Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Reading Through Zechariah

(NOTE: The waiting continues. I am two days away from my appointment with the hematologist and, hopefully, some clarification on what the blood and other tests show. I am still struggling with edema and need to stay horizontal. Meditating on the Trinity and the idea that God is both “three and one.” To fill my mind with that idea puts me in a different and better place.)

Ham HahlenZechariah is an apocalypse that encourages Jerusalem, that despite their difficult present situation, God has a glorious future planned for them. We will read through it accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Clay Ham and Mark Hahlen. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The book of Zechariah is written to a poor people, dominated by the Persian empire, and later the Greek empire. Zechariah encourages them that the nations who have oppressed them will be judged and removed and the promises of the previous prophets will be fulfilled. As they are faithful, God will live with them and bring them the promised blessing.

Zechariah calls the faithful to persevere and to live faithfully even if, at present, such action does not appear to be rewarded. Although the frustration of their earthly existence is very real, another reality exists. The supernatural reality and purposes of the King, the LORD Almighty (14:17), summon the readers to live as the people of Yahweh within and often in spite of their historical circumstances. Zechariah, 346

The first six chapters encourage the people to show their faithfulness by finishing the work they began on the temple. They are unlike their ancestors in that they have responded to Haggai's prophecy with  obedience. Zechariah's eight apocalyptic visions in 1.7-6.8 assure them that God knows their situation and is already working to deal with it. The promises of a great Davidic kingdom will be fulfilled some day but in the meantime God's Spirit will work in Zerubbabel and in the people to complete the temple. The Spirit will work among the nations to judge and remove Babylon through the Persians.

Likewise, Zechariah 4:6 asserts that human strength cannot accomplish the rebuilding of the temple, but its completion comes only through the Spirit of Yahweh. The oracular formula says the LORD Almighty further highlights the contrast between human and divine strength. Zechariah 4.6, 382

The picture of Yahweh’s Spirit at rest gives the people of Judah encouragement to continue their work of reconstruction without fear of outside interference. The former conflicts and tragedies associated with the land of the north have been resolved. The Persian policies that have subjugated Babylon and liberated the exiles manifest the sovereignty of Yahweh. Zechariah 1.7-6.8, 395

Zechariah 6.9 begins a transition to a new subject in Zechariah and concludes the previous one. The priest, Jehoiada is crowned and the crown left in the temple as a symbol that God will crown a "sprout" from the Davidic line to bring in His kingdom and set things right. Chapters 7 and 8 answer the people's question about continuing the fasts that remember the destruction of Jerusalem, now that the temple is almost rebuilt. The prophetic answer is that the people need to set their  hearts on seeking God and keeping the covenant stipulations about loving their neighbor and maintain a total devotion to God. God will then bring in His idyllic kingdom and turn their fasting and mourning into joyous celebration.

The magnificent promises in the preceding verses are contingent on Israel’s diligent obedience to Yahweh, an obedience enjoined upon Israel’s ancestors with the same or nearly identical verbal and syntactical construction (Exod 15:26; 19:5; 23:22; Deut 15:5; 28:1–2) but an obedience which they have failed to render (Josh 5:6; Judg 2:2; 2 Kgs 18:12). Zechariah 6.9-15, 401

Implied here is the notion that, if eating and drinking have no impact on Yahweh, then neither does fasting alone. The community has fasted for themselves just as they have feasted to themselves. Thus, in their fasting they have lamented their own personal loss and political humiliation rather than grieving over their own sin and abuse of the covenant relationship with Yahweh. Zechariah 7.4-7, 406

The prophet has recognized that the question essentially asks whether the community’s present is unalterably conditioned by its past. Although their past informs their present, they live in the present in light of their hopes for the future. If the people observe Yahweh’s commands, then Yahweh will bless them and cause the pain associated with the fasts to cease. Instead, the fasts are to be transformed into times of joy. Zechariah 8.18-19, 421

Zechariah 9 begins a final section of the book which contains two oracles (9-11, 12-14). In 9-11 God reassures the people that he will reverse the present oppressed situation in the future. He will judge and destroy the oppressive foreign powers. He will regather the people and give them back the fertile portions of their land. He will restore the Davidic king. However, he also warns the people that they must trust God alone, not their military or other gods, and be ready to accept his prophet and king when they come. They must quit oppressing and hurting one another. Sadly the nation will reject God's prophet and king (30 pieces of silver) and the blessing will be delayed again.

Zechariah 9–14 shows that Yahweh is transforming the leadership that oppresses the people and the situations that threaten their existence, by depicting the demise of Judah’s present leadership, the purification of the people through their present experiences, and the divine intervention that results in the universal recognition of Yahweh. Zechariah 9, 424

The choice of a donkey rather than a horse to portray the coming of the king also subverts militaristic notions. The horses and chariots that belong to Israel, Persia, or any other nation cannot secure for them the kingdom of Yahweh. Zechariah 9.9, 431

The lack of divine pity indicates that Yahweh holds responsible to some degree both the people (at least those who reject the prophet) and the leaders, a notion found also in verse 8. The flock experiences oppression from local circles (“neighbor”) and from the ruling class (“kings”). Zechariah 11.4-5, 449

The final oracle in 12-14 widens the prophecy to the nations. Jerusalem will be destroyed and its people exiled but God will then step in to defeat and judge the nations, purify Israel and unite the nations in the exclusive worship of YHWH as God.

Jeremiah uses māqôr to portray Yahweh as a fountain or spring of living water that has been forsaken by Judah (2:13; 17:13). The gravity of this image cannot be overemphasized, for this fountain cleanses even those who have pierced Yahweh. Zechariah 13.1, 468

Yahweh establishes once again with the people the covenant relationship articulated in the Torah and in covenant declarations found throughout the prophetic literature. The covenant language with which the passage ends is significant given the passage’s beginning; through the slaying the shepherd, Yahweh has effected a redefinition and refinement of the people. Zechariah 13.9, 475

Zechariah 14 challenges the reader to consider the eventual destruction of Jerusalem as part of Yahweh’s larger purpose and to act accordingly, assured that the victorious intervention of Yahweh results ultimately in the universal worship of Yahweh as king. Zechariah, 478

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