Today’s reading takes us to the book of Zechariah. He was contemporary with Haggai and a relative contemporary of Malachi (within the early post-exilic era).
Zechariah is filled with what is known as apocalyptic language. That doesn’t mean that it’s all about the destruction of the world — our common definition of the word apocalyptic. Rather apocalyptic literature is filled with symbols. It was often used in times of persecution or oppression, when it would be dangerous to overtly prophesy the fall of a powerful empire; so it was expressed in terms that “insiders” would understand, but “outsiders” would not. Sometimes its symbols were intended as metaphors or “shorthand” for the character of a king or empire or power. And at other times, the symbols seem to be deliberately hiding details from men, while revealing the basic outlines of some significant event, until the proper time. Interpreting the Bible properly must always take into account the kind of literature that you are reading — law, history, poetry, letters, apocalyptic? Each has its own nuances as one reads the different kind of literature — we apply this method of interpretation continually in everyday conversations. So, in regard to apocalyptic literature, one must not read it literally, like you’d read a newspaper; it uses lots of symbolism — don’t let it throw you here or in places like Revelation.
But let’s see what Zechariah had to say…
Did not My words…overtake your fathers?
Zechariah’s mission was, like the other prophets, to call the people back to faithfulness to God. Although Israel was certainly more faithful to the Lord than their fathers had been, sin and laziness were always ready to ambush God’s people — they had grown comfortable with not rebuilding the Temple, you might recall from yesterday’s blog. So the Lord was calling them, yet again, to return to Him, so that He could return to them (1:3). But in emphasizing this, He also reminds them with a powerful question: in the struggle between Israel and God, who finally won? God’s word had overtaken their fathers and they had been forced to admit, “As the LORD of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us.” So it will be today and tomorrow and forever. We can’t wear God down or change His mind through perseverance. His word will wear us down, overtake us, and judge us
Jerusalem inhabited without walls
Here’s something that would have gotten the Jew’s attention — Jerusalem without walls (2:4,5)? But the prophecy was about the universality of the new Jerusalem, the church including the Gentiles, and reminds us of what is later revealed in Revelation 21,22 — the new Jerusalem, the church, with God in the very midst of it all. God’s is a kingdom against which the gates of Hades cannot prevail! No walls needed.
Now, that’s not to say that Satan has no intention of attacking. He is, after all, the “Accuser”, and he loves plying his “trade” — the next passage that I’ll address makes plain. He’ll just fail.
The new Jerusalem rebukes Satan
Chapter 3 is really interesting; among other things, Satan is rebuked! In a number of passages in the Bible, we’re warned about reviling or rebuking Satan or other angelic majesties — Jude 1:9 “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”. Basically, we humans don’t know what we’re messing with, like a toddler pulling a tiger by the tail. But the very Kingdom of God, Jerusalem (including the new Jerusalem), by its very existence, rebukes Satan! Paul later tells us, (Ephesians 3:10) “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” The Accuser’s accusations that men are incurably unfaithful, self-centered, materialistic, sinful, and apathetic towards God’s great love are proven to be empty and false! Rebuked!
But this leads to an important question, Is the church, your congregation, rebuking Satan or merely confirming what he likes to say about mankind? Are you faithful to what God says or to what men like? Are you active or inactive? Do you love one another enough to make the world take notice?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.