time and space to be silent before the Lord this upcoming Christmas? And time and space to reflect upon what the advent of Jesus as a baby in the manger means to you?
Chapter 3 verses 8 & 9 were also beautiful for me today as we think about the birth of Jesus: "Listen to me, O Jeshua the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of the good things to come. Soon I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. Now look at the jewel I have set before Jeshua, a single stone with seven facets. I will engrave an inscription on it, says the LORD Almighty, and I will remove the sins of this land in a single day." Are you looking forward to the coming of the Branch? What does the Branch symbolize to you? Verse 9 above also looks beyond Christmas and toward Good Friday - How were our sins removed in a single day? Do you believe that your sins were removed by Jesus on the cross on that single day?
And chapter 3 verse 10 is powerful: "And on that day, says the LORD Almighty, each of you will invite your neighbor into your home to share your peace and prosperity." Will you have an opportunity over this next couple of weeks to invite someone into your home to share in your peace and prosperity? Or, if not, can you find an opportunity to go out and share your peace and prosperity with others? Maybe volunteer at a place that has neighbors that really need your peace and prosperity?
Today in the book of the prophet Zechariah we read about Zechariah's visions of a Lampstand and Two Olive Trees, a Flying Scroll, and a Woman in a Basket. Chapter 4 is essentially a vision of encouragement for the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem - not by their own might, but by relying on the Spirit of God. The rebuilding will be led by Zerubbabel, the political leader of Jerusalem at this post-exilic time, as well as by Joshua, the priest - and these two are represented by the 2 olive trees in the vision. The bowl of oil held by the lampstands in the vision represents God's power through his spirit. Below is an image of Zechariah's vision of the lampstand and olive trees from a Cervera Bible from Spain from approximately the year 1300:
Chapter 4 verse 6 stood out to me in today's readings: "It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty." How often in our own lives do we try to do things by our own force or our own strength? And not look to God? Would we ultimately lead more productive and peaceful and joyful and restful lives if we instead allowed God's Spirit to move in our lives? Or will we continue to try to do things by our own force and strength?
Verse 10 is a great reminder for each of us - "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand." If we do feel led by the Spirit of God to work on something - and it turns out to be maybe something bigger than ourselves - do we sometimes get discouraged by the task before us? Do we despise small beginnings? Be encouraged to know that God rejoices in small beginnings! Take the first step! Take the plumb line in your hand! (I will be honest - it's not always easy to get motivated for typing in this blog each evening. Most days I am motivated - but not always. Sometimes I just have to "take the plumb line in my hand" - get started with the typing - and God shows up....)
In chapter 5 we read about the vision of the flying scroll - which is a very large scroll with a purpose of encouraging repentance with a clear message of judgment. The second vision of the woman in the basket is essentially purging sin from the land of Jerusalem, and plopping it down in a more fitting place where they will build a temple for it! To worship the sin... Babylon... Are there areas in our life where we need to deposit some sin into a basket, close the lid, and let the basket be taken away to another place far from us? Is it possible that there are areas of sin in our life where we actually worship the sin somehow? Will we turn away from this false idol worship and return to loving God whole-heartedly?
Worship God: Today's readings reminded me of Britt Nicole's song "Walk on The Water:"
Do you want to walk on the water? Click here and Walk On!
Comments from You: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
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