June 23, 2011

Friday after Trinity Sunday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 10, Num. 20:14, Lk. 1:67
Evening - Ps.6, 26, Zech 1:7-17, Acts 8:5-25
Commentary

Zechariah is another of those short books at the end of the Old Testament called the Minor Prophets. Though not in the scheduled reading for tonight, Zech 1:1 tells us he began his ministry in the second year of Darius. Thus, we know that Zechariah and Haggai began their work in the same year, 520 B.C. (Hag. 1:1). Looking at the first verses of both books we see their ministries began within two months of each other. Naturally, their messages compliment one another. Both were concerned to get the new Temple built. Haggai told the people it was wrong for them to work so hard to establish their own houses, yet neglect the House of God. Zechariah was determined to show why they were willing to neglect the House of God. It was because their hearts were not with God. They were starting to fall into the ways of their fathers (1:3-4). They were beginning to be content with an outward show of religion and a general intellectual assent to the being of God as revealed in Scripture. They were willing to live in general conformity with the moral and ceremonial law of God, but they lacked a sense of belonging to God, of being His people, of being loved by Him and of loving Him back with all their heart and soul and might (Dt:6:4-5). Thus, they really loved themselves above God, so they worked for their own advancement, and neglected the things of God.

We often see the same thing in professed believers today. They give mental assent to the doctrines and moral values of the Bible. They live decent lives. They believe the things Christian people are supposed to believe. But these things are held as something outside of them. They are like the scenery through which a train passes, when they ought to be the fire that drives the locomotive. Love for God ought to be the driving force of life; that one Thing that gives the direction and purpose to every other aspect of our being. Mankind lost that love for God when we fell into sin. We rejected God, and we chose to love ourselves more than we loved Him. Christ died to free us from that kind of self love, for it is destructive and deadly to everything it touches. And Christ died to return us to the spiritual condition of loving God first of all and with our all. Faith that does not move a person in that direction is not faith at all by Biblical standards. It is a form of Godliness which denies the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:4-5). Thus, God, through Zechariah, urges and beseeches the people to be not like their fathers in their sin.

Three months after the message of Zechariah 1:1-6 was given, the Lord spoke again to Zechariah (1:7). This word came in a vision of a Man among the myrtle trees receiving a report from riders who have returned from walking to and fro through the earth (1:10). The Man is Christ Jesus, and the riders report that the earth is at rest. There is peace in the Persian Empire. Persia is strong and secure, and there is none to disturb her rest (1:11). But all is not well, for the Lord Himself is displeased with the people of Persia. They are the heirs of the Babylonians who attacked and brutalised the Jews. Even now they trouble the Jews and prevent them from building the Temple of God. In this they have inflicted more sorrow upon the Jews than God intended (1:15). The Babylonian Captivity was God's will. He allowed it to chasten the Jews for their sin, to humble them, to lead them to depend upon Him again. In 520 the time of chastisement is over, yet the Gentiles will not cease their troubling of the Jews. So God assures the Jews He is with them again in mercy (1:16). Jerusalem, He promises, will prosper, along with God's people around the world (1:17). This promise has an immediate meaning to the Jews in Jerusalem. They did prosper, and the Temple of God was rebuilt. But its primary meaning is fulfilled in Christ and His Church. Through Christ the House of God was built in Jerusalem, and through His House, He has gathered people into it around the world. In Christ He has blessed the New Jerusalem with prosperity and posterity the frightened inhabitants could scarcely imagine when Zechariah spoke these words.