God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 21 - Zechariah 1-7: God's Message Stays the Same: Obedience, not Religion

Today’s Reading: Zechariah 1-7

The Message

English Standard Version

Remember these images. They will come up again later when we get to the New Testament, especially Revelation.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God defends His Chosen People from all opponents, physical and spiritual.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God's Message through Zechariah:
"Generations have passed but My Message remains the same."
Zechariah had several visions:
The first two showed that God would bless Jerusalem and punish the godless nations.
In the third God moved back to Jerusalem.
In the fourth God purified Joshua in preparation to lead and judge Israel.
The fifth encouraged Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple.
In the sixth God prepared punishment for liars and thieves.
In the seventh God took the world's sins away.
The eighth soothed Israel's anxiety of being attacked.
Joshua would become priest and king.
"I am interested in people, not religion."

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God's Message stays the same.

One of the chief reasons I wanted to do this project is because I have read and heard several people discuss how the Old Testament is either antiquated or unnecessary for us today. Some even questioned my plan to preach exclusively from the Old Testament while doing the project. I wanted to help myself and others realize what God told Zechariah—God's Message never changes. God wants to set all things right in the world and chose Abraham's descendents to be His Ambassadors and Lighthouses to the world. They become lighthouses by setting things right in their areas of influence through promoting rivers of mercy and oceans of justice. Israel and Judah ignored God's Chosen Prophets when they came to deliver His Message. Hopefully, we will not.

God would defend Israel from outside forces.

Three of the visions were about Israel's outside enemies. God wanted Zechariah to encourage His Chosen People to know they would not be harmed from nations stronger than they as long as they set things right within their borders. God would return to Jerusalem with mercy, forgiving them of their past. Jerusalem and Judah would be blessed again because God loves His Chosen People. God forgives and defends His Chosen People, especially when they obey Him.

God prepared Joshua and Zerubbabel for their leadership positions.

Zerubbabel needed encouragement and surety of protection. So God through Zechariah gave Zerubbabel the encouragement he needed.
Joshua would play a much larger role in the new nation. For the first time, God would merge priest and king. Israel would no longer have competing heads of their religion and state. Church and state would live in harmony because they would be lead by the same person—God's Anointed Leader. Joshua needed help to become worthy of both offices; therefore, God cleansed his body and his soul. When God calls leaders, He prepares them for their service.

God prepares His Chosen People for their Messiah.

Zechariah uses many images which would be taken up later in the New Testament: four riders on four types of horses, a lampstand with lamps, and a man named Branch who would build the Temple and reign as both priest and king. These were meant to give Israel mental clues to look for when God sent the Messiah and used by John in the Revelation to pass on information that outsiders would not understand.

God is interested in people, not in religions.

God does want His Chosen People to worship Him in His Temple (as we read yesterday). He wants religious people setting all things right, but God wants religious people, not religious people. Whether a person observes the festivals, offers sacrifices, or tithes is secondary to whether they treated their neighbor justly; loved their neighbors; had compassion with their neighbors; treated widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor justly; and did not plot and scheme against their neighbors. When the people in Bethel added to the festivals a day of mourning for Jerusalem, it was not because God wanted them to. They did it because they wanted more religion. God only accepts religion when it comes from people who set things right. To focus on religious rites without justice misses God's Message.
What does this mean for Christians today? Almost everything we discuss has to do with "religion". We wonder whether we are worshiping God correctly, whether other people worship God correctly, whether we should add to our religious observance, or if we should modernize our worship gatherings. Few times do we speak of God's Chosen People setting things right in our spheres of influence. If we wish to understand God's Message, we must stop spending time retooling our religion and re-teach how to set things right in our spheres of influence.

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