Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook
Malachi 4:1-6

Malachi 4:1-6

July 12, 2020

     This pericope opens with a reminder about God’s future day of judgment that is coming. The Lord declares, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze… so that it will leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal 4:1). This time of judgment is commonly called “the day of the Lord”, a phrase that appears eighteen times in the Old Testament (Isa 13:6, 9; 58:13; Ezek 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obad 1:15; Zep 1:7, 14; Mal 4:5)[1] and five times in the New Testament (Acts 2:20; 1 Cor 5:5; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Thess 2:2; 2 Pet 3:7-14). The “day of the Lord” refers to when God will judge the wicked and vindicate the righteous. From Scripture we can say with certainty that the “day of the Lord” follows the first coming of Christ, (Mal. 4:5), will come upon the entire world (Joel 2:1-11; 30-31; 3:12-15; Isa 13:6-11; Ezek 30:2-4; Obad 1:15), will be inescapable (Amos 5:18-20), is a day of wrath and destruction (Zep 1:14-18), will come unannounced (1 Thess 5:1-2; 2 Pet 3:10), and will follow the coming of the Antichrist (2 Thess 2:1-4). The church will not experience this time of God’s judgment, for we are waiting for the return of Christ from heaven, “who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:10; cf. 5:9). The period refers to the seven-year Tribulation (Rev chapters 6-18) and will end with the Battle of Armageddon (Rev 19:11-21), at which time Christ will establish His millennial kingdom on earth (Rev 20:1-6).

     The end of the Tribulation and coming millennial kingdom seems to be in view of Malachi in which the Lord declares, “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing” (Mal 4:2-3). “In the kingdom, righteousness will pervade like the sun. Healing in its wings (or rays) refers to the restorative powers of righteousness, which are like the healthful rays of the sun. God’s people will be spiritually restored and renewed.”[2] With this future time of judgment and blessing certainly coming, Malachi’s generation should have been more mindful about how they lived before the Lord, adhering to the Mosaic Law, which was the standard for right-living for the nation. God had already confronted them concerning sacrifices (Mal 1:7-14), idolatry (Mal 2:10-11), and not giving tithes (Mal 3:8-9), and finally exhorts them to “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel” (Mal 4:4).

     Finally, God gives a prophecy concerning the future coming day of judgment. He declares, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Mal 4:5-6). The Gospel of Luke reveals John the Baptist had an Elijah-like ministry in that he came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). If Israel had accepted Jesus as the Messiah and His offer of the kingdom, then John the Baptist would have fulfilled this prophecy (Matt 11:7-14).

  • "The Lord promised to send His people Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord arrived. An angel later told John the Baptist’s parents that their son would minister in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). Yet John denied that he was Elijah (John 1:21–23). Jesus said that John would have been the Elijah who was to come if the people of his day had accepted Jesus as their Messiah (Matt 11:14). Since they did not, John did not fulfill this prophecy about Elijah coming, though he did fulfill the prophecy about Messiah’s forerunner (Mal 3:1)."[3]

     The apostle John reveals there will be an Elijah-like prophet—as well as a Moses-like prophet—who will come in the future, during the time of the Tribulation, and he will also help prepare the way of the Lord (Rev 11:4-6). Those who hate the Lord will reject His future prophet and celebrate his death (Rev 11:7-10); however, God will resurrect him and call him to heaven (Rev 11:11-12), and render judgment upon the wicked (Rev 11:13). Malachi was the last of the OT prophets, and another prophet would not arise until John the Baptist, who would shatter the years of silence with the announcement of Jesus’ coming.

 

[1] The day of the Lord appears twice in Amos 5:18 and Zephaniah 1:14.

[2] Craig A. Blaising, “Malachi,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1587.

[3] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Mal 4:5.

Malachi 3:13-18

Malachi 3:13-18

July 11, 2020

     The central idea of the text is that many in Judah did not think it was worth serving the Lord and that the wicked were the ones who prospered (Mal 3:13-15); however, a humble remnant of believers responded positively to the Lord, and He recognized them and promised to make them His special possession and bless them (Mal 3:16-18). The pericope opens with a statement from the Lord, who says, “Your words have been arrogant against Me” (Mal 3:13a). The Lord was speaking to Israelites who were dominated by negative volition. The statement might imply they were speaking negatively among themselves rather than directly to God. They challenge His charge with the question, “What have we spoken against You?” (Mal 3:13b). The Lord revealed their attitude of thinking it was not worth their efforts to serve Him, claiming the wicked prospered more than the righteous. These said, “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD of hosts?” (Mal 3:14). Their words reveal selfish expectations in that they saw their relationship with God mainly from the perspective of the “profit” they could obtain for their service. “The claim is expressed by means of a rhetorical question to indicate that there was no profit in it, no reward or benefit, no pay, no return on their investment. They are like some modern folk who give to God only because they expect to get double or triple their money back, a special reward.”[1] These Israelites thought that going through the religious motions was enough to win them a big payoff from the Lord. When they did not get it, they changed their minds about God and how they should live before Him. They saw the wicked doing as they pleased and getting rich, and they concluded, “So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape” (Mal 3:15). These came to this false conclusion because they saw no immediate reward for obedience, nor punishment for wrongdoing. However, there were righteous believers in Judah who were described as “those who feared the LORD” and who gathered together and “spoke to one another” (Mal 3:16a). It is a healthy activity for believers to gather together to encourage one another (Heb 10:23-25). Unlike their counterparts, these believers loved the Lord and revered His name, and they did not speak arrogantly, nor in a self-seeking manner. The text reveals, “and the LORD gave attention and heard it” (Mal 3:16b). That is, God heard their theological discussion and approved. As a result, “a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name” (Mal 3:16c). The book of remembrance (סֵפֶר זִכָּרוֹן - sefer zikkaron) is a permanent record in heaven of their reverent response to God. Of course, the omniscient God does not need a book to remember His people and their faithfulness to Him; rather, the language is anthropomorphic and used to communicate the Lord’s intention to acknowledge and remember the faithfulness of those who revere Him and honor His name. “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him” (Mal 3:17b). The word “possession” translates the Hebrew סְגֻלָּה segullah, which means “special property” (cf. Ex 19:5; Deut 7:6; 26:18). These would be spared the judgment that He has planned for the wicked. Thomas Constable wrote:

  • "Almighty Yahweh announced that He would honor those who feared Him as His own on the day He prepared His own possessions. This probably refers to the day of the Lord (cf. v. 2; 4:1, 3) when He will resurrect Old Testament saints and judge them. This will be when Jesus Christ returns to rule and reign on the earth. The faithful will receive a reward in His kingdom for their submission. He also promised to spare them as a man spares his own son. When Jesus Christ judges Old Testament saints, He will separate the sheep from the goats (Matt. 25:31–46). Here God described the sheep as His sons. He will spare them the humiliation and punishment that will be the lot of those who did not honor Him (vv. 14–15)."[2]

     In this way, God would “distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (Mal 3:18). God’s rewards and judgments should not be seen merely within the short timeframe of our lives, but always in light of the future and eternal state, toward which we are moving. This is not to say that God does not bless His people in this life; certainly, He does bless some materially. However, our motivation to serve the Lord should not be based on what we can obtain in this life, which things are destined to perish, but rather, for imperishable rewards that are eternal (1 Cor 3:5-15).

 

[1] Allen P. Ross, Malachi Then and Now: An Expository Commentary Based on Detailed Exegetical Analysis (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 174–175.

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Mal 3:17.

The Biblical Teaching on Tithes

The Biblical Teaching on Tithes

June 28, 2020

     The word tithe means “to give a tenth.” Prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law (ca. 1445 B.C.), we see an example of Abraham giving Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils of war which he had accumulated after he had defeated Chedorlaomer at the Valley of Shaveh (Gen 14:17-20). Later, Jacob made a vow to give God a tenth of his possessions if God would be faithful to protect him on a journey (Gen 28:20-22). In the accounts of Abraham and Jacob, there was no mandate from heaven for them to give a tenth, and when they did give a tenth, it appears to be a one-time act, never repeated as far as Scripture is concerned. It was not until several centuries later that tithing became mandatory for the nation of Israel when they entered into the Mosaic Covenant and came under the Mosaic Law.

     When God established the nation of Israel as a theocracy under the leadership of Moses and Aaron (ca.1445 B.C.), He gave them 613 commandments known as the Mosaic Law. This law-code was designed to regulate the values and behavior of the citizens of the nation, morally, religiously, socially, economically, etc. Within the Mosaic Law, God required Israel to pay several tithes, which was tantamount to a form of taxation.

  • "The so-called tithe (“a tenth”) added up to far more than a simple 10% annually, because there was a second tithe annually, and a third tithe in the third and fifth years…In the Old Testament economy all the giving covered the sanctuary offerings for God, the taxes for the nation, and charitable gifts all rolled together."[1]

     The tithe consisted of produce and livestock (Lev 27:30-32), and was given to the Levites for their support for ministry (Num 18:21-24). The Levites, in turn, gave a tithe of the tithe to the Priests for their service (Num 18:25-28). Additionally, the worshipper could eat a portion of the sacrifice with his family and the Levites (Deut 12:17-19; 14:22-27). Lastly, a tithe was taken every third year to help the poor, the alien, the orphans and the widows. This tithe was comparable to a social welfare system for the most unfortunate in society.  

  • "At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do." (Deut 14:28-29)

     The tithe was to be gathered into a “storehouse” (הָאוֹצָר בֵּית - bet ha otsar; Mal 3:10), which referred to a large room where “they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils and the tithes of grain, wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests” (Neh 13:5). Withholding the tithe was a form of robbery to God, the Levites, and the less fortunate in society who depended on it for daily living (Mal 3:6-11).

     Sadly, some pastors have mishandled Malachi 3:8-10 and applied it to the Church, browbeating Christians to make them feel guilty for not giving money to the Church. Some tyrants have even required church members to show their annual tax returns, or publicly posted their annual contributions in order to strong-arm Christians to give. This is more an act of despotic control over one’s flock than loving leadership. Pastors who use Malachi 3:8-10 against Christians display both an ignorance of God’s Word and a spiritual immaturity in leadership. The fact is, Malachi 3:8-10 has nothing to do with the Church.

     To be clear, Israel and the Church are both God’s people, but Israel was under “the Law” of Moses (John 1:17), whereas the Church is under the “Law of Christ” (1 Cor 9:11; Gal 6:2). Israel had a priesthood that was specific to the tribe of Levi (Num 3:6-7), whereas all Christians are priests to God (Rev 1:6). Israel worshipped first at the Tabernacle and later the Temple (Ex 40:18-38; 2 Chron 8:14-16), but for Christians, their body is the temple of the Lord and they gather locally where they want (1 Cor 6:19-20; cf. 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15). Israel offered animal sacrifices to God (Lev 4:1-35), but Christians offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet 2:5; cf. Rom 12:1; Heb 13:15). Israel was required to tithe from the produce of their land (Deut 14:22-23; 28-29; Num 18:21), but there is no tithe required from Christians, only a joyful attitude when giving, “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).

     To Christians, the apostle Paul mentions systematic giving (1 Cor 16:1-2), but nowhere specifies an amount. Giving 10% of one’s income is fine, so long as it is understood that it’s a voluntary action and not required by the Lord. One could easily set aside a different amount to be given on a regular basis. Certainly, the financial support of the Pastor is in line with Scripture (Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17-18), although the apostle Paul supported himself in his own ministry as an example to others of sacrificial living (Acts 20:32-35). Giving systematically and giving joyfully is consistent with the teaching of the New Testament (1 Cor 16:1-2; 2 Cor 9:7).

     Lastly, we should realize all we have is on loan from God, for “the earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psa 24:1). The Lord declares, “every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psa 50:10), and “‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine’, declares the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:8). When we give to the Lord, it’s a test of our love and loyalty to Him; for what we give is already His, and giving back to Him means we trust and support His work in the world. David captures this well when he says, “who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You” (1 Ch 29:14).

 

[1] Allen P. Ross, Malachi Then and Now: An Expository Commentary Based on Detailed Exegetical Analysis (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 156.

Malachi 3:7-12

Malachi 3:7-12

June 27, 2020

     The central idea of the text is that God calls His people, Israel, to obedience concerning the giving of tithes and offerings, and promises blessing for compliance. Israel had, like many times throughout their history, turned aside from following God and not obeying His commands (Mal 3:7a). However, if they would return to Him in obedience, He would return to them with blessing (Mal 3:7b). His people asked, “How shall we return?” (Mal 3:7c). God then charges them with thievery, saying, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me!” (Mal 3:8a). To which His people replied, “How have we robbed You?” (Mal 3:8b). God said their theft came from withholding their “tithes and offerings” (Mal 3:8c). The tithes and offerings referred to the tenth of the produce of the land and herds that were given by the nation to support the priests in their service at the temple (Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:8, 11, 19, 21-24).

  • "The so-called tithe (“a tenth”) added up to far more than a simple 10% annually, because there was a second tithe annually, and a third tithe in the third and fifth years…In the Old Testament economy all the giving covered the sanctuary offerings for God, the taxes for the nation, and charitable gifts all rolled together."[1]

     Because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant, God declared, “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!” (Mal 3:9).  However, God offered to turn their situation around if they would return to Him and “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house to eat” (Mal 3:10a). The storehouse (הָאוֹצָר בֵּית - bet ha otsar) referred a large room where “they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils and the tithes of grain, wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests” (Neh 13:5). God calls on His people to test Him concerning His promises (Mal 3:10b), and if they will be obedient concerning the tithes and offerings, He declares, He will “open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Mal 3:10b). Here God promises to send rain for their crops to grow, and in this way, He will honor His covenant promises (Deut 28:12). In addition, God states, “I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” (Mal 3:11). The devourer likely referred to locusts that were eating their crops. Not only would Israel enjoy the material blessings of God, but the surrounding nations would see it, and “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land” (Mal 3:12). Malachi 3:8-10 has nothing to do with the Church. To be clear, Israel and the Church are both God’s people, but Israel was under “the Law” of Moses (John 1:17), whereas the Church is under the “Law of Christ” (1 Cor 9:31; Gal 6:2). Israel was required to tithe from the produce of their land (Deut 14:22-23; 28-29; Num 18:21), but there is no tithe required from Christians, only a joyful attitude when giving, “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).

 

[1] Allen P. Ross, Malachi Then and Now: An Expository Commentary Based on Detailed Exegetical Analysis (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 156.

The Attributes of God

The Attributes of God

June 21, 2020

     Throughout Scripture, we learn that God has specific characteristics that inform us as to His being. God’s attributes refer to His personal qualities or traits that describe who He is and explain why He thinks and acts in certain ways. What we know of God’s attributes comes to us by divine revelation, not by human reason or speculation. More so, what is revealed about God’s attributes can be said to belong to the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

  • "The various perfections of God are not component parts of God. Each describes His total being. Love, for example, is not a part of God’s nature; God in His total being is love. Although God may display one quality or another at a given time, no quality is independent of or preeminent over any of the others. Whenever God displays His wrath, He is still love. When He shows His love, He does not abandon His holiness. God is more than the sum total of His perfections. When we have listed all the attributes we can glean from revelation, we have not fully described God. This stems from His incomprehensibility. Even if we could say we had a complete list of all God’s perfections, we could not fathom their meaning, for finite man cannot comprehend the infinite God."[1]

     When studying the attributes of God, the student of Scripture should never seek to understand them separately from God, as though an attribute of God may exist apart from Him. More so, the attributes of God are as infinite as God Himself, and to try to understand them fully is not within the scope of our ability. A detailed understanding of God’s attributes prevents the believer from developing an incomplete, or faulty view of God, in which he/she sees Him only in part. For example, a solitary view of God as righteous can lead a Christian to legalistic behavior, whereas a singular understanding of God as loving or gracious can lead to licentiousness. A thorough biblical understanding of God will prove healthy for the Christian who seeks to reflect His character. The biblical revelation of God has practical application for the growing Christian, for as the believer advances in spiritual maturity, he/she will take on the characteristics of God, though only a few of those characteristics may be visible to others at any given moment, depending on the situation. The major attributes of God as revealed in Scripture are as follows:

  1. Living – “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psa 42:2a). “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Psa 84:2). “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King” (Jer 10:10a). “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (Matt 16:16).
  2. Sovereign– “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psa 115:3). “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan 4:35; cf. Acts 17:24-28).
  3. Immutable– “Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.” (Psa 102:26-27). “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal 3:6).
  4. Eternal– “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut 33:27). “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim 1:17).
  5. All-knowing– “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all” (Psa 139:1-4). “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:31-33)
  6. All-present– “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.” (Psa 139:7-10). ‘“Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the LORD.” (Jer 23:24)
  7. All-powerful– “Then Job answered the LORD and said, ‘I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted’” (Job 42:2). “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.” (Isa 40:28).
  8. Righteous– “For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face” (Psa 11:7). “Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments” (Psa 119:137).
  9. Just– “The LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, and He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity” (Psa 9:7-8). “The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. (Psa 19:9b).
  10. Holy– “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44a). “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy hill, for holy is the LORD our God” (Psa 99:9).
  11. Truthful– “Now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant” (2 Sam 7:28). “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (Joh 17:17).
  12. Loving– “The LORD appeared to him [Israel] from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness’” (Jer 31:3). “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
  13. Faithful- Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deut 7:9). “This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam 3:21-23).
  14. Merciful – “You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth” (Psa 86:15). “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5).
  15. Gracious– “He has made His wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate” (Psa 111:4). “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate.” (Psa 116:5).

 

[1] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 39–40.

Malachi 2:17-3:6

Malachi 2:17-3:6

June 20, 2020

     The primary point of this pericope is that God will judge His people in order to purify them for future service. The pericope opens with anthropomorphic language in which God tells His people they had wearied Him with their words. In incredulity, they asked, “How have we wearied Him?” What they were saying was, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them,” or, “Where is the God of justice?” (Mal 2:17). Apparently, some assumed God was approving of evil, while others thought He simply did not care about justice. Of course, God cares about justice. He is righteous in character and just in all His ways. God does show grace to the wicked (Matt 5:45; Acts 14:17), that they might have time to respond to Him in faith and be saved; for God “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9); and the righteous are, at times, permitted to suffer (Job 1:1-21; 2:9-10; 2 Tim 3:12). But God will judge the wicked; if not in this life, then the next (Rev 20:11-15).The Lord responded to their comments by pointing them to the future; specifically, the time when He would send His messenger, saying, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me” (Mal 3:1a). We know from the NT that this messenger is John the Baptist (Matt 11:10, 14; 17:11-12), who prepared the way for Messiah (cf. Isa 40:3-5). Then the Lord says, “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming” (Mal 3:1b). This refers to Jesus, the Messiah. “From the historical perspective, since this is an oracle about John the Baptist preparing people for Jesus the Messiah, then the covenant must be the new covenant that Christ inaugurated in the upper room and sealed with his blood at the cross.”[1] Jesus’ first coming is only a partial fulfillment of this prophecy, which will be completed at His second coming, when He will judge the world and establish His kingdom on earth. Malachi then states, “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap” (Mal 3:2). Jesus will come after the time of the Tribulation, and will judge His people in order to remove their impurities, (Mal 3:2b). God “will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver” (Mal 3:3a). The Levites in Malachi’s day were not leading worship as they should, and were under God’s judgment. In the future, when Christ sets up His kingdom on earth, the Levites will again serve in the temple. However, at that time, they will be refined and cleansed by the Lord, “so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness” (Mal 3:3b). That future generation of priests will offer as the Lord prescribes, saying, “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years” (Mal 3:4). Furthermore, in that day, God will judge all Israel, not just the Levites, and He will judge them for their many sins, saying, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me” (Mal 3:5). God will judge sorcerers who seek to know the future by magical means, adulterers who are unfaithful in marriage, and those who corrupt justice by giving false testimony (Mal 3:5a). He will also judge those who oppress, either actively or passively, the most vulnerable in society, which include the common laborer, the widow and orphan, and the transient traveler passing through the land (Mal 3:5b). God’s people could know His promises were true, for they rested on His unchangeable nature, as He tells them, “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal 3:6). When God says He “does not change” (Mal 3:6a), He is speaking of His nature, not the course of action He may take with His people. We must remember that Israel was locked into a bilateral covenant—the Mosaic covenant—which made blessing or cursing dependent of their obedience or disobedience (see Deut 28:1-68). The Mosaic covenant was itself tied to a unilateral covenant—the Abrahamic covenant—which guaranteed Israel’s future preservation (Gen 12:1-3). God, who does not change, was faithful to purify His people in the furnace of affliction, while keeping His hand on the thermostat, so that they were not totally destroyed.

 

[1] Allen P. Ross, Malachi Then and Now: An Expository Commentary Based on Detailed Exegetical Analysis (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 135.

Role Responsibilities in Marriage

Role Responsibilities in Marriage

June 14, 2020

     Ephesians 5:22-33 addresses Christian couples only and portrays the marriage as tri-personal, involving the husband, wife, and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian husband and wife are spiritually equal in God’s sight (Gal 3:28; 1 Pet 3:7); however, spiritual equality should not be confused with role distinctions. The husband is to be the leader of the home, as Christ is the head of the church, and the wife is to submit to her husband, as the church submits to Christ. Both the husband and wife fulfill God’s expectations when they learn to function together as a unit, each executing their godly roles. The Christian man who agrees to marry automatically comes under the authority of God who directs him to love his wife as Christ loves the church. The wife who agrees to marry also comes under the authority of God who calls her to submit to her husband.

     God designed the husband to be the loving leader to guide the relationship into His will, and the wife is to walk in harmony with him (Gen 2:18; 21-23; cf. Eph 5:25-33). The husband is to love (ἀγαπάω agapao) his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25), and he does this in submission to Christ who is his authority (1 Cor 11:3). The apostle Paul describes Christian love, saying, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:4-8a).

     The Christian husband is called to live with his wife in an understanding way and to honor her as a fellow heir of the grace of God (1 Pet 3:7). He is to make his wife feel protected and safe, for there can be no love where fear is present (1 John 4:18). Biblical love is sacrificial (Eph 5:25; cf. Matt 20:28; John 13:34; 15:13; Rom 5:8; 14:15; 15:3), is greater than feelings (Col 3:19), and cares more about others than self (Matt 5:43-45; Phil 2:3-4). Biblical love is gracious, unselfish, and given freely from the bounty of one’s own resources, with an open hand, always for the benefit and joy of others, expecting nothing in return. It is, in fact, God’s love, born in the heart of the believer who walks with God and desires His closeness.

     The husband’s love is measured against the love of Jesus Christ. So how does Christ love? The greatest act of Christ’s love is seen in the sacrifice of His life by which He saves and sanctifies the church (Eph 5:23, 25). Christ is also full of grace and truth (John 1:14-17), He lifts the burdens of those who come to Him (Matt 11:28–30; Mark 10:42–45), He builds up and protects (Matt 16:18), He prayerfully intercedes (Rom 8:34), He comforts (2 Thess 2:16-17), and He is faithful (2 Tim 2:13). The Christian man who fully understands the love of Christ for him will have both a motivation and model by which to love his wife.

     The wife was created to “help” her husband (Gen 2:20). The word helper (עֵזֶר.Heb ezer) is an exalted term that is sometimes employed of God who helps the needy (Gen 49:25; Ex 18:4; 1 Sam 7:12; Isa 41:10; Psa 10:14; 33:20). Just as God helps His people to do His will, so the wife is called to help her husband serve the Lord and bring Him glory. She helps her husband by encouraging him to seek the Lord and live godly. The wife is also called to love her husband (Tit 2:4), and to respect him (Eph 5:33), both in private and in public. To respect is to revere, value highly, think much of, esteem. She respects him because of the Lord, not because he is perfect or always deserves it. In this manner, respect is a display of grace, not merit. Being respectful is thoughtful and intentional as she consults him as the leader of the family, discusses matters with him (work, finances, friends, etc.) and supports his decisions. Though he fails, she does not criticize him in front of others, nor talk badly about him when he’s not around. Rather, she is polite and notes his good qualities and accomplishments. Of course, the man who grows spiritually, serves as the spiritual leader to his family, makes more good choices than bad, and faithfully loves his wife makes it easier for her to respect him.

     Lastly, just as the husband has an ideal model of love and service in Christ, the wife has an ideal model in the woman of excellence described in Proverbs 31. The phrase an excellent wife (Pro 31:10; Heb.  אֵשֶׁת־חַיִל esheth chayil) was first used of Ruth, who was described as a woman of excellence (Ruth 3:11, NASB) or a woman of noble character (CSB). Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David, who married Bathsheba, who is perhaps the one who shared her wisdom with her son, King Solomon (Pro 31:1). If this is correct, then it’s possible Bathsheba saw in Ruth a template for the woman of noble character. A study of the book of Ruth reveals she was committed to God and His people (Ruth 1:16-17; 2:11), possessed a strong work ethic (Ruth 2:7, 17), listened to good advice (Ruth 2:8-9; 3:1-6), showed respect to others (Ruth 2:10), cared for the needy (Ruth 2:17-18), sought to marry a noble man (Ruth 3:7-10; 4:13), and was praised for her excellence and love for others (Ruth 3:11; 4:15).

     According to Proverbs 31:10-31, the excellent wife is precious to her husband (Pro 31:10), and he trusts her (Pro 31:11). It is said, “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Pro 31:12). She delights to work with her hands, knowing she’s providing for the good of her family (Pro 31:13, 15, 17-19, 27). She’s a smart shopper (Pro 31:14), and savvy business woman (Pro 31:16, 24), who is recognized for her work (Pro 31:31). She uses her time well (Pro 31:15, 27), is energetic and strong (Pro 31:17), cares for the poor and needy (Pro 31:20), provides for those in her household (Pro 31:21, 27), and does not neglect her own needs or appearance (Pro 31:22). As she is respected in the home, her husband is respected in the community (Pro 31:23), and both he and her children give praise for her dignity (Pro 31:28). She has an optimistic outlook on life, as “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future” (Pro 31:25). She is also noted for her wisdom, and “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Pro 31:26). She is the ideal wife, for though many women have done nobly, she excels them all (Pro 31:29). What makes this woman so excellent? What drives her to possess all the virtues of a godly woman, for which her husband praises her? Solomon tells us. It’s not her personal charm, which is deceitful; nor her physical beauty, which is fleeting (Pro 31:30a). Rather, it’s because she is “a woman who fears the LORD” (Pro 31:30b). This one “shall be praised” by all who know and appreciate her godliness. What is prioritized is the inner qualities of godliness and virtue that make for an enjoyable, stable, and lasting marriage. Other qualities and features of godly women are as follows:

  • "I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." (1 Tim 2:9-12)
  • "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (Tit 2:4-6)
  • "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear." (1 Pet 3:1-6)
Marriage: A Divine Institution

Marriage: A Divine Institution

June 13, 2020

     According to Scripture, God created four foundational institutions that are for individual blessing and national stability. The four divine institutions are: Responsible Dominion—the sphere of life God has placed under our care (Gen 1:26-30; 2:16-17), Marriage—the covenantal union of a man and a woman to serve and enjoy God (Gen 2:18-24; cf. Matt 19:4-6), Family—the smallest social unit intended to train succeeding generations for godliness and authority orientation (Gen 4:1-2; Deut 6:4-7; Eph 6:1-4), Human Government—delegated authority to promote freedom, order, and to protect citizens from evil (Gen 9:5-7; 10:32; 11:1-9; Acts 17:24-28; Rom 13:1-7). Each of these institutions build on each other, for there will not be national stability if the families are not morally strong; the families will not be morally strong if the marriage is not godly; and, the marriage will not be godly if individuals are not making good choices to know and walk in God’s will.

     Marriage, being a divine institution, it is not open to redefinition or modification by people, and there are penalties—both individual and national—for those who would tinker with them. The first married couple set the standard for marriage. As man and woman, Adam and Eve were created in God’s image to live under His provision and authority, to walk in fellowship with Him, and to fulfill the specific purpose of ruling over His creation (Gen 1:26-28). In this regard they were to complement each other. All three members of the Trinity were involved in the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 1:26-28). Scripture reveals, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). Adam and Eve were created for relationships; first with God, then with each other, then the animals and world around them. They were to fulfill the divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). They possessed a clear sense of purpose under the authority of God.

     Genesis chapter one provides a snapshot of the creation of the first couple; however, in Genesis chapter two, we learn there was a short lapse of time between the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 2:15-24). Originally, Adam was created sinless, with the unhindered capacity to walk with God and serve Him. Though he was sinless, Adam was not complete. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [Heb. עֵזֶר ezer] suitable for him” (Gen 2:18). Before God created the first woman, He took time to educate Adam about his relational incompleteness. God brought a multitude of animals before Adam (most likely in pairs of male and female), and after observing and naming them (Gen 2:19), Adam realized “there was not found a helper [Heb. עֵזֶר ezer] suitable for him” (Gen 2:20). God corrected what Adam could not. The Lord caused Adam to fall asleep and “took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place” (Gen 2:21). God then “fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man” (Gen 2:22). This was a divinely arranged marriage. It is noteworthy that the “woman was taken not from Adam’s head to dominate him, nor from his feet to be trodden down, but from under his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved.”[1]

Sin changed humanity and the world in which we live. Satan (a fallen angel) attacked the first marriage and tempted the man and woman to disobey God (Gen 3:1-7). Adam and Eve listened to Satan and rejected God’s will (Gen 2:15-17; 3:1-8), and sin was introduced into the human race and the whole world is now under a curse (Gen 3:8-19; Rom 5:12-19; 8:20-22). Eve was deceived by Satan, but Adam sinned with his eyes open (1 Tim 2:14). The institution of marriage continued after the historic fall of Adam and Eve and took on various ceremonies based on ever changing social customs. The Bible directs believers to marry believers (1 Cor 7:39; 2 Cor 6:14-15), but does not prescribe a specific ceremony to follow, or vows to take, but leaves these matters for people to decide for themselves. Marriage is divinely illustrative of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel (Isa 54:5), and Christ’s relationship with the church (2 Cor 11:2). Marriage is to be holy, because God is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16). Marriage is to be built on love, because God is love (1 John 4:16-21).

     Marriage is a covenant relationship (Prov 2:16-17; Ezek 16:8; Mal 2:14-15; Matt 19:6). In Scripture, the word covenant (Heb. בְּרִית berith, Grk. διαθήκη diatheke) is used of a treaty, alliance, or contract. The strength of a covenant depends on the person, or persons, who enter into it. Some covenants are vertical between God and individuals or groups, and some are horizontal between people. Some of God’s covenants are unilateral, in which God acts alone and unconditionally promises to provide and bless another. Some of God’s covenants are bilateral, in which blessing or cursing is conditioned on faithful obedience to stated laws. Covenants made by people are generally bilateral, depending on the faithfulness of each person to keep their promise. Though we, as individuals, may unilaterally promise to be faithful to our spouses (which is good), no matter what, we also realize that our promises are no stronger than our ability or integrity to hold on to them. Because none of us are morally perfect, nor hold infinite power to be good and do good, but live in a fallen world and possess sinful natures that draw us away from what is right, we realize that faithfulness to vows is not always a reality. Even some of the godliest men and women have failed to keep their word. Because of sin, the Bible permits a way out of the marital relationship in cases of adultery (Matt 5:32; 19:8-9), or abandonment (1 Cor 7:12-15). Though available, these options are not always preferable (1 Cor 7:10-11).

 

[1] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 35.

Malachi 2:10-16

Malachi 2:10-16

June 7, 2020

     In this pericope, Malachi rebukes the men who divorced their wives and married unbelievers who were still committed to their paganism. In the opening verse, Malachi points out that Israel was a special nation, created by God (Isa 43:15), who regards Himself as their Father, and the nation as His son (Ex 4:22; Isa 63:16). As such, the Israelites were not behaving as loving siblings, but were treating each other treacherously (Mal 2:10). The treacherous behavior addressed was that many of the Israelite men had “married the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal 2:11). These men had divorced their believing wives and married foreign women who kept their pagan faith; which was forbidden (Deut 7:1-4). Apparently, Ezra and Nehemiah were dealing with the same issue (see Ezra 9:1-4; Neh 13:23-31). An Israelite believer could marry a foreigner, like Ruth, if she joined the faith. But if she held fast to her pagan gods, like Jezebel, then it was forbidden. In the NT, Christians are warned against marrying unbelievers because it will cause problems and lead them away from the Lord (1 Cor 7:39; 2 Cor 6:14-18). The Israelite man guilty of marrying a woman who was committed to idolatry was to be “cut off from the tents of Jacob” (Mal 2:12a), even though he continued to approach God through sacrifices, acting as if he’d done nothing wrong (Mal 2:12b). Restoring the relationship with his believing wife was more important than offering sacrifices to the Lord (cf. Matt 5:23-24). Another thing these men were doing included covering “the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand” (Mal 2:13). They wanted their sin and God’s blessings too; but God refused to answer their prayers because they failed to treat their believing wives honorably. This principle is true in the NT, as Christian men are told to live with their wives in an understanding way, to “show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7). The sin of these Israelite men had rendered them spiritually dull, and they were wondering, “for what reason” the Lord was not answering their prayers (Mal 2:14a). Malachi plainly explained, “Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal 2:14). God intended their marriage to be based on loyal-love, with each seeking God’s best in their partner; however, these men behaved treacherously by divorcing their wives, presumably to satisfy their sexual desires with pagan women. Marriage is a divine institution (Gen 2:21-24), in which God is personal witness to the covenant bond. The man who had even a remnant of the Spirit working in his life did not abandon his wife (Mal 2:15a). Furthermore, he would likely be one who produced godly offspring, as his children would see his commitment and perhaps follow in his footsteps (Mal 2:15b). Men devoid of divine viewpoint will naturally care little about spiritual matters in their own lives or the lives of their children. If permitted to spread, the practice of divorcing godly wives and marrying pagans would undermine the spiritual fabric of Israel’s society and lead to national instability. So, Malachi says to these men, “Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth” (Mal 2:15c). The spiritual husband would be committed to God and faithful to his wife, ministering to her needs as best he can. The Lord then states, very emphatically, “I hate divorce” (Mal 2:16a).[1] God created the institution of marriage (Gen 2:21-24), which is intended to unite, in faithfulness, a man and a woman together for life. The union is between God and the couple He joins together. And, because God Himself is a covenant keeping God who is faithful to His promises, He expects those who walk with Him to keep their promises too. Unfortunately, many in Malachi’s day were divorcing their wives for sinful reasons; and, rather than wearing a garment of love, with which to cover and protect his wife, he wore a garment of “wrong” that injured himself, his wife, and his children. So, God says to this man, for a second time, “take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Mal 2:16c). The spiritual man who walks with God will honor his vows to his wife and remain faithful to her.

 

[1] The Hebrew text could also read: “If he hates and divorces his wife” (CSB) or “The man who hates and divorces his wife” (NIV). If correct, the subject of “hate” is the husband, not the Lord; and the object of the husband’s hate is his wife. Whether God or the husband is the subject in the passage, divorce is wrong. However, because of sin, divorce was permitted (Deut 24:1-4; Matt 19:7-8), and the marriage could be terminated because of adultery (Matt 19:9), or desertion of an unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7:12-16). Though divorce is an option, it is not required, and reconciliation, if possible, is always preferred.

The Old and New Priesthood

The Old and New Priesthood

June 6, 2020

     A priest was one who offered prayers, sacrifices, and worship to God on behalf of others. He also offered instruction, by speech and behavior, concerning how to properly approach God in righteousness. In the OT—before the Mosaic Law—few priests are mentioned. Melchizedek functioned as the king/priest of Salem (Gen 14:18-20; cf. Heb 7:1), and Jethro/Ruel (Moses’ father-in-law) as the priest of Midian (Ex 2:16-21; 3:1). Job served as the priest over his household, offering sacrifices for the sins of his family (Job 1:5). Most people worshipped and served God as non-priests. Men such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob built temporary stone altars and worshipped God directly (Gen 8:20-21; Gen 12:7; 13:18; 26:24-25; 35:1-7). Before the Mosaic Law, it appears that sacrifice and worship were personal, simple, did not require special attire, and were not tied to a specific geographic location or facility.

     After Israel was delivered from the bondage of Egypt, God established the Hebrews as a theocratic nation among the Gentile nations of the world. God originally intended the whole nation to be a kingdom of priests, saying, “and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). However, because of the sin of worshipping the golden calf (Ex 32:1-35), God took that privilege from the nation and gave it solely to the tribe of Levi (Num 3:6-10).

     Aaron was from the tribe of Levi, and he and his descendants constituted the priestly class in Israel, and other qualified Levites helped them in their priestly duties. The distinction between priests and Levites continued into the NT (John 1:19; Luke 10:31-32). The priests in Israel were not given land (Num 18:20, 23-24), but could live in one of forty-eight cities that were assigned to them (Num 35:7). Their living was derived from the tithe (Num 18:21, 24-28), and they could eat part of the animal sacrifice (Lev 5:13, 7:31-34), along with their family (Lev 10:12-15).

     God required that Levitical priests could not have any physical defects (Lev 21:17-23), and restricted the age to twenty-five to fifty (Num 8:24-25). The Levitical priests originally served in the tabernacle, and later in the temple. Special clothing was required both for the priests and the high priest. Throughout the years of their priestly service they were required to:

  1. Be holy in their behavior (Ex 19:6).
  2. Teach God’s Law to others (Lev 10:8-11; Deut 31:9-13; 33:8-10; 2 Chron 17:7-9; Ezra 7:10; Mal 2:7).
  3. Offer sacrifices for sin to God (Lev chapters 4, 9, 16).
  4. Adjudicate legal matters (Deut 17:8-13; 19:16-17; 2 Chron 19:8-10).
  5. Preserve the tabernacle and temple (Num 18:1-7).
  6. Perform official duties in the Holy of Holies once a year (Ex 30:6-10; Lev 16).
  7. Inspect persons, animals, and fabrics to make sure they were clean (Lev 1:3; Deu 15:21; Lev 13-15).
  8. Receive the tithes (Num 18:21, 26; cf. Heb 7:5).
  9. Pronounce God’s blessing on the nation (Num 6:22-27).

     The death of Christ on the cross fulfilled the Mosaic Law and ended the OT animal sacrificial system and the Levitical priesthood (John 1:17; Rom 6:14; 8:3-4; 10:4; 2 Cor 3:1-13; Gal 5:18; Heb 8:13). Jesus is identified as a Priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Psa 110:4; Heb 7:11-19), and He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone for sin (Mark 10:45; Rom 8:3-4).

     Today, there is no specialized priesthood, and the Catholic Church—or any organization—is not justified in creating a priestly cast within the body of Christ. Presently, in the church age, every Christian, at the moment of salvation, becomes a priest to God. Peter writes of Christians, saying, “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5), and “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).[1] This is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who “has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (Rev 1:6), and “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev 5:10; cf. 20:6). Furthermore, we do not worship at a temple; rather, “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16; cf. 1 Cor 3:16-17). And we do not bring animal sacrifices, but “offer up spiritual sacrifices” to God (1 Pet 2:5). The basic functions of the Christian priesthood include:

  1. The continual giving of the body for service to the Lord (Rom 12:1-2).
  2. Confessing our sins directly to God (1 John 1:6-9).
  3. Sharing the gospel with others (Rom 15:15-16).
  4. Offering praise to God (Heb 13:15).
  5. Doing good works and sharing with others (Heb 13:16; cf. Phil 4:18).
  6. Giving our lives for the benefit of others (Phil 2:17; cf. Phil 1:21-26; 2:3-4).
  7. Walking in love (Eph 5:1-2; cf. 1 Pet 1:22).

     The Christian becomes a priest at the moment of salvation; however, the practice of the priesthood begins when he/she surrenders their body as a “living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:1). Unlike the OT animal sacrifices which surrendered their lives once, the Christian life is a moment by moment, continual surrender to God. This spiritual service is performed by the believer “to our God” (Rev 5:10), for the benefit of others (Gal 6:10; Phil 2:3-4; Heb 13:16).

 

[1] Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum argues that the references in 1 Peter 2:5-9 refers narrowly to Jewish Christians, and there is merit to his argument. He also makes clear that all Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, are priests to God, and references Revelation 1:6; 5:10, and 20:6 as his prooftexts. For further investigation, read Israelology, pages 720-722.

Malachi 2:1-9

Malachi 2:1-9

May 31, 2020

     In this pericope, God rebukes the Levitical priests for not accurately teaching or living by God’s Word, and for leading the people into sin. Malachi chapter two opens with a direct address to the priests in Judah (Mal 2:1). The address was both a warning and a judgment. The warning was, “If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name” says the LORD of hosts, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings” (Mal 2:2a). To listen (שָׁמַע shama) meant to hear and obey. To give honor to God’s name meant they were to magnify His reputation before others by obeying His Word. If they failed to do this, then He would send a curse upon them and reverse the blessings He’d given. This process of cursing had already begun, as the Lord states, “indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart” (Mal 2:2b). Apparently, the reversal of some of His blessings was intended to serve as warning discipline for the priests, followed by a promise of further judgment if they continued. If they continued to dishonor His name through their disobedience, He would send a threefold judgement: 1) He would rebuke their offspring (Mal 2:3a), which likely meant their family line would come to an end[1] (cf. 1 Sam 24:21; Psa 37:28), 2) He would spread refuse on their faces (Mal 2:3b), which meant He would publicly humiliate them, and 3) He would remove their place of ministry (Mal 2:3c), much like the worthless dung was removed from the animal sacrifice and thrown outside the camp (cf. Exo 29:14; Lev 4:11-12). The discipline was intended to humble them so they would take the Lord seriously, do His will, and lead others to do the same. When this happened, they would know it was the Lord who had spoken (Mal 2:4). God’s judgment would purge the corrupt elements within the Levitical priesthood in order that it might continue and function properly. Levi, one of the sons of Jacob (Gen 29:34), was not a priest. However, God chose the tribe of Levi to be the priestly tribe in Israel to help with theological training, sacrifices, and worship. Because they held such an important role in Israelite society, a role that influenced the lives of others, they were held to a higher standard. God said of Levi, “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name” (Mal 2:5). For a priest to revere God meant three things: 1) that he communicated “true instruction” from the Lord (Mal 2:6a), that he walked with God “in peace and uprightness” (Mal 2:6b), 3) that “he turned many back from iniquity” (Mal 2:6c). One of the chief responsibilities of the priests was to teach God’s Word to others (Lev 10:8-11; Deut 31:9-13; 33:8-10), “For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts” (Mal 2:7). However, the priests in Malachi’s day had failed terribly, as the Lord states, “But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi” (Mal 2:8). Not only had the priests stopped following God, their poor teaching and lifestyle led others away as well. So God declared, “So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction” (Mal 2:9). Though being “despised and abased before all the people” was a severe punishment, it was a lighter sentence than the death penalty; which was what the Mosaic Law prescribed for priests who offered unfit animal sacrifices (see Num 18:32). In all this, God expected His ministers to know His Word, teach His Word, and live His Word (see Ezra 7:10), so the people of God could hear and see the standard of righteousness that was expected of them. How ministers handle God’s Word is a serious matter, for being a teacher can be dangerous business if not done properly (Jam 3:1). Christians should know what to expect from their pastors, teachers, worship leaders, counselors, etc. They should also know what God expects from them, for all Christians are called to grow in their faith, to become mature believers, “for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).

 

[1] Because the priests were disobeying God and leading others into sin through their false teaching, God would cut off their family line and bring it to an end. Here is an example of cursing by association, where one’s descendants are impacted by the choices of their parents. Those who want the best for their children will pursue godliness above all else. Parents are to know God’s Word, teach it to their children, and model the godly behavior they want to see in in their children (Deut 6:4-7; 11:19; Eph 6:4).

Malachi 1:6-14

Malachi 1:6-14

May 30, 2020

       God rebukes the priests in Judah who have disdained His name by offering unacceptable sacrifices on the altar (Mal 1:6-14). God admonishes the priests in Judah who failed in their temple duties. The Lord opens with the comment that a good son honors his father and a good servant respects his master but God’s priests disrespect Him and “despise” His name (Mal 1:6). To despise (בָּזָה bazah) means to look down on someone or something as worthless. “They did not simply despise the Lord in the way they worshiped; the way they worshiped showed that they were despisers of the Lord.”[1] The priests ask how they are guilty of despising the Lord, and God answers, by “presenting defiled food upon My altar” (Mal 1:7a). The sacrificial altar is also called “the table of the LORD” (Mal 1:7b), identifying it as the place where people came together, not only to sacrifice, but to eat and fellowship. In ancient Israel, the communal meal was more than a source of nutrition; it communicated a place of fellowship, trust, and respect (see Gen 18:1-8). The priests dishonored the Lord by offering blind, lame, and sick animal sacrifices (Mal 1:8), which were forbidden under the Mosaic Law (Lev 1:3; Deu 15:21). Though the priests were the ones primarily being rebuked, the offerors were also guilty, for they were the ones bringing the unacceptable sacrifices. The quality and attitude of the gift says something about the giver and her/his estimation of the recipient. The poor widow, though she only gave two coins, gave with the right attitude (Mark 12:41-44), and Mary’s gift to Jesus was precious (John 12:1-3).

  • "When the people came to worship, God did not require a great deal of them in the way of offerings—tokens, really, of their herds and their crops, a handful of grain, or an animal or two for the family. But what they brought had to pass two important tests, and in many cases only they and God would know if they passed them. What they brought had to be the first and the best—the first of their flock, and the best animal they had. Anything less than this was an insult to God. To bring God an inferior gift would say that one did not think much of God, for the quality of the gift indicates the value the giver places on the one receiving the gift. That is true in a human relationship, and it certainly is true in worship."[2]

     But God, being gracious, offers them grace if they would humble themselves (Mal 1:9). But if they would not obey Him, it would be better if one of the priests would shut the doors to the temple courtyard rather than offer improper sacrifices (Mal 1:10). God’s name is important, for it represents His divine nature, and He desires that it be honored in all places (Mal 1:11). Yet in Judah, God’s name was despised, and the table of the Lord was defiled (Mal 1:12). The priests even complained that the temple work itself was tiresome, and this led them to “bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick” (Mal 1:13). God even rebukes the people, saying, “cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord” (Mal 1:14). This was a disgrace, because God is a great King, and His name should be feared by all.

 

[1] Allen P. Ross, Malachi Then and Now: An Expository Commentary Based on Detailed Exegetical Analysis (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 60.

[2] Ibid., 51.

Malachi 1:1-5

Malachi 1:1-5

May 24, 2020

     Malachi chapter one reveals God’s love for Israel in that He chose her above others to be in a special relationship with Him (Mal 1:1-5). Malachi’s message is called an “oracle”; however, the Hebrew word מַשָּׂא massa also connotes a burden. “In the prophetic books maśśā’ introduces messages of a threatening nature 27 times (e.g., Isa 13:1; 14:28; 15:1; Nah 1:1; Hab 1:1; Zec 9:1; 12:1). Standing alone at the beginning of Malachi, the word maśśā’ gives this prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding.”[1] Furthermore, Malachi’s message was not his own; rather, it was “the word of the LORD”, which meant it came with the stamp of divine authority (cf. 1 Th 2:13). Six times in this pericope God’s covenant name, יהוה YHVH, is used; and the message was to Israel, His covenant people. Since God is always faithful to keep His word, any problems in the relationship must belong to His people. And the message was “through Malachi”, the Lord’s instrument of communication. Interestingly, the prophet’s opening message to Israel was an announcement of God’s love for them, as the Lord declared, “I have loved you” (Mal 1:2a). “The verb אָהַב means ‘to love,’ very often with the special sense of choosing. If God loved Israel, it meant he chose them for himself; there was affection for sure, but divine election lay behind it all.”[2] God’s love for His people means He has chosen them for a special relationship, that He is committed to them (even when they are not faithful, see 2 Tim 2:13), and always seeks their best interest. Furthermore, His love for His people is rooted in His sovereignty and integrity, not in the beauty or worth of those whom He loved (Deu 7:6-8); and Israel should have responded to God’s love by walking with him and following His direction (Deu 6:4-9). This is true for believers who are in relationship with Jesus, who said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23). God’s love for Israel is seen in that He has chosen them to be His covenant people (Mal 1:2a), which meant they were to walk with Him and enjoy His blessings. But His people challenged His love for them, asking, “How have You loved us?” (Mal 1:2b). Their question could possibly have been asked out of ignorance, but more likely out of defiance, because they were not walking as they should. Perhaps Israel questioned God’s love because nearly 100 years had passed since they’d returned from Babylonian captivity and they were still struggling agriculturally and economically. However, if they’d known their Scriptures, they would have been able to interpret their poor condition from the divine perspective and realize their suffering was because they’d failed to keep His Word, and not because God did not love or care about them. God revealed His love for them by stating He’d selected their forefather, Jacob, to be the recipient of His covenant blessings, and rejected his brother, Esau, who was cursed (Mal 1:2c-3). In Malachi, the terms “love” and “hate” simply mean God selected one and rejected the other (Jesus used the words in the same way; see Luke 14:26). “We must keep in mind that God’s choosing of the line of Jacob did not mean that everyone in Israel would be a redeemed believer; neither did the rejection of Esau’s line mean that no Edomite ever came to faith.”[3] Though God loved Israel, He would not tolerate their prideful defiance of Him, for “God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5). In order to restore Israel to a place of humbleness, God used the Babylonians to discipline and take them into captivity. Though He disciplined them according to His covenant promises, it was His faithful love that restored them to fellowship (Deu 4:25-31; 30:1-3). In contrast, Edom had been rejected by God, who also used the Babylonians to defeat them, and though Edom tried to rebuild, God frustrated their efforts and destroyed them completely (Mal 1:4; cf. Jer 27:2-8; 49:7-22). Malachi said, “Your eyes will see this and you will say, ‘The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!’” (Mal 1:5). The reference to “your eyes” most likely refers to believing Israelites future from Malachi’s day, who would witness God’s sovereign destruction of Edom, displaying His ultimate rejection of them, in contrast to the preservation of His people, Israel, whom He loved. In all this we learn something about the loving character of God toward His people, whom He has chosen for a special relationship.

     As Christians, we are among God’s elect and have been adopted as sons and daughters (Gal 3:26-28), endowed with great blessing (Eph 1:3-6), citizenship in heaven (Phil 3:20), a priesthood (Rev 1:6), and an ambassadorship in God’s service (2 Cor 5:20). However, the same love that has selected and blessed us will also bring loving discipline when we step out of God’s will (Heb 12:5-11); a discipline that is intended to “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11b).

 

[1] Craig A. Blaising, “Malachi,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1575.

[2] Allen P. Ross, Malachi Then and Now: An Expository Commentary Based on Detailed Exegetical Analysis (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 34.

[3] Ibid., 35.

Introduction to Malachi

Introduction to Malachi

May 23, 2020

Author:

     The author of the book is the prophet Malachi (Heb. מַלְאָכִי Malaki), whose name means my messenger (Mal 1:1).

Audience:

     Malachi’s message was to Israel (Mal 1:1); specifically, a Judean audience familiar with temple activity (Mal 2:11).

Date of Ministry:

     Malachi uses a Persian word for governor (פֶּחָה pechah – Mal 1:8), which implies Persian rule (538-333 B.C.). Furthermore, the temple was operational (Mal 1:6-11; 2:1-3; 3:1, 10), placing the writing after 516 B.C., as a post-exilic book. The religious and social problems addressed by Malachi seem to coincide with issues addressed by Ezra (Ezra chapters 9 & 10) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah chapters 10 & 13). It’s possible Malachi prophesied during the time when Nehemiah, Judah’s governor, was out of town for a few years (Neh 13:6, ca. 432 B.C.). If correct, Malachi’s ministry occurred nearly a hundred years after Haggai and Zechariah. Malachi is the last of the OT writing prophets.

Historical Background:

     Malachi addressed some of the issues surrounding Israel’s neglect of the covenant; specifically, the promises the people had previously made under Nehemiah’s leadership to keep the Sabbath, fund the temple, offer proper sacrifices, and give tithes of food (Neh 10:28-39). When Nehemiah was present, the people obeyed. However, Nehemiah left for a period of time, maybe a few years, visiting Artaxerxes, king of Babylon (Neh 13:6); and during his absence the people fell back into sin, bringing unbelieving foreigners into the temple, not supporting the priests, failing to keep the Sabbath and marrying unbelieving foreign women (Neh 13:1-31). Malachi addresses similar issues.

  • "The conditions described in the Book of Nehemiah are the very things Malachi deals with in his book: poor crops and a faltering economy (Mal. 3:11), intermarriage with the heathen (2:11), defilement of the priesthood (1:6ff), oppression of the poor (3:5), lack of support for the temple (vv. 8–10), and a general disdain of religion (v. 13ff). It was a low time spiritually for Judah, and they needed to hear the Word of God."[1]
  • "Life was not easy for the returnees during the ministry of the fifth-century restoration prophets. The people continued to live under Gentile (Persian) sovereignty even though they were back in their own land. Harvests were poor, and locust plagues were a problem (3:11). Even after Ezra’s reforms and Nehemiah’s amazing success in motivating the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, most of the people remained cold-hearted toward Yahweh. Priests and people were still not observing the Mosaic Law as commanded, as is clear from references in the book to sacrifices, tithes, and offerings (e.g., 1:6; 3:5). Foreign cultures had made deep inroads into the values and practices of God’s people. The Israelites still intermarried with Gentiles (2:11), and divorces were quite common (2:16). The spiritual, ethical, and moral tone of the nation was low."[2]

Malachi’s Message:

     Malachi structures his message to address seven sins within the nation. In each of the sins mentioned, Malachi’s readers responded by asking, “How have we done that?” (Mal 1:2, 6, 2:13-14, 17; 3:7, 8, 13). The questions reveal their spiritual insensitivity to his charges. The priests were the major focus of Malachi’s message, as they had failed to teach and lead the nation in spiritual matters pertaining to temple sacrifices. “It is possible to attend the place of worship, to go through the motions of worship, and even to make sacrifices of worship, and still not worship God.”[3] Throughout, the Mosaic Law was the standard by which Israel’s behavior was measured, calling them back to obedience. Overall, Malachi’s message was that covenant faithfulness would restore the nation’s blessings.

Outline:

  1. God loves His people, Israel, and subdues her enemies (1:1-5).
  2. God rejects the corrupt worship that defiles His sanctuary (1:6-14).
  3. The priests failed to teach the Law to God’s people (2:1-9).
  4. Many Israelites had married unbelieving foreign wives and divorced the wives of their youth (2:10-16).
  5. God will send His messengers who will prepare the way for redemption and judgment (2:17-3:5).
  6. God’s people failed to support the priesthood with their tithes (3:6-12).
  7. A contrast between the wicked and the righteous, and a promise of a future leader who will restore the nation to God (3:13-18; 4:1-6).

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Amazed, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 137.

[2] Tom Constable, Introduction to Malachi, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), NP.

[3] Ibid., NP.

The Second Coming of Christ

The Second Coming of Christ

May 10, 2020

     The coming of Messiah into the world is a prophesied event in the both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament revealed Messiah would come, both as a Suffering Servant (Psa 22:6, 12-18; Isa 50:6-7; 53:1-12; Dan 9:26; Zec 13:7), and as a reigning descendant of David, who will establish an earthly kingdom in Israel (2 Sam 7:16; Psa 89:3-4, 34-37; Isa 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jer 23:5; Dan 2:44; 7:13-14). The New Testament clearly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah (Matt 1:1, 16; Luke 1:31-33; John 1:41-42).

     At His incarnation—nearly two thousand years ago—God the Son added humanity to Himself (John 1:1, 14), walked among men and lived a righteous life, free from sin (Matt 5:17-18; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 John 3:5). At His first coming, Jesus repeatedly offered the earthly Davidic kingdom to Israel (Matt 4:17, 23; 9:35; 10:7), but His offer was rejected by the Jewish leadership and people (Matt 11:20; 12:14; 27:22-23; John 19:13-16), so the kingdom was postponed for a future time (Matt 21:43).

     As the Suffering Servant, Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins (John 3:16; Rom 5:6-8; 1 Pet 3:18), was buried, and raised again on the third day (Matt 16:21; 17:22-23; Luke 24:6-7; Acts 10:38-41; 1 Cor 15:3-4). After His resurrection, over forty days, Jesus appeared to numerous persons, namely, Mary Magdalene and other women (John 20:10-18; Matt 28:8-9), two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), the disciples without Thomas (John 20:19-25), the disciples with Thomas (John 20:26-29), the disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23), Peter, James, and more than 500 brethren at one time (1 Cor 15:5-7), and lastly, to the disciples at the Mount of Olives, before He ascended bodily into heaven (Acts 1:9-12). It is was no coincidence that Jesus ascended physically to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12), for it is to this very mountain that Zechariah prophesied Messiah would come, saying, “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south” (Zec 14:4). That the Mount of Olives is still in an undisturbed state makes clear that Jesus has not returned.

     Jesus promised to return again (Matt 16:27; 19:28; 25:31), and this will happen after the time of Tribulation (Matt 24:21, 29-30). The return of Christ is praiseworthy news to those who are in heaven and on the earth who love Him and look forward to His coming.  However, it is bad news to those who oppose Him (2 Thess 1:3-10; Rev 19:11-21). The Second Coming is distinguished from the Rapture of the Church where Christ takes all Christians to heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor 15:51-53; 1 Thess 4:13-18). The Rapture of the Church occurs just prior to the seven-year Tribulation.

     The major purposes of Jesus’ Second Coming include:

  1. Fulfilling Prophecy (Psa 2:1-12; Isa 11:1-5; Dan 7:13-14; Zec 14:1-9; Matt 19:28; 24:29-30; 25:31; Acts 1:11; 2 Thess 1:6-10).
  2. Judging the world and establishing righteousness (Psa 96:13; Isa 9:6-7; Jer 23:5; Matt 19:28; 25:31-46; Rev 20:4; 11-15).
  3. Rescuing persecuted believers from the Tribulation (Matt 24:22).
  4. Bringing saved Jews into the Promised Land (Gen 12:1-3; 15:18; 17:8; Ezek; 37:21-25; Rom 11:25-26).
  5. Fulfilling the promises of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 34:25-27; 37:26).
  6. Judging the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Rev 19:20).
  7. Casting Satan into the Abyss for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-3).
  8. Establishing the earthly Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem (2 Sam 7:16; Psa 89:3-4, 34-37; Luke 1:31-33; cf. Isa 9:6-7; Jer 23:5; Dan 7:13-14; Rev 20:1-6).
Zechariah 14:1-21

Zechariah 14:1-21

May 9, 2020

     Zechariah 14:1-21 pertains to the day of the Lord, which is a future time when God will intervene in human history to rescue His people and judge the wicked, in order to establish His kingdom on earth. The chapter opens with a description of persecution by Gentile nations upon Jerusalem, in which the city is captured, houses plundered, women ravished, and many taken into exile (Zec 14:1-2). When all seems hopeless, “the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle” (Zec 14:3). This refers to the battle of Armageddon in which Jesus Christ “will stand on the Mount of Olives”, causing the mountain to split in two (Zec 14:4), and clearing the way for His people to flee to safety (Zec 14:5a). Apparently, Jesus will be accompanied by many of His holy angels (Zec 14:5b). This event will be so great, even the stars in the sky will be impacted (Zec 14:6-7). After the battle, there will be a fountain flowing out of Jerusalem that will extend outward to other nations (Zec 14:8), and “the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one” (Zec 14:9). The topography of the Middle East will be changed into a plain (Zec 14:10), and “People will live in it, and there will no longer be a curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security” (Zec 14:11). And God will punish those who attacked Jerusalem with great physical pain (Zec 14:12) and mental confusion, such that “they will seize one another’s hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another” (Zec 14:13). Apparently, some within Judah and Jerusalem will fight, and after the enemy is defeated, “the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered, gold and silver and garments in great abundance” (Zec 14:14). The plague which God brought upon Israel’s enemies, will also be upon all the animals in their camp (Zec 14:15), rendering them useless to those who use them in war. After the battle is complete, after God subdues Israel’s enemies, the remaining humbled nations will be required to go to Jerusalem annually “to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them” (Zec 14:16-17). This will be the punishment on nations near and far (Zec 14:18-19). It is likely that representatives from the nations of the world will be those who visit Jerusalem annually, as it would seem impossible for every person on the planet to gather there. More so, failure to attend these annual events implies that sin and pride are not completely removed during the millennial kingdom, otherwise there would be no need for God to withhold the blessing of rain upon those nations. Lastly, when Christ establishes His kingdom on earth, common things such as bells on horse (Zec 14:20), cooking pots and dishes, will all “be holy to the LORD of hosts” (Zec 14:21a). “And there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts in that day” (Zec 14:21b), which likely refers to common traders influencing those who worship at the Lord’s temple.

Zechariah 13:1-9

Zechariah 13:1-9

May 3, 2020

     Zechariah 13:1-6 refer to events surrounding the second coming of Christ and the suppression of idolatry and false prophets. Zechariah 13:7 refers to the first coming of Jesus and His crucifixion; and, Zechariah 13:8-9 refers to God’s further cleansing of the land during the Tribulation, just before Messiah comes. Zechariah chapter thirteen opens with the repeated phrase, in that day (Zec 13:1, 2, 4), showing it is a continuation of chapter twelve, and refers to the eschatological events surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus. In that future time, God declares, “a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity” (Zec 13:1). This means the Lord will offer spiritual cleansing to Israel’s leadership and people in anticipation of the coming earthly kingdom. The Lord also states, “I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land” (Zec 13:2). Israel has a long history of idolatry, which was promoted by false prophets (in the seen world) and unclean spirits (in the unseen world). These will be removed from the land; again, in anticipation of the coming earthly kingdom. The false prophets will not have a place to hide, not even in their own homes, as parents, who are wholly devoted to God, will not tolerate spiritual dissent among their children (Zec 13:3). The false prophets will be ashamed of their false visions and will no longer try to present themselves as true prophets of God (Zec 13:4); but rather, will say they are lowly slave farmers (Zec 13:5). One of the marks of false prophets was the cutting of their flesh in an effort to excite their pagan deity (cf. Lev 19:28; Deu 14:1; 1 Ki 18:28). When asked about his wounds, the false prophet will lie and say “I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zec 13:6). That is, the wounds were not self-inflicted, but inflicted by a friend, perhaps while horseplaying in his youth. The subject matter suddenly changes, as Zechariah prophecies about the first coming of Jesus, specifically with regard to His substitutionary death. God states, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man, My Associate” (Zec 13:7a). Here, God the Father calls for a sword—an instrument of death—to be raised against His Shepherd and Associate, which is Jesus, His Son. This verse is similar to that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, where God the Father crushes Jesus in our place (Isa 53:4-10; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28); a crushing that Jesus willingly accepts, as He lays down His life for us (Matt 26:42; Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15). The Lord further states, “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; and I will turn My hand against the little ones” (Zec 13:7b). We know that Jesus’ disciples were scattered after He was crucified (Matt 26:31, 56), and the reference to “the little ones” might be better understood as “the insignificant ones” who were judged by God for the wrong they inflicted on Jesus (perhaps alluding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70). Lastly, Zechariah seems to jump back to the future time of the Tribulation, in which two thirds of Israelites will be cut off, and a third will be spared to enter into the coming earthly kingdom (Zec 13:8). This remaining third, likely the believing remnant of Israelites at the second coming of Jesus, will be refined and tested through the fire of the Tribulation (Zec 13:9a). God says of these believing Jews, “they will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘they are My people,’ and they will say, ‘the LORD is my God’” (Zec 13:9b). Israel, God’s covenant people, will, at last, be in a healthy relationship with the Lord as they enter into the earthly millennial kingdom with Jesus as their King.

Zechariah 12:1-14

Zechariah 12:1-14

May 2, 2020

     Zechariah 12:1-9 refers to the time of the Tribulation; specifically, the battle of Armageddon, when the nations of the world gather against Jerusalem. Zechariah 12:10-14 refers to the national conversion of Israel just prior to the return of Christ. In the opening verse, God identifies Himself as the One who created everything, including mankind; and He is the One who will bring the future events to pass (Zec 12:1). He will make Jerusalem like a cup of strong alcohol to the nations, who will stumble and reel when they try to consume it (Zec 12:2). And, He would make Jerusalem like a heavy stone that will injure those who try to move it (Zec 12:3a). This will be a time when “all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (Zec 12:3b), and will be injured by their efforts to harm the city. The phrase in that day occurs 17 times in Zechariah chapters 12-14 and refers to the eschatological events surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus. The Lord Himself will defend Judah, saying, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness” (Zec 12:4). The leaders of Judah will know that God is for them (Zec 12:5), and will work through them to defeat their enemies (Zec 12:6). The Lord’s deliverance will start with “the tents of Judah” so that those outside the city of Jerusalem will know He cares about them as much as He does “the house of David” and “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Zec 12:7). And the Lord will defend and strengthen those within Jerusalem, declaring, “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them” (Zec 12:8). God declares, He “will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zec 12:9). At that time, Israel will experience national conversion as the Lord pours out on them “the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zec 12:10). That is, they will mourn that their Messiah, Jesus, was rejected by them at His first coming, and will turn to Him in faith, accepting Him at His second coming. This time of mourning—as Zechariah talks to his generation—will be like the mourning that occurred when Josiah, one of Israel’s greatest kings, was killed by Pharaoh Neco “in the plain of Megiddo” (Zec 12:11; cf. 2 Chr 35:20-27). Every family will mourn, those representing the political (David and Nathan), the priestly (Levi and Shimei), and “all the families that remain” (Zec 12:12-14).

Foolish and Worthless Shepherds - Zechariah 11:15-17

Foolish and Worthless Shepherds - Zechariah 11:15-17

April 26, 2020

     The term shepherd appears throughout the Bible. The word translates the Hebrew  רֹעֵה  ro’eh as well as the Greek ποιμήν poimen. Both words carry the same basic meaning “to pasture, shepherd, shelter, protect”[1] and “one who herds sheep, shepherd, sheep-herder.”[2] Shepherding was tough and lowly work, often performed in solitude for long periods of time and in dangerous places (Gen 31:36-40; 1 Sam 17:34-35).

  • "Shepherds stayed with their sheep day and night (Luke 2:8). They provided their flocks with food and water, defended them against thieves and wild animals (1 Sam. 17:34–35; Isa. 31:4; Amos 3:12), and searched for any sheep that wandered astray (Ezek. 34:12; Luke 15:4–6). Each shepherd carried a curved staff, used as a walking stick and for guiding and dividing the sheep (Lev. 27:32); a rod or club, used as a weapon; and a sling (1 Sam. 17:40). They might be aided by dogs (Job 30:1). Because shepherds were the sole source of provision, protection, and control for sheep, in ancient Near Eastern usage “shepherd” came to be a term descriptive of political leaders…Kings, priests, and prophets of Israel are characterized as faithful (Jer. 3:15; 23:4) or wicked shepherds (Isa. 56:11–12; Jer. 10:21; 23:1–2; 50:6). David in particular is called the shepherd appointed by God (2 Sam. 5:2; Ps. 78:70–72). Israel under inadequate leadership is spoken of as sheep without a shepherd (Num. 27:17; 1 Kgs. 22:17; Matt. 9:36). Shepherd imagery is also applied to God, who guides and cares for his people (e.g., Ps. 23:1–4; 28:9; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 31:10; cf. Gen. 48:15). The eschatological Davidic king is depicted as a shepherd (Ezek. 34:23; Mic. 5:4)."[3]

The term shepherd is used figuratively in Scripture:

  1. God the Father. God is referred to as the Shepherd who leads, feeds, and protects His people (Gen 48:15; Isa 40:11; Psa 23:1-4; 80:1; 100:1-3; Ezek 34:10-16).
  2. Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:14), the “Great Shepherd” (Heb 13:20), and the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pet 5:4). As the ideal shepherd, Jesus has compassion for His sheep (Matt 9:36), feeds them with God’s Word (Mark 6:34), and lays down His life for them (John 10:11).
  3. Human rulers. In the OT, these leaders primarily consisted of kings, prophets, and priests who were called by God to lead people into His will (Num 27:16-17; 2 Sam 5:1-2). These leaders were to feed God’s people with His Word (Lev 10:11; Deu 33:10; Ezra 7:10; Jer 3:15; Mal 2:7).
  4. Church pastors. In the Church age, God has appointed under-shepherds (i.e. pastors) to lead, feed, and protect His people (Acts 20:28-32; Eph 4:11-14; 2 Tim 2:2; 4:2; 1 Pet 5:1-2). Pastors are appointed by God (Acts 20:28; cf. Eph 4:11) to work within the church, and with the church, serving as examples, and not “lording” their authority over others (1 Pet 5:3). Church pastors are to guard their flock against false teachers and their false doctrines, guiding believers into God’s will, and feeding them with the truths of Scripture. God’s Word is the food pastors serve to their flocks so they might be nourished and grow spiritually (1 Cor 3:2; Heb 5:12-14; 1 Pet 2:2).
  5. Foolish and worthless leaders (Isa 56:11-12; Jer 10:21; 23:1-2; 50:6; Ezek 34:1-10; Zec 11:15-17). The two words to describe the bad shepherd in Zechariah 11:15-17 are foolish and worthless. Foolish translates the Hebrew word אֱוִלִי evili, which, in this context, connotes an immoral leader who had no regard for those to whom he was to minster. “The word [fool] is used in Scripture with respect to moral more than to intellectual deficiencies. The “fool” is not so much one lacking in mental powers, as one who misuses them; not one who does not reason, but reasons wrongly.”[4] The foremost characteristic of a fool is that God is absent from his heart; as the Scripture states, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’”  (Psa 14:1). Being devoid of any divine viewpoint or concern, the fool thinks only of self and will use others as a means of personal benefit. Zechariah describes the foolish shepherd-leader as one “who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered, heal the broken, or sustain the one standing, but will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hoofs” (Zec 11:16). The word worthless translates the Hebrew word אֱלִיל elil, which connotes something of no value. In Zechariah 11:17 it refers to the leader who is of no value to God or others. The worthless shepherd has no sense of commitment to the flock under his care, and “who leaves the flock” (Zec 11:17). Elsewhere, Scripture describes the worthless person as one who “digs up evil” (Pro 16:27), “makes a mockery of justice” (Pro 19:28), and “plots evil against the LORD” (Nah 1:11). He leads others away from God (Deu 13:13), is given to lewd behavior (Judg 19:22), hides from justice (Judg 20:13), is unreasonable (1 Sam 25:17), defies authority (2 Sam 20:1), is willing to lie against the innocent and promote injustice (1 Ki 21:9-13), and seeks to overpower the timid leader (2 Chron 13:7). It should be noted that worthless persons can be born into good families, for “the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD” (1 Sam 2:12). And, they can attach themselves to a godly leader and cause trouble, such as “the wicked and worthless men among those who went with David” (1 Sam 30:22).

 

[1] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1258.

[2] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 843.

[3] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 939.

[4] Merrill Frederick Unger, R. K. Harrison, Howard Frederic Vos et al., “Fool”, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).

Zechariah 11:1-17

Zechariah 11:1-17

April 25, 2020

     The pericope opens with a pronouncement of judgment against the leaders and land to the north and east of Judah (Zec 11:1-3), perhaps because of some wrong they’d committed against the Israelites. God then called Zechariah to act out a message to His people (Zec 11:4). The prophet’s first role was as a shepherd who pastured a flock that was doomed to slaughter (Zec 11:5-14), and his second role was as a foolish shepherd who selfishly abused his flock and was cursed (Zec 11:15-17). The bad shepherds abused the sheep (Zec 11:5), and were judged by God Himself (Zec 11:6). Acting as a shepherd, Zechariah took two staffs, which he named Favor and Union (Zec 11:7). God, speaking through Zechariah, stated, “I annihilated the three shepherds in one month, for my soul was impatient with them, and their soul also was weary of me” (Zec 11:8). The three shepherds are not identified and could represent three actual shepherds, three kings, or three offices of leadership such as king, prophet, and priest. Then, speaking to the nation again, the Lord states, “I will not pasture you. What is to die, let it die, and what is to be annihilated, let it be annihilated; and let those who are left eat one another's flesh” (Zec 11:9); this is presumably because of some sinful failing on their part. Zechariah took the staff he called Favor, and cut it in pieces, which represented God’s breaking His covenant with His people (Zec 11:10). This does not appear to be a reference to any of the major biblical covenants (i.e. Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Palestinian, Davidic, New), but a metaphor of the broken relationship between God and the people of Zechariah’s day. When Zechariah did this, he said, “the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized that it was the word of the LORD” (Zec 11:11). Speaking as their shepherd—who had broken his staff—he asked them to pay him his wages, and they gave him thirty pieces of silver (Zec 11:12). God told Zechariah to take the money and “throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them” (Zec 11:13a). So he “took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD” (Zec 11:13b). This might imply the temple reconstruction was complete at the time Zechariah received his message. Matthew saw this symbolic act as prophecy concerning Judas and the betrayal of Jesus (see Matt 27:3-10). Zechariah then cut in pieces his second staff, the one he’d named Union, “to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel” (Zec 11:14). This verse is difficult to know who he’s talking about, since the separation between Israel and Judah occurred historically after the death of Solomon in 930 B.C. God called Zechariah to assume a second role, that of a foolish shepherd (Zec 11:15). This role was to typify a leader God would raise up to punish His people, one “who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered, heal the broken, or sustain the one standing, but will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hoofs” (Zec 11:16). At times, God appoints unjust rulers to discipline His people (Isa 3:1-5; 10:5-11; Hab 1:5-10). Finally, concerning the unjust leaders in Zechariah’s day, God declares, “Woe to the worthless shepherd who leaves the flock! A sword will be on his arm and on his right eye! His arm will be totally withered and his right eye will be blind” (Zec 11:17). Because of his sin, the foolish shepherd’s strength and intelligence will be crippled, rendering him unfit to lead. Overall, the chapter emphasizes God’s sovereignty to administer just punishment to nations, leaders, and His people.

Zechariah 10:1-12

Zechariah 10:1-12

April 19, 2020

     In Zechariah chapter ten, God promises to bless His people if they will obey Him and turn from their idols and false shepherds (Zec 10:1-3a), and encourages them with promises of future millennial blessings (Zec 10:3b-12). God opens with a call to His people to look to Him for blessings (Zec 10:1), and to turn from the idols and false leaders who were leading them away from the Lord. The Lord said, “For the teraphim speak iniquity, and the diviners see lying visions and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore, the people wander like sheep, they are afflicted, because there is no shepherd. My anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the male goats” (Zec 10:2-3a). Idolatry is the sin of substitution in which we devote ourselves to worship something or someone in the place of God. It is foremost a sin of a covetous heart (Col 3:5) that leads us to desire more than what God provides, and to trust something or someone lesser than God to satisfy our wants and needs. The believer who is satisfied with God is content with what he has (1 Tim 6:7-11; cf. Phil 4:11), but the covetous heart is never content and always seeks more (i.e. money, success, friends, etc.) in order to feel secure or to please the flesh. In spite of their failings, God has a future for His people, and it is to make them majestic (Zec 10:3b), but only in connection with their future Messiah. God declares, “From them will come the cornerstone, from them the tent peg, from them the bow of battle, from them every ruler, all of them together” (Zec 10:4).

  • "From the house of Judah would come the cornerstone of the building (kingdom) He would build, namely, Messiah (cf. 3:9; Gen. 49:10; Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16; Jer. 30:21; Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:1–8). The cornerstone (Heb. pinnah) was a figure of a leader who would stabilize a nation and keep it from sliding down a slippery slope (cf. Judg. 20:2; 1 Sam. 14:38; Isa. 19:13). Messiah would also be like a tent peg (Heb. yathed) in that He would hold the tent (kingdom) firmly in place (cf. Judg. 4:21–22; Isa. 22:23–24; Acts 15:16). The Hebrew word also describes a peg inside a tent on which people hung beautiful things that glorified their homes (cf. 6:13; Isa. 22:22–24; Ezek. 15:3). Messiah would also be Yahweh’s bow by which He would destroy His enemies (cf. 9:13; Ps. 45:5; Rev. 19:11–16). All these figures picture the strong, stable, victorious, and trustworthy nature of Messiah’s rule."[1]

     When Messiah returns at His second coming and leads His people in battle, they will tread down their enemies (Zec 10:5), and the divided tribes of Judah and Israel will be reunited (Zec 10:6), and they will rejoice in the Lord (Zec 10:8). This will occur when God reunites His people, when He whistles for them as a shepherd calls for his sheep (Zec 10:9), and He brings them back into the land (Zec 10:10). He declares this will happen after they’ve passed through “the sea of distress” (Zec 10:11), which likely refers to the time of the Tribulation (Rev chapters 6-18). At the time God establishes His millennial kingdom, He declares, “I will strengthen them in the LORD, and in His name they will walk” (Zec 10:12). The kingdoms of this world, and those of us who make up their citizenry, do not have the answers or resources for our biggest problems, and we eagerly look forward to the return of Christ, who alone will make the world a better place. Until then, we must let our lights shine as brightly as possible, speak God’s truth, walk in His love, and share the gospel of Christ that others might come to believe in Jesus and be saved out of this fallen world (1 Cor 15:3-4; cf. John 3:16; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5).

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Zec 10:4.

Zechariah 9:1-17

Zechariah 9:1-17

April 18, 2020

     Zechariah chapter nine is an undated prophecy that addresses how God deals with Gentile nations who threaten Israel (Zec 9:1-8), promises the future coming of Messiah (Zec 9:9-10), and the return of Israelites back to the land with blessing (Zec 9:11-17). The chapter opens with the names of cities familiar to Israelites in Zechariah’s day; cities the Lord was against; namely, Hadrach, Damascus, Hamath, Tyre and Sidon (Zec 9:1-2). Though Tyre had built herself a fortress and accumulated great wealth (Zec 9:3), God would throw her wealth into the sea and destroy the city with fire (Zec 9:4). The surrounding cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod will be judged (Zec 9:5), and God will “cut off the pride of the Philistines” (Zec 9:6). He states, “I will remove their blood from their mouth and their detestable things from between their teeth” (Zec 9:7). This most likely refers to the eating of flesh with blood in it, which God detested (Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17). Interestingly, some of the Philistines would respond positively to God’s judgments, turning to the Lord in faith, and “be a remnant for our God, and be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron like a Jebusite” (Zec 9:7b). God promises to protect His people, saying, “But I will camp around My house because of an army, because of him who passes by and returns; and no oppressor will pass over them anymore, for now I have seen with My eyes” (Zec 9:8). Some Bible scholars see the events described in verses 1-8 as a prophecy concerning Alexander the Great’s military conquests in the fourth century B.C. (Constable, Johnson, Ryrie, Wiersbe). That’s possible, though one cannot be dogmatic here. What is emphasized in this section is God’s sovereign control over Gentile nations and the promise to judge them because of their pride. Zechariah 9:9-10 is a split prophecy that refers to Jesus at His first and second comings. The entire church age fits in between these two verses. Other split prophecies are found in the OT (Isa 9:6-7; 61:1-3; cf. Luke 4:16-21). The picture of the Messiah coming, riding on the colt of a donkey, is a picture of a humble and gentle ruler, not the splendor and pride one would expect of a ruler riding on a warhorse. We know Jesus was rejected by Israel just prior to His crucifixion; and the passage ultimately finds its fulfillment in the second coming (Rev 19:11-21), when Jesus establishes His kingdom on earth (Rev 20:1-6); a kingdom that will be universal (Psa 72:8; Dan 2:35), marked by righteousness (Isa 9:6-7; Jer 23:5-6), and bring peace to the world (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3). But to the Israelites of Zechariah’s day, who were related to God by covenant, He would set them free from the pit of Babylon (Zec 9:11), and give them hope and a double blessing to make up for their suffering (Zec 9:12). God is then pictured as a divine Warrior who uses His restored people as a weapon to bring judgment upon surrounding Gentile nations (Zec 9:13-14). The Israelites will rejoice when this happens because God will both save them from their enemies (Zec 9:15-16) and bless their crops (Zec 9:17). In all this, God is portrayed as the sovereign Ruler over His people as well as the Gentile nations who surrounded them.

Zechariah 8:1-23

Zechariah 8:1-23

April 12, 2020

     In Zechariah chapter eight, God reveals He’s in control of current and future blessings, and He calls His people to walk in truth and righteousness. In the opening verses, God reveals He is “the LORD of hosts” which emphasizes His sovereignty over all; especially His people, whom He is jealous for (Zec 8:1-2). God reveals His plans for Israel by promising that the old and young will dwell safely in Jerusalem and will play in the streets (Zec 8:4-6). In addition, He will call His people from the nations of the world to dwell there (Zec 8:7-8), declaring, “I will be their God in truth and righteousness” (Zec 8:8b). The Lord spoke to the returnees in Zechariah’s day, saying, “Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built” (Zec 8:9). He tells them to ponder the days of recent past, when they were experiencing economic and social unrest (Zec 8:10), when, because of their sin, God “set all men one against another” (Zec 8:10b). But now, because of their obedience, He would change their situation, saying, “For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things” (Zec 8:12). Just as Israel had become a curse to the nations, because of their sin, now God would make them a blessing, because of their obedience (Zec 8:13-15). But He had expectations of them; specifically, “‘speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the LORD” (Zec 8:16-17). God answered the question that was posed concerning the fasts (Zec 8:18-19a; cf. 7:3), saying, they will be changed to “joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah” (Zec 8:19). Again, this would come as the people learned to “love truth and peace” (Zec 8:19b). Finally, God encourages His people with more promises of future blessings, for many Gentiles (Zec 8:20) will see God’s blessings in Jerusalem and will say, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts” (Zec 8:21). Because of God’s blessing, Jerusalem will be viewed favorably, and “many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD” (Zec 8:22). The blessing will be tied to the Jews themselves, for “in those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zec 8:23). This message would have encouraged the Jews of Zechariah’s day, knowing God was with them as they pursued truth and righteousness.

Zechariah 7:1-14

Zechariah 7:1-14

April 11, 2020

     In Zechariah chapter seven, God rebuked some Jewish returnees for their religious hypocrisy, calling them to obey His commands rather than continue empty religious practices. This prophecy was given to Zechariah on December 7, 518 B.C. (Zec 7:1). Apparently, some Jewish returnees from Babylon had settled in the town of Bethel, which was located about 10 miles north of Jerusalem. They sent two men, Sharezer and Regemmelech, along with other men, supposedly “to seek the favor of the LORD” (Zec 7:2). They consulted the priests and prophets, asking, “Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?” (Zec 7:3). The fast they were asking about was practiced in connection with the destruction of the Solomonic temple, seventy years earlier, on August 14, 586 B.C. (see 2 Ki 25:8-9). The fast was not required under the Mosaic Law and had probably become a religious tradition. Since the temple was nearly rebuilt, they wondered if the fast would be inappropriate? Though the question was brought to the priests and prophets, God felt the need to answer them directly through His prophet, Zechariah (Zec 7:4). Though certain men from Bethel came with their question, God’s reply was broader, as He spoke “to all the people of the land and to the priests” (Zec 7:5a). God rebuked them for their religious practices which had replaced true piety, declaring they’d actually done it for themselves rather than for Him (Zec 7:5b-6). The message being delivered through Zechariah was exactly the same as that of God’s former prophets (Zec 7:7-8); a message that exposed their religious hypocrisy and unethical abuses of the vulnerable in society. God summarized the message of His prophets, saying, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another” (Zec 7:9-10; cf. 1 Sam 15:22; Pro 21:3; Isa 1:10-20; Hos 6:6; Mic 6:6-8). Unfortunately, the record of Israel’s past was that God’s prophets were repeatedly ignored or mistreated and the vulnerable continued to be exploited. God was calling Zechariah’s generation to be different than their forefathers, men who “refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore, great wrath came from the LORD of hosts” (Zec 7:11-12). God repeatedly called for them to obey His commands, but they refused. “And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen” (Zec 7:13). The result was that they were judged and scattered among the nations because of their violations of the Law (see Ex 22:21-24; Deu 10:17-18; Jer 21:12; Mal 3:5). By their own sinful choices, “they made the pleasant land desolate” (Zec 7:14).

Zechariah 6:9-15

Zechariah 6:9-15

April 4, 2020

     [Note: It was brought to my attention that I sounded barky and maybe a little angry on this lesson. Please know I was not angry, and I apologize if the tone seems that way. I pray the content gets through, even if the delivery is a bit stronger than my other lessons. Thank you. :-) ]

     In this pericope Zechariah was instructed to perform a symbolic coronation in which he placed a regal crown on Joshua, the high priest, who is a type of Christ, who is both King and Priest, and will build the future millennial temple. The Lord commanded Zechariah to meet three returnees from Babylon and take an offering from them, namely Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah (Zec 6:9-10a). These were staying at the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah (Zec 6:10b), who later is called “Hen” (Heb. חֵן Chen), which means gracious one (vs. 14). From these three men Zechariah was to “Take silver and gold, [and] make an ornate crown” (Zec 6:11a). The word crown is a translation of the Hebrew word עֲטָרָה atarah, which is used only for royalty (2 Sam 12:30; Psa 21:3). The high priest also wore a crown (Heb. נֶזֶר nezer), but it was different (Exo 29:6; 39:30). Zechariah was commanded to do something that had never occurred before; he was to take this royal crown and “set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest” (Zec 6:11b). We must remember that Zerubbabel was a descendant of King David (1 Chr 3:17–19; Matt 1:12) as well as the governor of Judah (Hag 1:1), and legally the rightful person to wear the king’s crown. However, God was using Joshua as an object lesson concerning Jesus, Israel’s future Ruler, who is both King (2 Sam 7:8-16; Psa 89:3-4; 34-37; Isa 9:6-7; Jer 23:5; Mic 4:1-3; Luke 1:26-33) and Priest (Psa 110:1-4; Heb 4:15; 5:6; 7:1-3, 11-21). God spoke through Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD’” (Zec 6:12). The term Branch is a Messianic title that refers to Jesus Christ as Ruler in the line of David (Jer 23:5; 33:15); however, in this context, it reveals Him in His role as Priest. This will occur during the millennial reign of Christ. God then tells Zechariah, “Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices” (Zec 6:13). Jesus will unite the two offices of King and Priest. After the symbolic coronation ceremony, God told Zechariah to remove the crown from Joshua, saying, “Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the LORD to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen the son of Zephaniah” (Zec 6:14). This crown was to remain in the temple as a constant reminder of what God would do in the future for His people. In this way, the crown was an encouragement to all who saw it and recognized its significance; a crown that belonged to Israel’s future Ruler. Finally, addressing Zechariah’s generation, the Lord said, “Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the LORD. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the LORD your God” (Zec 6:15). Those who were “far off” referred to Jewish exiles who were still returning to Jerusalem, who would come and help “build the temple of the LORD.” This would have encouraged those in Zechariah’s day to keep working, because God was helping them. The work performed by the returnees validated Zechariah’s ministry, confirming He’d been sent by the Lord. However, being the covenant people of God, these Israelites were obligated to resume their walk with God and obey His word; therefore, Zechariah states, “And it will take place if you completely obey the LORD your God.” This was a reminder about their obligation to the Mosaic covenant and the conditions of blessing and cursing written in it (Deu 28). Though the success of the rebuilding of the temple in Zechariah’s day was conditioned on their obedience to the Mosaic Law, Israel’s future success—both national and religious—is ultimately conditioned on the reign of Messiah, who cannot fail.

Zechariah 6:1-8

Zechariah 6:1-8

April 4, 2020

     In Zechariah 6:1-8, the prophet receives the eighth and final vision of the night (Zec 1:7-8). Like the first vision (Zec 1:8-17), this one included angelic beings that were used by God to render judgment upon the Gentiles nations that were hostile to Israel, His people (Zec 1:10, 14-15; 6:7-8); but whereas the first vision included angelic riders on horses (Zec 1:8), the last vision had eight horses harnessed to chariots, and these were red, black, white and dappled (Zec 6:1-3). “If the colors are significant, perhaps red symbolizes war and bloodshed, black designates death and famine, white speaks of triumph and victory, and dappled denotes pestilence and plagues (see comments on Rev. 6:1–8).”[1] The angelic riders are sent out to patrol the earth and render judgment upon the Gentile nations; specifically, Babylon and Egypt. Zechariah apparently did not understand the significance of the horses and chariots (Zec 6:4a), so he asked his angelic interpreter, “What are these, my lord?” (Zec 6:4b). The angel replied, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth” (Zec 6:5). These were four angelic beings who stand before the Lord, eager to do His will. And God is described as “the Lord of all the earth” which emphasizes He is sovereignty over all (1 Sam 2:6-10; Psa 115:1-3; 135:5-6; Dan 2:20-21; 4:17, 25-26, 32, 34-35; Acts 17:24-28). He judges the Gentile nations of the world, and in this context, He’s using angelic beings to carry out His judgment. He will do this again during the time of the Tribulation (Rev 9:13-15). The teams of horses and chariots broke up, with the black and white ones going to the north, and the dappled ones going to the south (Zec 6:6). The north country refers to Babylon, which attacked from that direction. Egypt was to the south. Nothing is mentioned about the red horses and chariot. Perhaps their mission was covert, or perhaps they were on standby waiting further instructions. These angelic beings were eager to do God’s will, and the Lord set them loose, saying, “Go, patrol the earth”, which is what they did (Zec 6:7). Then God told Zechariah, “See, those who are going to the land of the north have appeased My wrath in the land of the north” (Zec 6:8). Those angelic beings who judged Babylon satisfied God’s anger against them. God controls the fate of nations, bringing blessing or cursing, peace or judgment. And, at times, He uses His angels do His will. This appears to be the case here, as well in the future time of the Tribulation when He releases angels to bring judgment upon the world.

 

[1] F. Duane Lindsey, “Zechariah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1557.

Zechariah 5:1-11

Zechariah 5:1-11

February 15, 2020

     In Zechariah chapter 5, there is a vision of God’s judgment upon His people because of their sins (Zec 5:1-4), and a vision of God’s judgment upon wickedness which He intends to remove from the land (Zec 5:5-11). In vision #6, Zechariah saw a large scroll, 15 feet by 30 feet, with writing on both sides (Zec 5:1-2). The large scroll probably emphasized its large message for all to read. The writing contained the eighth and third commands of the decalogue (Zec 5:3; cf. Ex 20:7, 15), which pertained to sinning against people (stealing) and God (misusing His name). These two represented the whole of the Mosaic Law, which Israel, God’s people, were obligated to keep. These two types of sinners likely represented all who were guilty of doing evil, and God would judge them (Zec 5:4). Though God was working in His people to rebuild the temple and city (note previous visions), He was still their God, King, and Judge, and they would not be able to hide in their houses. Next, in vision #7, Zechariah was shown a vision of a woman who personified wickedness (Zec 5:5-8). The Hebrew word for wickedness is feminine (רִשְׁעָה rishah), and it’s possible this is reason it is described as a woman. In the vision wickedness is identified, restrained and transported by two supernatural agents to Babylon (Zec 5:9-11). Some regard these winged women as angels; however, Unger states, “It is perhaps simplest to construe the women as agents of evil, suggesting demonic powers.”[1] This would make sense, since storks were unclean birds (Deu 14:11, 18). Whether angels or demons, the message is that wickedness has no place among God’s people, and the Lord will remove it to a land far away; the land of Shinar, which is Babylon. In Scripture, Babylon is identified as the birthplace of organized rebellion against God, in which people used the Lord’s resources in defiance of His will. Babylon is mentioned in Scripture over three hundred times, and by the time we get to the book of Revelation, it is seen both as a city and a system that promotes religious, political, and economic agendas that are antithetical to God. In the book of Revelation, Babylon is described as a great harlot who influences all of humanity (Rev 17:1-5), is guilty of persecuting and murdering prophets and saints (Rev 17:6), is a dwelling place of demons and unclean spirits (Rev 18:2), and with whom “the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality” (Rev 18:3). Eventually, Babylon is completely destroyed just prior to the Second Coming of Christ (Rev 18:2, 10, 21).

 

[1] Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN. AMG Publishers, 2002), p. 1993.

Zechariah 4:1-14

Zechariah 4:1-14

February 15, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is God encourages Zerubbabel with the news that He will strengthen him to complete the task of rebuilding the temple. The chapter opens with Zechariah being aroused—supposedly from sleep—by the angel who was guiding him in understanding the visions (Zec 4:1). Perhaps the prophet’s soul and body were fatigued by the visions he’d been given. After the angel revived Zechariah, he showed him a fifth vision that included a golden lampstand and two olive trees that poured oil directly into it (Zec 4:2-3). This lampstand was different than the one used in the tabernacle, and later Solomon’s temple, which illumined it so the priests could perform their duties (Ex 25:31-40), and which was maintained by the high priest on a daily basis (Lev 24:3). The lampstand Zechariah saw had a bowl on top that served as an oil reservoir and it had 49 spouts on it that served as lights. This was a bright lamp! No priest was needed to provide oil to the lamp, as that was given by the two olive trees, which symbolized Zerubbabel and Joshua (see Zec 4:11-14). The meaning of the lamp is not explained; however, it could refer to Israel as a nation, which God intended to serve as a light to the world (Isa 42:6; 49:6; 60:1-3). If this is correct, then the two olive trees would represent God’s leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua, channels through whom He poured Himself into the lives of others so the work of the temple could be completed and made operational. The apostle John described churches as lampstands which are to serve as lights in a dark world (Rev 1:12-13, 20). The angel asked Zechariah if he knew what the candlestick symbolized (Zec 4:4), to which the prophet answered, “No, my lord” (Zec 4:5). The angel then gave an encouraging message from God, to Zerubbabel, that He would empower him to do the work, saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zec 4:6). Zerubbabel was a descendant of King David (1 Chr 3:17–19; Matt 1:12) as well as the governor of Judah (Hag 1:1), and God was using him to rebuild the temple (Ezra 3:2, 8; 5:2). But Zerubbabel was facing great opposition from Israel’s enemies (Ezra 4:1-5, 24), and apathy from fellow Israelites (Hag 1:2). God would take the “great mountain” of opposition that Zerubbabel was facing and would make it “a plain” (Zec 4:7a); with the result that the governor would complete the project, as he will “bring forth the top stone” of the temple, and this would all be a display of God’s “grace” (Zec 4:7b). Grace refers to God’s enabling power to help His leader do His work. Additionally, the Lord said to Zerubbabel (Zec 4:8), “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it” (Zec 4:9a). The completion of the work would validate the messenger (Zec 4:9b); presumably, the angel of the Lord (Zec 1:11-12; 2:8-9; 3:1, 5-6). The struggling remnant who had returned from captivity did not have the great resources that were at Solomon’s disposal when he built the first temple (1 Ki 5:13-18), and so they were tempted to think of it as insignificant and to despise it as a “day of small things” (Zec 4:10a). However, they were to realize that what they were doing was God’s will, and He was in it to see it through to completion. Zechariah asked the angel to help him understand the meaning of the “two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?” (Zec 4:11), as well as “the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?” (Zec 4:12). The angel asked Zechariah, “Do you not know what these are?” (Zec 4:13a), to which the prophet replied, “No, my lord’ (Zec 4:13b). The angel answered, “These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zec 4:14). Zerubbabel and Joshua are in view, as they are the Lord’s anointed to serve as governor and high priest in Judah, and it’s their relationship to the Lord, “who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth”, that qualifies them for service.

Zechariah 3:1-10

Zechariah 3:1-10

February 2, 2020

     In the opening verse Joshua was seen standing before the Lord as high priest and Satan was standing beside him accusing him of being unqualified for service (Zec 3:1). But the Lord defended Joshua because he was His chosen servant, a symbol of the nation (Zec 3:2). Now Joshua was, in fact, filthy, as his garments were covered with excrement (Zec 3:3), but the Lord had those garments removed and new garments placed on him (Zec 3:4a), and said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes” (Zec 3:4b). Zechariah knew the high priest also wore a turban with a gold plate on the front, so he spoke up, saying, “Let them put a clean turban on his head” (Zec 3:5a). So the angels “put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the LORD was standing by” (Zec 3:5b). Here is a picture of forgiveness and restoration to service, as the Lord had removed Joshua’s filth and clothed him in clean garments. Positional righteousness prepared him to walk in practical righteousness. It is true that God does not call the qualified, but qualifies those called for service. God informed Joshua that if he would walk in obedience to the Lord and fulfill his priestly duties, he would have charge over the temple and its courtyards, and God would grant him access to His heavenly court (Zec 3:6-7). This picture of Joshua, the high priest, being forgiven and restored to service would have encouraged the Israelites greatly, for the priesthood was not operational during the Babylonian exile, and the people could not worship as God had prescribed. This cleansing would, in turn, impact the other priests, who ministered under Joshua’s supervision and who served as a type of Messiah, the Branch, who was to come (Zec 3:8). God references “the stone” set before Joshua, which is likely the temple cornerstone. Apparently, this stone was to serve as a physical marker that represented God’s omniscience, signifying His awareness of all Israel’s sins and struggles. The Lord stated, “I will engrave an inscription on it” which said, ‘I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (Zec 3:9). Here is a concrete statement that promises God will remove all Israel’s sin in one day. “Some say this refers to the day of Christ’s crucifixion, but it is more likely a reference to the day of His Second Advent when at the end of the future Tribulation period the merits of His death will be applied to believing Israel (Zech. 13:1).”[1] Lastly, the Lord spoke of a future day, in which “every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree” (Zec 3:10). These promises of a restored priesthood, a rebuilt temple, and future peace, would certainly have encouraged the Israelites, who, while in Babylonian captivity, perhaps questioned whether their theological heritage would ever be restored. This message is very relevant to us because we too are God’s children and servants who serve as a kingdom of priests (Rev 1:6) and are called to live holy lives before the Lord. Scripture states, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:15-16). Living holy lives in conformity to God’s character and will is an ongoing choice to learn and live God’s Word in all aspects of our lives, always sowing to reap, and reaping what was sown.

 

[1] F. Duane Lindsey, “Zechariah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1554–1555.

Zechariah 2:1-13

Zechariah 2:1-13

January 25, 2020

     Verses 1-5 contain the prophet’s third vision of God’s work in Jerusalem, which will culminate in blessing, protection, and future glory. Verses 6-13 are an oracle of encouragement from the Lord about the future coming of Messiah who will put down Gentile oppression and dwell among His people. The small remnant in Jerusalem at the time of Zechariah’s message were helping to restore and rebuild the temple and city, and apparently there were angels involved as well. The vision opens with the description of a man with a measuring line which signified construction efforts (Zec 2:1-2). Today we might say he had surveyor’s equipment. Then Zechariah witnessed an exchange between the angel who was guiding his understanding of the visions and another angel who was sent to inform him of God’s future plans to bless Jerusalem, to protect it supernaturally, and to be the glory in its midst (Zec 2:3-5). After the vision there was an oracle for scattered Israelites living in captivity to return to Judah (Zec 2:6-7), for Messiah would come against those nations that harmed Israel, who was regarded as “the apple of His eye” (Zec 2:8b). Some translators take the “me” of verse eight to refer to Zechariah (NASB), while others see it as a reference to Messiah (CSB). It seems Messiah is in view because of what He accomplishes. Dr. Thomas Constable states:

  • "The person whom the Lord would send as His representative (“Me”) could not be Zechariah, in view of what the following verses say He would do. He must be Messiah, the only one with sufficient power and authority to fulfill what God predicted here. He would simply wave His hand over these nations in a menacing gesture and they would become plunder for the Israelites whom they had enslaved (cf. Esth. 7:10; Isa. 11:15; 14:2; 19:16; Gal. 6:7–8). Then God’s people would know that Yahweh of armies had sent this One (cf. Isa. 61:3; John 17:4). This would be the sovereign Lord’s doing, so the Jews should rejoice, return to the land, and prepare."[1]

     Part of the reason for the Israelites to flee Babylon was that the Lord intended to destroy it, with the result “that they will be plunder for their slaves” (Zec 2:9). That is, the slaves who were abused under Babylonian tyranny would plunder the city that had plundered their lives. Those who were returning to Judah would be fleeing to a place of refuge. The revelation Zechariah then receives speaks of a future time when Israelites would “Sing for joy and be glad” (Zec 2:10a) as God declares, “behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst” (Zec 2:10b). This refers to the future time when Jesus will establish His millennial kingdom and rule on the throne of David in Jerusalem. At that time, “Many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you” (Zec 2:12). The final comment is to all the world, saying, “Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation” (Zec 2:13). God’s revelation to Zechariah would have encouraged the remnant of his generation by informing them that God was involved in their activities, which activities would last well into the future, to the time when God will send Messiah to establish His kingdom on earth. Likewise, we know God is with us when we do His will and that our work touches the lives of those in the present, and will have an impact on the future, even eternity.

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Zec 2:8.

Zechariah 2 - A Study of Angels

Zechariah 2 - A Study of Angels

January 25, 2020

     The word angel translates the Hebrew word מַלְאָךְ malak and the Greek word ἄγγελος aggelos, and both words mean messenger. Angels are created beings (Col 1:16), were present at the creation of the world (Job 38:4-7), have volition (Matt 8:28-32), emotion (Mark 1:23-26), and intelligence (1 Pet 1:12). Angels are spirit beings (Heb 1:14), are distinct from humans (Mark 1:23-26), have great power (2 Pet 2:11; cf. Dan 10:1-21), are innumerable (Heb 12:22; Rev 5:11), and do not reproduce after their kind (Mark 12:25), which means there are no baby angels. As creatures, angels are not to be worshipped (Col 2:18; Rev 19:10; 22:8-9). Seraphim—angels with six wings—are devoted to the worship of God (Isa 6:1-3), and Cherubim—angels with four wings—are devoted to protecting the Lord’s holiness (Ezek 28:14).

     As spirit beings, angels function in an invisible realm, unless God chooses to reveal their activity, either by direct observation or through revelation. For example, Elisha’s servant saw the angelic chariots of fire only when God opened his eyes (2 Ki 6:15-17), and John was permitted to see myriads of angels around God’s throne (Rev 5:11). Most of us are never given this opportunity, but learn about angels through the revelation of God’s Word.

     Angels are basically classified as either unfallen or fallen. The former retain their holy state and service to God and are called elect angels (1 Tim 5:21), whereas the latter have defected from their original status and continue in constant rebellion against God, and these are commonly called demons (Matt 8:31) or evil spirits (Luke 7:21).). Satan, the chief of the fallen angels, was once a cherub designated to protect God’s holiness, but he fell because of pride (Ezek 28:12-18; Isa 14:12-14). In his fall, Satan convinced a third of the angels to fall with him (Rev 12:3-4). Throughout human history, Satan and demons attempt to frustrate the purpose of God (Matt 4:1-11; cf. Dan 10:10-14; Rev 16:13-16). Demons can possess the bodies of men (Luke 11:24-26), and sometimes cause physical disease (Matt 9:32-33). 

     All angels, whether good or bad, are organized for service and effectiveness. Michael is called an archangel (Jude 1:9), a chief prince (Dan 10:13), and is assigned the task of guarding Israel (Dan 12:1). Gabriel is a messenger angel who was sent to deliver important messages to God’s people (Dan 8:16; 9:21-22; Luke 1:19; 26-38). Both Michael and Gabriel are recorded in Scripture as battling fallen angels who appear as commanders of regions of the world (Dan 10:12-13, 21). One fallen angel is called “the prince of Persia” and the other “the prince of Greece” (Dan 10:20). These no doubt function as Satan’s emissaries to promote his purposes, and are part of a larger group that Paul called the forces of darkness (Eph 6:12).

     The book of Zechariah—which we are studying—contains 15 references to angels (Zec 1:9, 11-14, 19; 2:3; 4:1, 4-5; 5:5, 10; 6:4-5), three references to Satan (Zec 3:1-2), and six references to the angel of the Lord (Zec 1:11-12; 3:1, 5-6; 12:8), who is God the Son in preincarnate form (cf. Ex 3:2-4; Judg 2:1-4). This divine and angelic activity reveals some of what was going on in the spiritual realm behind the human history of Zechariah’s time. The Israelites knew only what their ears heard and eyes saw, and much of what was going on around them was frustrating and discouraging as they faced human opposition (Ezra 4:1-5; 24). However, through the prophet Zechariah, God revealed His activity behind the political, economic, and social activities of the day to expose angelic forces at work.

     Zechariah had a personal angel that was helping him understand the visions that were given to him by the Lord (Zec 1:7—6:8). Daniel too had an angelic interpreter (Dan 8:15-19; 10:1-12), as well as the apostle John (Rev 17:7; 22:6). The angel assigned to Zechariah spoke “gracious” and “comforting” words to him (Zec 1:13), revealing God’s compassion toward His people. He also revealed God would help the faithful remnant rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (Zec 1:14, 16-17), and would punish the Gentile nations who had gone too far in their attacks against Judah (Zec 1:15, 18-21). We also learn there were other angels who spoke and moved through spirit-space—unlike material-space—while Zechariah watched and listened (Zec 2:3-4a), and who spoke God’s Word concerning future blessings for His people (Zec 2:4b-5). The angel also revealed Satan as he accused Joshua, the high priest, before the angel of the Lord. Satan went after Joshua because he was doing the Lord’s work on behalf of God’s people, and this was a threat to him and his agenda. Satan’s charge was that Joshua was unfit for service, but God purified Joshua and made him stand clean in the Lord’s presence (Zec 3:1-5). Furthermore, in two separate visions, Zechariah was shown angelic forces who do God’s will throughout the earth (Zec 1:8-11; 6:1-8). The first of these are described as three horseman “whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth” (Zec 1:10), and the second group as “the four spirits of heaven” who ride on chariots and also “patrol the earth” (Zec 6:7). In all this we learn that angels are intelligent, active, and communicate God’s will to others, both to people and other angels. We also learn there’s an angelic enemy—Satan—who stands to accuse God’s people. This revelation would have educated the people of Zechariah’s day about the spiritual forces at work—operating in the invisible realm—behind their daily experiences. Above all, they were informed about the concerns and activities of God Himself, and how He uses His angelic forces to execute His will on the earth and among His people. All this would have encouraged them to keep working and rebuilding the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  

Zechariah 1:1-21

Zechariah 1:1-21

January 18, 2020

     In verses 1-6, God gave a message to His prophet, Zechariah, sometime in October-November, 520 B.C., which he delivered to His people, Israel. Though they had returned from Babylonian captivity back to Judah, they’d not fully returned to a righteous walk with the Lord, so the Lord challenged them, saying, “‘Return to Me,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘that I may return to you’” (Zec 1:3). This language reflects the responsibility of the Israelites to abide by the Mosaic Covenant, which was still in force, knowing their blessing or cursing was directly tied to their walk with the Lord and their obedience or disobedience to His commands (see Deut 28). They were not to be like their forefathers who disobeyed the Lord and died in captivity (Zec 1:4-6). What follows in chapter one is two of the eight visions that were given to Zechariah in one night, on February 15, 519 B.C. (Zec 1:7). Zechariah had an angel with him to help him understand the meaning of the visions (see vs. 9). The first vision pertained to an angel on a red horse—the angel of the Lord (see vs. 11)—who was riding/standing among myrtle trees with three other horsemen behind Him. The angel of the Lord is the second person of the Trinity (cf. Ex 3:2-4; Josh 5:13-15), and the three horsemen with Him were part of an angelic reconnaissance team who had been sent on a scouting mission throughout the earth and found the Gentile nations at ease after going too far in their persecution of Judah (Zec 1:8-15). Because God has great compassion on His people, He promised to restore and bless both the city and the temple (Zec 1:16-17). God’s people would have been encouraged to know the angel of the Lord was among them, and that God loved them greatly and planned to bless them. In the second vision, Zechariah saw “four horns” which represent Gentile nations (Zec 1:18-19), likely the ones that went too far in their persecution of Israel, Judah and Jerusalem. Then the Lord showed Zechariah “four craftsmen” (Zec 1:20), which symbolized other nations that God would use to discipline the “four horns” who persecuted His people. This shows that God knows who persecutes His people and that He deals out just retribution in His time and way.

Introduction to Zechariah

Introduction to Zechariah

January 18, 2020

Author:

     The author of the book is Zechariah, “Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo” (Zec 1:1). His name in Hebrew (זְכַרְיָה) means Yahweh remembers. Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai and was important in encouraging the Israelites to rebuild the temple (Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14).

Audience:

     Zechariah’s audience consisted of the Jewish returnees from Babylonian exile.

Date of Ministry:

     Zechariah prophesied from 520-518 B.C. (Zec 1:1, 7; 7:1).

Historical Background:

     Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 586 B.C. and most of the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon. Babylon was defeated by the Persians in 539 B.C. when Cyrus came to power. Cyrus was favorable to the Israelites and promoted their return back to Judah, which included the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). Ezra chapter two records nearly 50,000 persons with positive volition who returned to Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest (Ezra 2:2). Shortly after their return, in 536 B.C., many Israelites began reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem and were able to lay the foundation stones and build an altar for sacrifice (Ezra 3:1-13). However, the reconstruction stopped because of local persecution, which discouraged the Israelites (Ezra 4:1-5, 24). The temple remained unfinished for sixteen years, until 520 B.C., when God raised up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the Israelites to finish the work (Hag 1:1, 14-15; Zec 1:1, 7). The ministries of Haggai and Zechariah overlapped for a short period of time and proved effective in encouraging the people to reconstruct the temple, which was completed in 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15). Note the following dates:

  • August 29, 520 B.C. – Haggai’s first message (Hag 1:1)
  • September 21, 520 B.C. – Temple reconstruction restarts (Hag 1:12-15)
  • October 17, 520 B.C. – Haggai’s second message (Hag 2:1)
  • October-November, 520 B.C. – Zechariah begins ministry (Zec 1:1)
  • December 18, 520 B.C. – Haggai’s third and fourth message (Hag 2:10, 20)
  • February 15, 519 B.C. – Zechariah receives eight visions (Zec 1:7—6:8)
  • December 7, 518 B.C. – Zechariah delivers message to Bethel (Zec 7:1)
  • March, 516 B.C. – Temple reconstruction finished (Ezra 6:14-15).

Zechariah’s Message:

     The message God gave through Zechariah to the Israelites was encouraging and challenging. God wanted the temple rebuilt, and He also wanted the hearts of His people renewed. Previously, their forefathers had acted corruptly and violated the covenant, severely mistreating widows, orphans, strangers and the poor in the land; therefore, God sent them into captivity for 70 years. But now the returnees were coming back into the land and faced the challenge of rebuilding the city and temple, but most of all, He wanted them to live righteous lives, saying, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another” (Zec 7:9-10), and “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate, declares the LORD” (Zec 8:16-17). Hopefully they’d learned the lesson of their forefathers and would walk humbly with God and do His will. “Zechariah’s vision of the future contained more than a rebuilt temple and a restored community. The later chapters in Zechariah look forward to the coming of a humble ruler from the house of David. The New Testament writers saw the fulfillment of this prophecy in Jesus (Zech 9:9–11; Matt 21:5; John 12:15).”[1] Zechariah provides much information about the future Messiah. “He presents Messiah as a king (9:9), a stone (3:9; 10:4), a slave sold for thirty pieces of silver (11:12), the smitten shepherd (13:7), the Branch (3:8; 6:12), and the glorious Redeemer and Ruler of Israel (14:1–4, 9, 16–17).”[2]

Outline:

     The book of Zechariah is basically divided into two parts. “Chapters 1–8 contain carefully dated visions and sermons, while chapters 9–14 consist of undated poetic oracles and narrative descriptions of judgment and blessing.”[3]

  1. Introduction (Zec 1:1-6)
  2. Eight visions (Zec 1:7—6:8)
  3. Crowning of Joshua the high priest (Zec 6:9-15)
  4. Four prophetic messages (Zec 7:1-8:23)
  5. Oracles about Messiah and the future of Israel (Zec 9:1—14:21)

 

[1] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016).

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Heroic, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: ChariotVictor Pub., 1997), 83.

[3] D. Brent Sandy, “Zechariah,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1451.

Haggai 2:10-23

Haggai 2:10-23

January 11, 2020

     God spoke to Haggai and gave him two messages on the same day. The first message was to the priests, informing them that the nation’s disobedience in not building the temple was the reason God withheld His blessings, which He reinstated once they returned to Him. The Second message was to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, encouraging him that God had chosen him for a special purpose and would use him as a signet ring. In the first message, God spoke through Haggai to the priests concerning things holy (Hag 2:10-11), asking, “If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy? And the priests answered, ‘No.’” (Hag 2:12). Holy meat was set apart for sacrifice to the Lord and to be used as He instructed (Lev 3:1-17). The priests correctly understood that if something holy touched something common, the holiness was not transferable. Haggai then posed another question, asking, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?” And the priests answered, ‘It will become unclean’” (Hag 2:13). Again, the priests answered correctly, that uncleanness is transferable. A similar principle is found in everyday life, as sickness can be transferred, but not health; and bad food will ruin good food if it comes into contact; and dirty water will contaminate clean water; and bad associations will corrupt good associations; whereas the reverse of all these is not possible. Haggai then explained, “‘So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean’” (Hag 2:14). The point of Haggai’s message was that the nation had become spiritually defiled because of their disobedience to the Lord, which in turn contaminated all their work, including the sacrifices they were offering to God. Previously, for sixteen years, while the temple remained unfinished, God had smitten their crops, reducing their yield by 50 and 60 percent, in an effort to correct their behavior and draw them back to Him (Hag 2:15-17). Finally, they responded and turned their hearts back to the Lord and became obedient to His will, and three times He told them He would bless the work of their hands, “from this day onward” (Hag 2:15; 18-19). It should be noted that the season for sowing was several months out, so God’s promised blessings did not immediately appear, but took time, following the normal cycle of planting and harvesting. Their blessing would come because they applied the principle of putting God first in their lives (see Matt 6:33). Next, God gave Haggai a second message on the same day which was directed at Zerubbabel, the nation’s governor (Hag 2:20). Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin (aka Jeconiah/Coniah) and in the royal line of King David (Matt 1:12); however, rather than wearing a crown, he struggled as the governor of a nation recently returned from captivity. But God singled him out for an encouraging message about the nation’s future stability, saying, “I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another” (Hag 2:21-22). This will happen at the Second Coming of Christ when He puts down the nations of the world and establishes His millennial kingdom. God also honors Zerubbabel by calling him “My servant” and declaring “I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you” (Hag 2:23). Zerubbabel would be God’s servant who carried His authority to do His will. Most Bible scholars see Zerubbabel as an archetype of Jesus who will come and reign, but it is possible this speaks of his future resurrection with a place of prominent rulership under Messiah. Either way, it is clear that God is the One who “removes kings and establishes kings” (Dan 2:21), and all the kingdoms of this world are under His control (Dan 2:36-45). What God has promised, He will bring to pass (Isa 46:9-11).

Haggai 2:1-9

Haggai 2:1-9

January 11, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God encourages His people to take courage and continue to work on the temple. The opening verse informs us that God had sent a second message to Haggai nearly a month after the people began working on rebuilding the second temple (Hag 2:1). The time frame would be October 17th to September 21st, 520 B.C. The message was directed to “Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people” (Hag 2:2). Apparently enough of the temple’s reconstruction was finished that people could see what the final form was going to look like, and the older Israelites who had seen Solomon’s temple began to get discouraged. Haggai addressed them with three questions, saying, “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?” (Hag 2:3). The new temple would be as “nothing in comparison” to the old temple, and Haggai did not try ignore the obvious. But the older group needed to get past their disappointment, which might have derailed the work of the new temple, as simple and inglorious as it was in comparison to the Solomonic temple. A functional temple was better than no temple at all, as it would allow the Israelites to resume their worship as the Mosaic Law prescribed. Three times God told the leadership and people to “take courage” and to “work”, saying, “for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:4). The mental comparison that was being made by the people nearly crippled the work that God wanted done. Rather than rebuke them, He gave them words of encouragement, saying, “As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!” (Hag 2:5). It’s possible that many Israelites had felt that God was not with them as He’d been in the days when they were first called out of Egypt and established as a nation. Just as He’d promised to be with their forefathers when they came out of Egyptian captivity, so He was now saying His “Spirit is abiding” in their midst. God’s presence and promises strengthen the soul and dispel fear. And, just as God had shaken the earth at Mount Sinai when He entered into a covenant with them (Ex 19:18), so He told this generation, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land” (Hag 2:6). This work of God would not occur in their lifetime, but in the future, when Christ returns and builds a glorious temple that will function during His millennial reign. At that time, God declares, “I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory” (Hag 2:7). That is, God will summon the Gentile nations of the world to bring their wealth to Jerusalem and it will come into the temple. God can do this because He owns everything, saying, “‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:8). So, even though the temple in Haggai’s day would be simple, the millennial temple will be more glorious than Solomon’s temple, as the Lord states,  “‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts’” (Hag 2:9). “The restored building had nothing of the splendor of Solomon’s temple, but it was still God’s house, built according to His plan and for His glory. The same ministry would be performed at its altars and the same worship presented to the Lord. Times change, but ministry goes on.”[1] The future Israelites living in the millennial kingdom will receive the wealth of the Gentile nations (Isa 60:5-7), much like their forefathers had received the wealth of Egypt when they were liberated from captivity (Ex 3:21-22; 11:2-3; 12:35-36). For the Israelites, faith in God and His promises suppressed their fears and provided the courage to stand and do His will.

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Heroic, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: ChariotVictor Pub., 1997), 72.

Haggai 1:1-15

Haggai 1:1-15

January 4, 2020

     God directed Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, to support the return of 50,000 exiled Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem, as well as the rebuilding of the temple, which began in 536 B.C. (Ezra 1:1-4; Isa 44:28). The Jews built the altar and laid the foundation (Ezra 3:1-13), but got discouraged and ceased construction after experiencing persecution from local Samaritans (Ezra 4:1-5, 24; 5:16). For the years that followed, self-interest took priority over divine-interest, as Israelites spared no expense for their own properties, while maintaining a sparing attitude toward the work of the Lord (Hag 1:3). Finally, after sixteen years, God raised up Haggai (and Zechariah) to preach and motivate the returned exiles to finish what they’d started. He told them to “consider your ways” (Hag 1:5), and pointed out the failed state of their lives (Hag 1:6). Though they worked hard, God withheld His blessing, because they were pursuing self-interest above His will and were experiencing the curse specified in the Mosaic Law (Lev 26:18-20; Deu 28:22-24; 38-39). The Lord was revealing the connection between His house and their lives, both of which were in ruin and need of repair. After telling them a second time to “consider your ways” (Hag 1:7), God gave a very specific command, saying, “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified” (Hag 1:8). Then, for a second time, God explained there was a connection between their failed agricultural efforts (Hag 1:9a) and their failure to do His will, saying it was “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house” (Hag 1:9b). The Lord told them, “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands” (Hag 1:10-11). The Israelites responded positively to Haggai’s preaching, as Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the remnant of the people “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the LORD” (Hag 1:12). To help encourage His people, the Lord told them, “I am with you” (Hag 1:3). There is a sense in which God is always with us and never leaves us; that is, His presence never departs. But there is another sense in which God is either with or against us, and this has to do with His blessing or discipline, which depends on our obedience or disobedience to His will. It is this latter sense that God would be with His people to help them do His will. This same encouraging language is employed throughout the Bible with Isaac (Gen 26:24), Jacob (Gen 28:15), Moses (Exo 3:12), Joshua (Deu 31:23) Gideon (Jud 6:16), Jeremiah (Jer 1:8, 19; 15:20), Israel as a nation (Isa 41:10; 43:5; Jer 30:11; 46:28), the disciples (Mat 28:20), and us as Christians (Heb 13:5). Haggai preached God’s Word, but it was the Lord who worked in the hearts of Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the remnant of the people as “they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God” (Hag 1:14). Haggai tells us the work started three weeks later, “on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king” (Hag 1:15). Why mention three weeks? It was harvest season and three weeks might have been required to bring in crops, or perhaps that was the time needed to organize the material for temple construction. Whatever the reason, the people responded positively to Haggai’s preaching and focused their attention on doing God’s will and rebuilding the temple.

Introduction to Haggai

Introduction to Haggai

January 4, 2020

Author:

     The author of the book is the prophet Haggai (Hag 1:1; 2:1). His name in Hebrew (חַגָּי Chaggay) means festal. Because of a comment in Haggai 2:2-3, many scholars believe Haggai was an older man, perhaps near age 70, who saw and remembered the first temple before it was destroyed in 586 B.C.

Audience:

     Haggai spoke “to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest” (Hag 1:1), “to the remnant of the people” (Hag 2:2), to “the priests” (Hag 2:11), and finally “to Zerubbabel governor of Judah” alone (Hag 2:21).

Date of Ministry:

     Haggai was a post-exile prophet who ministered at the same time as Ezra and Zechariah (Ezra 4:5, 24; Zec 1:1). He received his divine revelation “In the second year of Darius the king” (Hag 1:1). Darius I was king of Persia, who reigned from 522-486 B.C. The book of Haggai consists of four messages that were preached over a four-month period (Hag 1:1; 2:1, 10, 20), from “the first day of the sixth month” (Hag 1:1), to “the twenty-fourth of the ninth month” (Hag 2:10). The date range was between August 29th through December 18th, 520 B.C., with two messages delivered on the same day (Hag 2:10, 20). All four of Haggai’s messages were necessary to keep the work of the temple going. 

Historical Background:

  • 605 B.C. – First Jewish deportation into Babylon (Daniel).
  • 597 B.C. – Second Jewish deportation into Babylon (Ezekiel).
  • 586 B.C. – Third Jewish deportation into Babylon (Solomon’s temple destroyed).
  • 538 B.C. – Israelites return to land under decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4).
  • 536 B.C. – Israelites start rebuilding temple (Ezra 3:8).
  • 536 B.C. – Temple reconstruction stops because of opposition (Ezra 4:1-5, 24).
  • 520 B.C. – God calls Israelites to finish rebuilding the temple (Hag 1:14-15).
  • 516 B.C. – Temple reconstruction finished (Ezra 6:15).

     Most of the Jews living in Judah went into Babylonian captivity when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C. Without a temple and altar, the Israelites could not worship God as the Mosaic Law prescribed. It was during this time of Babylonian captivity that synagogues were formed, likely to fellowship, read the Law, and pray. We know Daniel prayed facing Jerusalem (Dan 6:10). After the fall of Babylon, the Medo-Persian empire came to power, and Cyrus, King of Persia, was favorable to the Jews and permitted nearly 50,00 exiles to return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. (Ezra 1:1-4; Isa 44:28). At that time, they’d begun reconstruction of the second temple by building the altar and laying the foundation [Ezra 3:1-13]; however, the reconstruction stopped because of local opposition from the Samaritans who discouraged them (Ezra 4:1-5, 24; 5:16). This pause in construction lasted 16 years, during which time, the Israelites began to build their own homes (Hag 1:2-4). Apparently, the people became apathetic concerning temple reconstruction, so the Lord raised up Haggai and Zechariah to reignite the fire of doing the Lord’s work. Their preaching proved successful.

Haggai’s Message:

     Five times Haggai called his fellow Israelites to “consider” their ways (Hag 1:5, 7; 2:15, 18). This consideration helped them look at their lives from the divine perspective and realize they were not being blessed because of their disobedience to God’s will; specifically, their neglect of rebuilding the temple (Hag 1:5-11). Their judgments were consistent with the curses of Deuteronomy 28. God revealed there was a connection between His house and their lives, both of which were in ruin and need of repair. Haggai (and Zechariah) was called by God to encourage his fellow Israelites to restart temple construction in 520 B.C., and it worked (Hag 1:13-14; 2:4; cf. Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14). The message of encouragement motivated them to overcome their fears and work on the temple, which was completed around 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15).

Outline:

  1. God rebuked and redirected Israel to finish rebuilding the temple (Hag 1:1-15).
  2. God encouraged Israel to rebuild the temple, with a promise of future glory (Hag 2:1-9).
  3. God promised blessing on Israel (Hag 2:10-19).
  4. God promised to protect and bless Zerubbabel (Hag 2:20-23).
Zephaniah 3:9-20

Zephaniah 3:9-20

November 23, 2019

     In the previous section, God had pronounced judgment against His people in Judah (Zep 1:1—2:3), the surrounding Gentile nations (Zep 2:4-15), and Jerusalem (Zep 3:1-8); but now, His final message is one of hope, in which He promises future blessings upon His people as well as the world (Zep 3:9-20). God is the One who will bring all these blessings to pass, eight times declaring “I will” throughout this pericope. The prophecy opens with a promise in which God will give Gentiles purified lips—which pictures purified hearts—to come together, shoulder to shoulder, to worship the Lord (Zep 3:10). Though Israel had experienced shame because of her rebellion in Zephaniah’s day (Zep 3:11a), that negative characteristic will be removed in the millennial kingdom, for God states, “I will remove from your midst your proud, exulting ones, and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain. But I will leave among you a humble and lowly people, and they will take refuge in the name of the LORD” (Zep 3:11b-12). The millennial kingdom follows the seven-year tribulation period, in which only the faithful remnant will survive and enter into the Lord’s kingdom on earth. God speaks to that remnant, saying, “the remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths; for they will feed and lie down with no one to make them tremble” (Zep 3:13). The language here is reminiscent of Psalm 23, which pictures the Lord as their Shepherd. God calls His people to shout for joy and rejoice at that time (Zep 3:14), for “The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more” (Zep 3:15). The King of Israel is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who will rule the world from Jerusalem, and will rule in righteousness (2 Sam 7:16; Psa 89:3-4, 34-37; Isa 9:6-7; Matt 19:28; 25:31; Luke 1:26-33). In “that day” there will be no fear or despair in Jerusalem (Zep 3:16), for “The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (Zep 3:17). Unlike the past and present, Israel will never be attacked by outsiders, for God will stand as a warrior to defend them, and comfort them in His love. Though God’s appointed feasts were not being celebrated in Zephaniah’s day, they would be restored in the millennial kingdom (Zep 3:18). These feasts would serve as memorials to God’s deliverance, goodness and faithfulness. At that time, God will dispense retributive justice to those who oppressed Israel (Zep 3:19a), and will rescue the afflicted, saying, “I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth” (Zep 3:1b9). And, we see God’s remunerative justice to Israel, as He states, “At that time I will bring you in, even at the time when I gather you together; indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes” (Zep 3:20). In closing, Zephaniah ardently declares it is the “the Lord” who promises these things.

     Zephaniah opened his book with a reference to Hezekiah and Josiah, two good kings in Judah; however, these kings failed to bring about lasting reforms, and the nation slipped back into spiritual and moral decline. But the future King of Israel will not fail, as Jesus Christ will accomplish what no other could, when He brings in the millennial kingdom and establishes everlasting peace and blessing upon the world.

Zephaniah 3:1-8

Zephaniah 3:1-8

November 23, 2019

     God opens with a charge against wicked Israelites who were called “rebellious and defiled.” So corrupt and systemic was their oppressive behavior, the whole of Jerusalem became known as “the tyrannical city.” The word tyrannical translates the Hebrew יָנָה yanah, which denotes “to cheat, annoy (with words), oppress, [or] be violent.”[1] The word is used in the Mosaic Law to forbid Israelites from oppressing foreigners (Ex 22:21-24; Lev 19:33), slaves (Deu 23:15-16), or engaging in harmful economic practices (Lev 25:14-17). God spoke through Jeremiah, saying, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat [יָנָה yanah] or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place” (Jer 22:3; cf. Eze 22:7, 29; 46:18). The meaning of Zephaniah 3:1 is the same. It is always possible for God’s people to behave poorly, like the world around them. Zephaniah declared their faults, saying, “She heeded no voice, she accepted no instruction. She did not trust in the LORD, she did not draw near to her God” (Zep 3:2). We should remember that Josiah, a good king, was on the throne and leading national reforms across the nation, seeking to lead God’s people back into His will (2 Ki 23:1-25); however, in spite of his efforts, the city’s leadership continued with their corrupt practices. The princes represented the aristocracy, who should have been behaving nobly and seeking God’s will, but instead, had become “roaring lions” who went about on the prowl seeking people to devour for their own personal gain (Zep 3:3a). The judges, who were civil magistrates, should have been upholding God’s Law, but instead, were like “wolves at evening” that devour their prey, from whom the citizens of the city had to protect themselves (Zep 3:3b). Furthermore, the prophets were described as “reckless, treacherous men” who falsely spoke in the name of the Lord and led others astray (Zep 3:4a). And the priests “profaned the sanctuary” by not performing their duties, and by making common that which was sacred (Zep 3:4b). In contrast with the corrupt leadership, “The LORD is righteous within her; He will do no injustice. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He does not fail” (Zep 3:5a). God is righteous, and He is just in all His ways; He reveals Himself to His people every day, and He does this without fail (cf. Deu 32:4), but they were suppressing His revelation. Though God leads His people into righteousness, “the unjust knows no shame” as they turn away from Him (Zep 3:5b). God had judged the surrounding nations as a warning to Judah, saying, “I have cut off nations; their corner towers are in ruins. I have made their streets desolate, with no one passing by; their cities are laid waste, without a man, without an inhabitant” (Zep 3:6). Though this was revealed to His people, yet, they chose their own way. God said, “Surely you will revere Me, accept instruction. So her dwelling will not be cut off according to all that I have appointed concerning her. But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds” (Zep 3:7). God then turns from talking to the rebellious Israelites in the city and addresses the faithful remnant, telling them, “Listen to Me,” as He speaks of future events. The Lord states there will come a day “when I rise up as a witness. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal” (Zep 3:8). God had already made it clear He was going to judge the Jews and Gentiles of Zephaniah’s generation, which, in many ways, had become a microcosm of all humanity, all throughout history. The Lord’s judgment would now extend to a global judgment that will come upon “all the earth.”

  • "The world is still waiting for the Lord to pour out His wrath on all nations. He has not done so yet because He is patient and is giving people time to repent (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9). Yet that day will surely come (2 Pet. 3:10). In view of its coming, Christians need to be holy in conduct and godly in character looking for and hastening that day (by our prayers and preaching, 2 Pet. 3:11). The great outpouring of divine wrath on the earth predicted here will take place during the Tribulation, before our Lord returns to set up His kingdom (cf. 2:2; Zech. 14:2; Rev. 16:14, 16)."[2]

 

[1] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 416.

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Zep 3:8.

Zephaniah 2:4-15

Zephaniah 2:4-15

November 17, 2019

     Having pronounced His judgment upon Judah for their sins (Zep 1:1-2:3), God now turns His focus upon the surrounding Gentiles nations ((Zep 2:4-15). He opens with a pronouncement of judgment upon four Philistine cities which lie west of Judah, saying, “Gaza will be abandoned and Ashkelon a desolation; Ashdod will be driven out at noon and Ekron will be uprooted” (Zep 2:4). The Philistines had a longstanding hostility toward Israel (Gen 20-21, 26), and had even taken some Judahites captive and sold them into slavery (Amo 1:6-8). To these people and cities, God declared retributive justice, saying, “The word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you so that there will be no inhabitant” (Zep 2:5). But God pronounces remunerative justice toward Israel, saying, “So the seacoast will be pastures, with caves for shepherds and folds for flocks. And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; for the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortune” (Zep 2:6-7). Next, God addressed the hostility and taunting of Moab and Ammon (Zep 2:8), who were the descendants of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his two daughters (Gen 19:30-38). The Moabites and Ammonites were historically hostile to Israel (Isa 16:6; Jer 48:26, 29; Ezek 25:5-7), and now they would be judged. Because of their longstanding sins, God pronounced retributive justice, saying, “As I live, ‘declares the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel,’ surely Moab will be like Sodom and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah—a place possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation’” (Zep 2:9a). Again, God would dispense remunerative justice to His people, saying, “The remnant of My people will plunder them and the remainder of My nation will inherit them” (Zep 2:9b). The Moabites and Ammonites got what they deserved, as God states, “This they will have in return for their pride, because they have taunted and become arrogant against the people of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will be terrifying to them” (Zep 2:10-11a). The Ammonites and Moabites, whose idols customarily received sacrifices, would have nothing to bring them, for the Lord “will starve all the gods of the earth; and all the coastlands of the nations will bow down to Him, everyone from his own place” (Zep 2:11b). Very briefly, God speaks to Ethiopians, saying “You also, O Ethiopians, will be slain by My sword” (Zep 2:12). No reason is given for God’s judgment, but it is likely they acted similarly to the other Gentile nations that were being judged. The final judgment came against the Assyrians in the north, in which God “will stretch out His hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and He will make Nineveh a desolation, parched like the wilderness” (Zep 2:13). Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC by an alliance between the Babylonians and Medes under the leadership of Nabopolassar and Cyaxeres. The Assyrians were removed and the land became inhabited by wild animals (Zep 2:14). The Assyrians thought they were secure in their fortified cities, and they became proud. But God would destroy them, and they would become “a resting place for beasts! Everyone who passes by her will hiss and wave his hand in contempt” (Zep 2:15).

     Though God gave His written law to Israel alone (Psa 147:19-20), His moral laws are written upon the hearts of all people (Rom 2:14-15), and He holds them accountable for their behavior. God is Judge of all people (Gen 18:25; Psa 22:28; 103:19), and He deals out retribution to those who disobey Him and attack His people (Deu 32:35; 2 Thess 1:6-8), and rewards those who are faithful (Psa 18:20; 58:11; 1 Sam. 26:23).

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