Saturday, June 15, 2013

Visions of Hope (Zechariah)

Due to extenuating circumstances there will be no audio review this week.  Sorry for any inconvenience.  But, for those who may benefit, below is the script.

Visions of Hope (Zechariah)
Memory Text: “ ‘ “In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,” declares the Lord Almighty’ ” (Zechariah 3:10, NIV).
The name Zechariah means “the Lord remembers.” What does God remember? He remembers His people and His promises.  God want to fulfill his promises; one of which is to deliver His people from the power of evil. He remembers His assurance to send the Promised Seed, who will defeat Satan (Gen. 3:15). He remembers His promise to establish His eternal kingdom based on love, justice, truth, and freedom.  It is we that forget Him. 
Zechariah began his prophetic ministry a few months after Haggai began his ministry (Hag. 1:1, Zech. 1:1). So, Zechariah and Haggai were contemporaries in Jerusalem and both were concerned with the rebuilding of the ruined Temple.  By Zechariah’s first recorded sermon, building was already underway, so Zechariah’s message has a different context; for example, his first message concerned the symbolism of the temple services.  Through a series of prophetic visions, Zechariah learned God’s plans for the present and the future. God’s eternal kingdom was coming soon, but the prophet called those who lived in his time to serve the Lord now. A good portion of the book is centered on how they were to do just that. This week, and the next, we will look at what the Lord has revealed to us through Zechariah.  Let start be taking a closer look at the visions of Zechariah. 
As mentioned above, the message of Zechariah’s first six chapters is quite simple: it is time to rebuild the temple. This appeal was the main communication behind a series of eight short visions that God gave to Zechariah in order to help him to understand from a broader perspective the contemporary situation of God’s people. Each vision engaged the prophet in reasoning that deepened his understanding of the message. They were written in a chiastic order (in a mirror structure), which means that the first vision corresponds with the last one, the eighth; the second with the seventh; the third with the sixth; and, finally, at the climax is the fourth, accompanied by the fifth. These pairs also deal with related subjects, which are chronologically arranged in a reverse order. Let read a brief summary of each vision:
1. The first vision (Zech. 1:7–11), about the man among the myrtle trees and four horses with their riders, conveys the idea that these horses went through the whole earth, and their riders declared that the earth was at peace (vs. 11). So, it was now a ripe time to work on God’s project; namely, to build His house, because no one had the power to stop it. God had established peace.
2. The second vision (Zech. 1:18–21), about the “four horns” (NKJV), describes how the craftsmen broke them. God revealed the end of political cause for the exile. These powers were torn down because they were hindrances to the building of the temple.
3. The third vision (Zech. 2:1–5), about the “man with a measuring line” (NKJV), points to God’s abundant blessing: “ ‘ “I myself will be a wall of fire around it [Jerusalem]” . . . “and I will be its glory within” ’ ” (vs. 5, NIV).
4. The fourth vision (Zech. 3:1–10), about God’s forgiveness for Joshua, lies at the heart of these eight visions. Satan accused Joshua, the high priest, of sin. Joshua’s priestly robe was dirty, thus representing the filthiness of sin. But the “Angel of the Lord,” who is without doubt the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, ordered Joshua’s filthy clothes to be removed and assured Joshua: “ ‘I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you’ ” (Zech. 3:4, NIV). The Lord then re-ordains Joshua to minister in the temple and announces a magnificent prophecy about the Messiah. Joshua is freely forgiven and made just, because God ordered it so. Joshua just accepts it.  On this basis he experiences the assurance of forgiveness and the joy of salvation.
5. The fifth vision (Zech. 4:1–14), about God’s empowering Zerubbabel, lies at the core of Zechariah’s message, together with the fourth vision. God gives His Spirit to Zerubbabel to build the temple; thus, He strengthens him to accomplish His will. This vision about the gold lampstand and oil puts the emphasis on the work of the Spirit of the Lord who sanctifies. Only the Holy Spirit can change and stir up the work for God in an efficient way.
6. The sixth vision (Zech. 5:1–4), about the “flying scroll” (vs. 1, NKJV), shows that the curse was measured and God Himself punishes iniquity.  By this we mean that God allowed the Jews to suffer the consequences of their own choices.
7. The seventh vision (Zech. 5:5–11), about the “‘woman sitting inside the basket’ ” (vs. 7, NKJV), explains the spiritual reason for the exile. God revealed the people’s wickedness that had led them into the Babylonian captivity.
8. The eighth vision (Zech. 6:1–8), about the “four chariots” (vs. 1, NKJV), proclaims the opposite of the first vision. The last message was about war and turmoil in the world; but God would intervene, and His Spirit would bring peace.
To fully understand the message of these visions, one needs to realize that the first four visions show the effects and that the last four visions describe the conditions that led to those results. Thus, these visions should be studied in reversed sequence. One should begin with the last vision and go to the first (from war to peace), continue with the seventh one and then examine the second one (from the religious cause for the exile to the political reason), then investigate the sixth vision and follow with the third one (moving from curses and punishment to God’s immense blessing). At the heart of these visions are visions four and five. God first enables Zerubbabel to build the temple and then cleanses the high priest Joshua to serve in this sanctuary. From the first to the last and from the last to the first, God is in action. His love, grace, and justice are revealed and vindicated.

Apart from learning from this historical situation, we should see how it applies to us.  The bad comes as a result of our choices.  But, God intervenes to bring about good out of the bad.  All the while, God allows those experiences to teach us to know Him more and better.  That we may learn to trust and depend on Him.  

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