The last verse of this chapter, and the last verse of this challenge, is one that I want to look at a bit. It states: He will turn the hearts of parents to their children... Normally when we speak about this topic it is reversed, it is that the hearts of children are turned to their parents, but no, not here. It is the opposite, that parents will take the time, will focus upon their children and see their children as the reason for why, in many ways, we pursue what we do.
It is fascinating that in this time in my life when the kids are no longer in high school so we aren't directly involved in all of their decision making, that there is a definite void. But it is a pleasant void. It is one where you know that the children are launched and you hope and pray that you have set the foundation and prepared the ground in such a way that they are able to make those decisions in a way that would reflect positively on their future.
Turning a parent's heart to their children must involve recognizing that every single thing that you do is seen and understood by your child through a prism that you may not understand so you better be consistent and you better be doing things in public and behind closed doors that are pleasing to the Lord. That doesn't always happen. Kids notice it when those things don't always happen.
Thank you for going on this journey with us. We will have another 90 Day Challenge coming up in the near future. Keep your eyes open, your hearts open, and your hands working for God's kingdom in our midst.
We have some familiar verses in this chapter that once again appear in our Christian calendar when we come to Advent and specifically John the Baptist. Look at vs.1 and we hear about the messenger that is being sent ahead of the coming Messiah. Remember the term "my messenger" is literally in Hebrew Malachi. If you read Matthew 11:10 and its corresponding Gospels (Mark 1:2, Luke 1:17,76) we see it referring to John the Baptist.
He then follows up that reference with what God will do when the Messiah comes. The image of a refiner's fire is brought up which is used in relationship to people and how they will be purified before they are able to approach the Lord. Here those who are purified are specifically those who come from the priestly families because all along it was the priests who were turning their back on God. Here is a song that makes me think of a refiner's fire. Oldie but goodie.
Notice once again how God will judge when the Messiah comes. He will bear witness against, he will speak out against and rule against in a negative sense the following: sorcerers, adulterers, those who swear falsely, those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, those who oppress the widow and the orphan, those who oppress the immigrant, those who do not fear the Lord. That's a long list but it is doable if we think about it.
The last part of this chapter is a castigation to those who do not give the full tithe to the Lord. There is a temptation to give what is left over at the end that we think we can afford. I have always said that we are to give our tithe, our 10%, at the beginning and then go from there. It has to be a part of our budget from the very beginning.
Once again we have a strongly worded rebuke against the priests of the day. We didn't cover this in chapter 1 but it is thought that this was written after the re-establishing of Jerusalem as the center of worship with the rebuilding of the temple. So the messenger of the Lord is not satisfied with the offerings and the tithes that are being given to the Lord. In the midst of this chastisement is a very strong word against divorce. It seems a bit out of place, but it does find itself in this Scripture and we can't ignore it.
The almost singular reason that is given in vs.14 for why God is not showing favor is because we have turned our back on our first love. While the writing expresses it in a literal way, the wife of our youth, we have seen throughout Scripture, and I would think it applies here as well, that it applies to our first love of God, our first excitement when we turned our hearts and our minds to the love that we have for our Savior.
The chapter ends again with one of those questions which really should go unanswered, but it is answered by the Lord. "How have we wearied him (God)?" The answer comes back to us that we say that all who do evil are a delight to the Lord. What kind of evil? Let's go back because it struck me that this is becoming quite an epidemic. Look at vs.7-8. The pastors are the ones who should have instruction from the Lord and sharing that with the people. But instead, Malachi states, we are teaching in a way that carries an agenda, or as Malachi states, our instruction has shown partiality. May God save us from a partial message.
We find ourselves in the last book of the Old Testament, even if in our Challenges we have a few books in the OT that we have to go back over and address since we haven't quite covered all of them. Malachi is not a proper name of a prophet, it is simply a word in Hebrew which means "my messenger". So there is no Mr. Malachi, or the prophet called Malachi, but rather a book of the Bible which is called Malachi which simply means my messenger.
I get a sense that Malachi is written more in layman's terms and he seems to say things that are easier to understand. Who doesn't understand the Lord requiring us to respect our parents, or to give the best to the Lord, or to make sure that our promises are fulfilled? Remember in Matthew 25, here we go again, when the person who is either included or excluded asks the very simple question, and it is the same question for both: But when did we see you hungry, or naked, or in need...etc.? These same questions are asked here in Malachi but always in a negative sense. When did we despise your name? The priests ask the Lord. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice when you are supposed to offer the best of the best.
There is a verse that has a camp song attached to it. Look at vs.11 and see if you recognize this tune. Also, you see basically the same verses in Psalm 113:3.
As we close out Zechariah we begin with destruction and then end with eternal peace and eternal prosperity for the people and the city of Jerusalem. Remember when Hoover promised a chicken in every pot? Well this Scripture promises that every pot of every household would be as blessed and holy as the cooking pots which are found in the temple. This sense that the Lord will reach out of the temple and come into every home and be a blessing is somewhat unique in this Scripture for this concept of God with us is seen later in the coming of Christ.
But we find God casting plagues upon the people who rise up against Jerusalem and the people of Israel as well as a plague on those who do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the one true God. This promise is given in vs.11 where we read that Jerusalem will never again be destroyed and it will abide in history. Now, we know that this has not been the case. Jerusalem has been conquered and destroyed and conquered and destroyed numerous times in history. But these promises in the OT often are conditional on the faithfulness of the people of Israel. We know that this does not last long.
So Zechariah ends with a scene from the Mount of Olives which then becomes a very important location in the New Testament Gospels where Jesus is often found there praying, teaching, with his disciples, and telling parables. But for now, we end with the coming days where we find promises from the Lord upon which we can rely.
We are given another image, and that of a fountain. The purpose of this fountain is for cleansing of sin and impurity. An image that I have ingrained in my mind is outside the blue mosque in Istanbul there are rows and rows of spigots where men are lined up to wash their feet and their arms before they are allowed to enter the mosque. In Islam there is a real understanding that if you are going to be before the Lord you are not to come as you are, you are to make sure that you are cleansed from all sin and impurity, and the ritual to do that is literally water cleansing. It is a neat ritual which a part of me wishes we had.
The chapter goes on further to describe the one who was pierced for our sake. Those are my words, or at least Scripture's words in Isaiah and in the Gospels, but we can almost see them here as well if you look at vs.6. These wounds depicted are prophetic wound which we see also mentioned in I Kings 18:28 where the prophets cut themselves with swords.
But in this chapter we see that the prophets are no longer, they are no longer speaking the word of the Lord. They are all put to shame and they all are silenced. What a sad day that would be. But I wonder who is speaking out today about certain things that we do understand to not be in the will of God. Are not the shepherds supporting that which is not of God? This prophecy is not far from where we are today.
We get a hopeful word today that the Lord will come back and be on the side of Israel once again. I know, it can make your head spin, but there are some really nice verses here, especially for those who are down and destitute. The Lord says in vs.3 that Jerusalem will be a heavy stone for those who against it. Meaning, it will be able to withstand any who come up against it, either by crushing them or being in place and unmovable. As a result the Lord will give victory to the people of God.
I love vs.8 which describes that "on that day the Lord will shield the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David." Then later on in vs.10 we read that God will pour out his spirit of compassion. You get the sense that God has come back completely on our side, to the point that even the weakest is able to slay Goliath. This compassion will come as a result of seeing the one that they had pierced.
This should ring a bell for those of us who know someone who was pierced for our sake. Look at John 19:37 and you will see a direct reference to our Lord. It is interesting how Zechariah is replete with images and Scriptures which are used consistently in the New Testament by the Gospel writers.
We have another oracle, replete with images and visions, against the shepherd, those charged with caring for the flock. These would be the priests and those who had charge of the souls of the people of Israel. The Lord says basically that he has had enough and will not deliver the people from their bondage and from their plight.
He uses the examples of staffs broken to describe what is to happen. He speaks about a staff named Favor, with the meaning that over the years the Lord has shown His favor to the people of Israel. They were His chosen ones, they were the ones that he said would be under his care. But with the breaking of this staff he states in vs.10: "I took my staff Favor and broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all peoples." The covenant that the Lord had made with the people of Israel was broken.
The next depiction is that of 30 pieces of silver which were supposed to be the wages that the Lord would be given to care for his people. It was about the price of an ox, so not an exorbitant amount of money. It is the same amount that in Matthew 26:15 Judas is given to betray Jesus. The thinking was that God cannot be paid for the care that he gives to us, and in like manner the amount Judas was given was a pittance for the changing of human history.
The next staff that is broken is that which is called Unity. This broke the ties between the northern and the southern kingdoms and thus destroying the bond that had been present ever since Jacob had been called Israel by the Lord.
We have transitioned from apocalyptic visions to a pretty routine prophecy about what will be and what has been. We see a picture of the provision of the Lord as the one who provides rain which allows the fields to grow. But then the quick transition to what the Lord is able to do to what the Lord's shepherds, those who are responsible for watching over His flock, are not doing. He is hot, he is angry, against his shepherds.
In spite of the lack of care which his shepherds are showing for His people, he will still raise up his people and allow them to take on the role that they previously had, which was the cornerstone of the Lord's kingdom. This will take place so that all future generations will be able to see the hand of the Lord and be able to pass through their own seas of distress with the Lord by their side. I love that image. Look at vs.11.
This chapter ends with vs.12: "I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall walk in his name, says the Lord."
In the midst of a pretty dark chapter, what is called an oracle here, we find verses that we have used for centuries which shape and mold our understanding of the joyous and victorious entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Read vs.9 and you will hear a verse that I bet you have heard at some time in your life if you have been in church on Palm Sunday. Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, but Matthew in chapter 21:7 states: "they brought the donkey and the colt (italics mine)."
I think the safest thing to say is that Matthew misunderstood Zechariah's descriptive terms which called out a donkey, nay a colt, nay a foal of a donkey. We are lucky Matthew doesn't have Jesus riding three animals the way Zechariah described it. But it seems like these verses nestled in this chapter are the only ones which give us warm fuzzies as we think of the way in which we have celebrated Palm Sunday in the past. The rest of this chapter is pretty intense.
Look at vs.15 where we read that the battle will be fierce and as a result "they will drink their blood like wine..." But then there is a stark transition in vs.16 where we read that the Lord God will save them. The reason given for him saving them is that they are the jewels of his crown. What an image of who we are in God's eyes.