Saturday, December 14, 2013

Zechariah 1: Zechariah's Vision


Zech 1:7-17 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo. During the night I had a vision — and there before me was a man riding a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. I asked, "What are these, my lord?" The angel who was talking with me answered, "I will show you what they are." Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, "They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth." And they reported to the angel of the Lord, who was standing among the myrtle trees, "We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace." Then the angel of the Lord said, "Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?" So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. Then the angel who was speaking to me said, "Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.' Therefore, this is what the Lord says: 'I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,' declares the Lord Almighty. Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.'"

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But why should humans be afraid of the Lord? Because of His anger against injustice and wickedness committed against the poor and helpless. God's anger is never capricious or irrational, because it is always directed against violations and violence committed against fellow humans. But because He is consistently opposed to spiritual and moral corruption, we should always fear Him for this. Such fear is clean and will keep us from violating others' dignity and rights. Just as a burnt child dreads fire, so we should fear the Lord who is a consuming fire: "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire." (Heb 12:28-29, NKJV). 

As much as fire brings heat, it also consumes when it is not contained. A responsible parent will not only teach a child to love the warmth the fire can give, but also teach them to fear it lest they be consumed by the fire. We would call a parent irresponsible and a child stupid who insist that the fear of fire is a negative emotions that could lower the child's self-esteem and induce guilt. Such psychologizing of God may sound noble, but it is ultimately self-destructive.

So, God was angry with Israel for 70 years: "Then the angel of the Lord said, "Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?" (Zec 1:12). The angel asked when the Lord would show mercy. The answer is simple: his anger remains until Judah repents of her moral violations and social violence and return to the path of righteousness. Whether we experience God's anger or God's mercy really depends on us, not Him: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the Lord Almighty" (Zech 1:3). 

God deals with us graciously because of what Christ has done on our behalf. Despite Judah's sins, God remains faithful to that covenantal relationship--even after 70 years. Like a faithful husband who has entered into a covenantal relationship with his wife, our God does not believe in divorce. While our sins can change His attitude from mercy to anger, it can not break the covenantal bond of love. Ultimately, the choice is in our hands: we can choose to repent and return to Him and we will experience abundant blessings or we can remain stubborn and in rebellion and we will experience His discipline: 

"Then the angel who was speaking to me said, "Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.' Therefore, this is what the Lord says: 'I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,' declares the Lord Almighty. Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.'" (Zech 1:14-17). 

For all who seek to keep His commands, there is no need to domesticate God. Only those who break His moral standards need to fear His anger. And this fear is necessary to turn them back onto the path of righteousness. Once they are on the righteous path, the love of God and love for God will take over, not fear, for perfect love casts out fear.

Father, I thank You that those who love You and seek to conform to the image of Christ should not have to fear You because You have shown mercy towards them. May we continue to walk in the path of obedience so that we may experience Your mercy which is new every morning. Amen.

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