October 17: At What Price?

Read Zechariah 11:1-17

What is the Savior worth to you? I’m sure you agree that it is impossible to attach a monetary value to Him.

According to 1 Peter 1:18, 19, the value of His blood is greater than that of silver or gold. And in Matthew 13, His Kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a piece of valuable land. It’s like a pearl worthy of all of your.

Following Him caused some to leave fishing nets and families or would have required that others sell all. Surely, His value is infinite. No price is too high, no sacrifice too great.

In this interesting interplay of past, present, and future kings (shepherds) of Israel in today’s reading, Zechariah was eventually invited to play the part of the coming Messiah.  When asked about His wages, the answer given was thirty pieces of silver (v. 12). My guess is you recognize the prophetic New Testament parallel as the price that Judas would accept for betraying Christ into the hands of the soldiers and authorities.

Before we spend a moment on that thought, let’s consider another Old Testament parallel. You see, thirty pieces of silver was the price a slave owner was paid as compensation and settlement if his slave was gored by another person’s ox (Ex. 21:32). Thirty pieces of silver . . . that’s what a slave was worth.

As Jesus was betrayed, then, Judas saw thirty pieces of silver in his own pocket as having greater value than Jesus in His life. Those wanting the Savior dead were willing to pay the going price for an unfortunate slave. How disappointing that people in Christ’s day drew such conclusions.

The value we ascribe to Him is not so easily measured with monetary value. The price tag we attach is less discernible.

Still, it can be observed. It becomes clear in terms of priority and sacrifice. How much priority do you give to worshiping Him? Growing in intimacy with Him? Serving Him? What are you willing/unwilling to sacrifice when it comes to getting together with God’s people? In order to see others come to Him? In order to see His fame grow around the world?

At some point, does the price become high enough that you sell out?

sbk

October 16: Family Reunion

Read Zechariah 10:1-12

“It is so good to see you!”

“Timmy, is that you? I can’t believe how much you have grown!”

“How was your year?”

“I can’t wait to eat some of Aunt Sarah’s gooseberry pie!”

“I’m stuffed!”

“Are you going to play in the generational softball game this afternoon?”

Those are just a few of the lines you might hear at a good ole’ family reunion. Those are good times. It is true, some of the family members are a bit eccentric. Still, it is great to see them.

They gather from all over the state, country, or even the world in order to descend on one location, spend time together, and eat food . . . too much of it. They have a similar heritage, a common ancestry. Though the tales they swap have grown in incredulity with the passing of time, finding listeners is no problem for they all have a claim in the story. After all, they are family.

Aren’t family gatherings great?

Zechariah depicts that kind of gathering in the last half of the tenth chapter. Jews . . . those with a common lineage traced back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob . . . those with a common faith in the one true God were to be reunited. Although punished through exile and scattered over years, they were to be brought back to their homeland as a testimony to God’s faithfulness and in fulfillment to His promise.

That kind of joyful gathering is a recurring theme of Scripture and experience of God’s people.

  • He restored them to their homeland after more than 400 years in Egypt and the journey of the Exodus.
  • He brought them back in waves after the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles.
  • He restored the Jews to their homeland more recently and miraculously in 1948.
  • He will gather His followers through resurrection and rapture at His return in the air.
  • He will unite His people as He establishes a kingdom where Christ is King and His followers are His subjects for 1000 years.

It is in those last two that we as followers of Christ will participate. Out of a world where we are like foreigners, from a context of adversity and opposition, we too will be gathered to participate in family reunions like none we have experienced. Anticipate it with joy!

sbk

October 15: The Donkey King

Read Zechariah 9:1-17

A donkey is not the kind of animal that commands respect.  Its appearance often causes people to use words like “cute” rather than “powerful.”  Its braying often evokes laughter instead of fear.  Those realities make it an unusual mount for the One described in verse 9.

Equally surprising is this One mounted on the donkey.  He is elsewhere described as a “man of sorrows” (Isa. 53:3).  There was nothing about His physical appearance that set Him apart from the crowd (Isa. 53:2).  But He was unique.  He was unique in the compassion He demonstrated towards others.  He was distinctive in His teaching and in His ability to perform miracles.  He was a one of a kind in the fact that He associated with people of no or low reputation. 

Many didn’t like what they saw.  Wanting to be ruler of their own lives, they rejected Him as King.  Hating those of reputation with whom He spent time, they could not recognize their own sin.  Staunch in their own self-righteousness, they failed to see Him as Savior.  As a result, they despised and rejected Him (Isa. 53:3).  Had they seen Him on the donkey, they would have chuckled.

You have to admit, the contrast is almost humorous…The Creator of the universe riding on a donkey?  The Savior of the world on the back of a burro?  It was a contrast that defied logic. 

But some people seemed to have recognized it for what it was.  They laid down articles of clothing.  They waved palm branches.  They shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”  (Matt. 21:9)

It is that latter group that we are part of.  We see Him for the person He is.  We recognize His humility and appreciate it.  We witness His compassion and seek to reflect it.  We understand His love for sinners and bask in it.  We hear the authority of His teaching and submit to it.  We picture our King on a donkey, and we celebrate it.

“Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”

sbk

October 14: Blessed Days Ahead

Read Zechariah 8:1-23

Better days . . . Scratch that . . . Blessed days were ahead for God’s people. Just think about what God promised them . . .

He would dwell in Jerusalem (v. 3).

People would grow old there (v. 4).

Children would play there (v. 5).

A remnant would return there (vv. 7, 8).

They would experience peace, safety, and prosperity there (vv. 10-12).

Their fasting would turn to feasting there (vv. 18, 19).

Nations would worship there (vv. 20-23).

Those blessings certainly stood in stark contrast to the experiences of destruction and exile that had characterized the most recent generations of God’s people and their all-important city. But those were the things that God’s people then, in the days of Zechariah, and ultimately, in the still-future days of the Millennium, could anticipate.

A casual, uninformed observer of those days of blessing could draw some wrong conclusions. He or she might conclude that God is an unpredictable deity, whose emotions and actions might change without rhyme or reason. I hope you are not of that opinion. After all, God is always loving and just. He is continually One who is filled with grace and truth. He always acts true to His character.

In addition, God always keeps His promises. Having adopted the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as His people, He had obligated Himself to blessing them for their obedience and punishing them for their sin (Deut. 11). They had experienced and they would experience the reality of that promise.

By the way we look today for some magic-formula assurance that we will be blessed with good health and financial stability, we may conclude that living a godly life will guarantee it for us. Unfortunately, physical and material blessing cannot be reduced to such a simple math equation. We can, however, say that we are blessed for our obedience . . . in sometimes less tangible ways and, certainly, in eternity.

This chapter also points to the fulfillment of another promise. Through the nation of Israel other nations would experience blessing (Gen. 12:1-3). Christ, as a descendant of the tribe of Judah, offers eternal blessing to all. And today, followers of Jesus have been commissioned to take the life-giving gospel to people from all nations (Matt. 28:18-20).

sbk

October 13: To Fast Or Not To Fast

Read Zechariah 7:1-14

Zechariah 7 introduces for us the subject of fasting. The people of Bethel wanted to know if they should fast as they had done for years. Now that things were going better in Israel, did they really need to continue?

There is, somewhere in the heart of many people, a deep-seated thought that God is for everything that smacks of personal sacrifice and self abasement. Spiritual disciplines such as fasting and prayer, for example, are practices that most of us would concede that we do not do enough. Let’s observe some cautions, especially about fasting, worth noting.

Fast for the right reasons. Verse 5 poses the question, “…was it really for me that you fasted?” We can engage in spiritual disciplines just because we feel better about ourselves. Jesus warns in Matthew 6 about fasting in order to attract attention from others. We might do hoping that we will be seen as godly (Matt. 6:16-18). Fasting, however, serves as a means of seeking God, knowing Him and His will better.

God is the God of the feast and the fast. Verse 6 points to other times when they had feasted . . . but for the wrong reasons. Just as fasting has a place in the life of a God-follower, so too, feasting is very important. The Old Testament points to seven feasts that God’s people were to celebrate. These feasts were designed to be joyful commemorations of God’s work. God is not only pleased when we abstain for the right reasons, but also when we celebrate for the right reasons!

Fasting is no substitute for obedience. While these men from Bethel were concerned about this spiritual discipline, God seemed more concerned about their commitment to justice and compassion. Verses 8-10 seem to echo those priorities stated by Isaiah: “Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke” (Isa. 58:6)?  Seek to honor and obey God in every facet of your life.

Fasting can be a very positive experience through which your relationship with God is enriched.

sbk

October 12: His Sovereign Control

Read Zechariah 6:1-15

The interpretive challenges of the Scriptures . . . particularly the prophetic books of the Old Testament . . . can seem almost impossible at times. The symbolic language of multi-colored horses headed north and south to “patrol the earth” seems to defy simple explanation. Meanwhile, the double entendre of a crowned priest who rebuilds a temple may escape our notice. In spite of the challenges, let’s seek to understand.

Horses headed north and south (vv. 1-8). Similar imagery is used in Revelation 6. These horses are representative of God’s judgment going out over the earth. In particular, attention is drawn to the horses going north, the general location of Israel’s enemies (the Assyrians and Babylonians). Remember, at the time Zechariah wrote this book, God’s people had recently been released from the captivity of these two world powers. No worry, though. God was going to bring judgment on them. After the expression of His righteous anger through punishment, His Spirit would rest.

By the way, it is important to know that the book of Revelation also depicts the rise of “Babylon” as a world power and ungodly influence, especially during the days of the Tribulation (Rev. 16-18). But, just as in Zechariah’s prophecy, God will bring judgment.

The crowning of Joshua (vv. 9-15). Joshua was a priest, not a king! In these verses, however, Zechariah used present realities to depict a prophetic future. Joshua was a picture of the coming Messiah, “the Branch.” Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King! While Joshua was instrumental in the reconstruction of the temple during the days of Zechariah, Jesus will, one day at His return, rebuild the temple. At that time, He will reign as King.

As God superimposed the prophetic future over the then present realities, He made clear that He is sovereignly in control. The events of this life are not random. He is leading this world towards an end where unrighteousness is punished, where He rescues His people, and where He reigns supreme.

In the seemingly confusing events of your personal life and in the horrors of the headline news of our world, step by step He is taking us to a time and place when He will be the visible ruler of all the earth. Rest in that reality today.

sbk

October 11: Avoiding the Inevitable

Read Zechariah 5:1-11

Thunder, lightning, smoke, and a trembling earth had all been part of Moses’ experience centuries before as he climbed Sinai and received the Ten Commandments. God wrote the Commandments on tablets of stone with His own finger. (See Ex. 19, 20.)

Fast forward about 800 years to the time of Zechariah. While the focus is on a flying, two-sided scroll rather than tablets of stone, the content is much the same. You see, both the scroll and the tablets contained statements about lying and about taking what does not belong to you. The tablets had contained the commands not to “bear false witness” and not to “steal.” The scroll described the consequences for doing either . . . a curse . . . a curse that would destroy entire households.

Those sins are prevalent still today. The truth is twisted to cast a more positive light on an individual or situation. Things . . . including those less tangibles like information, computer programs, or even songs . . . are still taken without a second thought. Of course, lying and stealing are but two of countless sins that the Bible makes clear. They exist among many sins that people today rationalize away with scarcely a pang of conscience. And because the consequences, in some instances, appear to be neither immediate nor devastating, a person may not correct his or her course.

God’s Word assures us, however, that there is an inviolable law. It is a principle that will always, in every situation, hold true. It is the law of sowing and reaping. Paul expresses it in the New Testament book of Galatians:

“Do not be deceived: A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7).

Just as the one who plants corn does not harvest beans, so too, the one who sows sin cannot expect to reap reward. Somewhere, somehow, sometime the one who sows to the flesh will reap punishment. The one who sows thoughts, words, and actions that please the Holy Spirit will reap blessing.

Is that law really unbreakable? Thankfully, there is one thing that changes the outcome of sin. It averts the inevitable punishment and destruction. That one thing is grace offered to us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. When we, by faith and in repentance, embrace His sacrifice on our behalf, He grants forgiveness rather than punishment.

Thank you, Jesus!

sbk

October 10: The Lord Rebuke You!

Read Zechariah 3:1-10

It’s a courtroom scene like none you will likely ever experience. Well, let me clarify. You won’t experience anything like it in our earthly judicial system. But I trust you have repeatedly and will continue to experience it with God.

Center stage is a defendant. His crimes and reputation are no secret. The entire trial seems to be a mere formality. The guilty verdict seems inevitable. Only the severity of the final sentence is uncertain.

The defendant here in Zechariah’s fifth vision is the high priest, Joshua. He stands for both the tainted priesthood and the sinful people of Israel. Of course, every person on earth can also identify with Joshua’s precarious position . . . every one of us deserves judgment.

Then there is the Judge. He is the highest judge in the land, known for His own character and purity. There are no appeals. His judgments are final. Here in Zechariah 3, the judge is Jesus, who is often referred to as “the angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament. He is perfectly holy and just.

Finally, there is Satan. He is the prosecutor, the “accuser of the saints” (Rev. 12:10). He’s quick to point out all of Joshua’s and of God’s people. But sometimes . . . and perhaps you have experienced it . . . he evokes a sense of guilt when no sin has been committed or even when forgiveness has been granted.

In our reading today, Joshua stands guilty. Satan is right. His accusations ring true. A rebuke and a sentence seem unavoidable. To our surprise, however, the rebuke is directed at Satan, not at Joshua. Instead of a sentence of justice, grace is given. Cleansing is granted. Forgiveness is extended. Clean clothes are offered. And, as a result, Satan has no business pointing a finger. “The Lord rebuke you, Satan” (v. 2)!

If you have come to trust Christ and His work on the cross, that same scenario has been played out in your life. He is your only hope for dealing with sin. Satan no longer has a voice when you and I receive God’s forgiveness. His accusations are no longer valid.

Perhaps you need to be reminded of God’s rebuke . . . not against you, but against your adversary the devil.

And one day, God’s people Israel, will also recognize Jesus as “servant” and “the Branch.” On that day, God “will remove the sin of this land.”

sbk

October 9: The Apple of His Eye

Read Zechariah 2:1-13

“…(H)e who touches you touches the apple of his eye . . .” (v. 8). Those sound like the kind of words a protective father would speak about his beloved daughter. And that is exactly what they are. God is the heavenly Father. Those words express His thoughts about Israel, His chosen and beloved nation. What incredible words of affirming love! He loves His children infinitely.

Unfortunately, the apple of his eye is not polished and perfect. Israel had been known to have wormholes! God wasn’t blind to that reality. He was fully aware of it. Even though He is a protective, jealous Father, He didn’t treat His children like spoiled brats, allowing them to get away with anything and everything. In fact, He banished them to 70 years of exile in Babylon as punishment for their sin.

Those twin truths are true of all God’s children today as well.

  • On the one hand, we are loved beyond our ability to comprehend as children of God: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (1 Jn. 3:1)!
  • On the other hand, we are subject to discipline because we are His beloved: “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Heb. 12:6).

For the nation of Israel, that time of discipline was over. His people were permitted to return to their homeland and their beloved city of Jerusalem. And yet, they still had concerns about their future. They wondered if the surrounding enemies would overwhelm them. They were concerned that their favorite city would never exude the beauty it once had.

Thankfully, God used eight visions to communicate to His man Zechariah the hope that they could embrace. In this third vision, Zechariah is shown a man . . . like a building contractor . . . measuring Jerusalem in anticipation of its restoration . . . to its former glory and beyond.

That’s what God does for people who are the “apple of His eye” like you and me. He loves us infinitely. He disciplines us appropriately. And He restores us gloriously.

Thank You, Father!

sbk

October 8: The Lord Remembers

Read Zechariah 1:1-21

The Minor Prophets (Zechariah is one) are some of the least read and least understood books of the Bible.

People may have a feel for the unfolding history of Israel from the days of the patriarchs to the Exodus from Egypt. They may have a general grasp of Joshua and the conquest of the land, or of the judges and the cycles of rebellion and deliverance. They may have an understanding of the kings like Saul, David, Solomon, or perhaps even of the divided kingdom: Israel and Judah. They may even get the idea of Assyrian and Babylonian exile. But the Minor Prophets? Many are unsure of the part they play in the whole of God’s story.

Indeed, the Minor Prophets are not easy books. Although we refer to them with one overarching title – “the Minor Prophets” – they represent a diversity of authors, timeframes, recipients, and reasons for writing. These are important if we are to grasp their chronological significance and their timeless application.

With the first chapter of Zechariah in mind, let’s attempt to understand those four important details about the book.

Authorship: The book of Zechariah was named after its author. Of the numerous “Zechariahs” we find in the Old Testament, this man was a priest in Israel. His very name means “the Lord remembers.”

Date: Zechariah’s prophecies were given after the Babylonian exile; probably around 515 B.C. You see, many of God’s people had been carted off by the Babylonians, people from an enemy nation. They had been unable to return for 70 years. Finally, many of the Jewish exiles, or at least their descendants (including Zechariah), returned to Jerusalem. But the city had been razed.

Recipients: Zechariah wrote, then, to fellow Jews in and around Jerusalem.Although they had settled back into life, they needed inspiration. Zechariah wrote to invite people to rise up from their apathy, return to God, and rebuild the temple. In many ways, he wrote to remind them of the reality expressed by his name.

The Lord does remember His people! In fact, as we will see, Zechariah points perhaps more directly to Jesus’ first coming than any other Old Testament book.

Is there any spiritual apathy in your life? Would you pause now and invite God to rekindle passion for Him? The Lord remembers!

sbk