Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reading Through Zephaniah and Haggai

(NOTE: I am headed in to the lab today for a cat scan to take a look at my abdominal organs to check for damage. I am on the 6 hour fast before the scan and will be drinking the “barium oral suspension” in a couple hours to prepare for the scan. Some of you have been though this before. This should end my first round of testing and I am hoping and praying that it will reveal one of the less lethal possibilities for the origin of my symptoms. We are still at least a week away from getting any real answers on that.)

Ham HahlenZephaniah and Haggai are two short prophecies that encourage Jerusalem with God’s judgment and restoration. We will read through them accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Clay Ham and Mark Hahlen. Zephaniah looks ahead to the Day of the LORD as an undoing of creation to prepare for a new one. Haggai encourages the people, that despite their poverty and powerlessness, their service to God will have worldwide implications. 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…

Zephaniah

Zephaniah's theme is the Day of the LORD and he gives a more detailed description of it than any other writing prophet. He writes to the rebellious of Judah during the reign of Josiah. Zephaniah sees both the judgment of redemption of God going to all the nations and then to Judah. God's judgment and the nations' repentance are both motivation for Jerusalem's humble return to covenant with YHWH.

Zephaniah announces that Yahweh will act decisively in human history to implement aspects of the divine plan. In that day, Yahweh will judge the sin of the people and the nations, be victorious over enemies, and deliver the people. Yahweh must punish the sins of Judah, but this punishment is not simply punitive; it is redemptive. In spite of the onslaught of divine fury, Yahweh’s faithfulness and mercy to the remnant will prevail. The divine purpose in choosing Israel will not be frustrated by judgment, but it will be realized in an elect remnant. Zephaniah, 183–184

Zephaniah sees the Day of the LORD as an "undoing" of creation another version of Noah's flood. Creation will be undone in anticipation of a new one. Judah should respond with sincere repentance if they want to be part be part of God's redeemed people.

As a whole, Zephaniah 1:7–18 calls for the readers to prepare in silence and with lament for the unexpected yet inevitable consequence of their religious idolatry and economic corruption, a consequence Zephaniah calls the day of Yahweh. Zephaniah 1, 199

The nations are judged, and then redeemed, as an incentive to encourage the people to repent and accept Josiah's reforms wholeheartedly. The nations they fear, that oppress them will be overthrown. They need to trust God exclusively and quit combining true worship with idol worship.

The nations are no longer merely the recipients of divine judgment, since Zephaniah 2:11 describes their conversion and thereby possible inclusion in the remnant of Yahweh’s people (2:3, 7, 9); in chapter 3, the promise of salvation to the nations (3:9–10) actually precedes the promise to Israel (3:12–18). Zephaniah 2.12, 219

Two prophecies of restoration in 3.8-20 encourage Jerusalem to trust God now. Surprisingly the nations around Israel, who are judged severely, are now redeemed and Israel is invited to join them as God's redeemed people.

Here in Zephaniah, a rebellious and apostate Judah has been purified, leaving a meek and humble remnant that trusts in Yahweh and lives in obedience (2:3; 3:12–13). This transformed people are once again treasured by Yahweh and are honored among the nations. Zephaniah 3.20, 245

Haggai

The prophet Haggai challenges the tiny, powerless post-exilic community of Judah to rebuild the temple, the symbol of God's presence and power under the Old Covenant. It provides reassurance that, despite the present circumstances, God has not forgotten the covenant, and the community's obedience in building this little insignificant building will have worldwide implications because the God who will occupy it will "shake" and re-order all the governments of the world.

Haggai challenges the early postexilic community of Judah to look beyond their meager resources and difficult circumstances in order to believe daringly the ancient promises of Yahweh. The rebuilding of the temple in the hope of Yahweh’s presence among them and of eschatological messianic blessing requires an act of faith. The community must not fear. They must be strong and give careful thought to the power of Yahweh Almighty whose glory will fill the temple in but a little while (2:4–7). Haggai, 268–269

The first chapter is a call from God to quit neglecting Him and rebuild the temple. The people are obedient and God begins to bless them with the productivity promised in the Mosaic covenant.

The purpose for building the temple is so that Yahweh might take delight in it and the presence of Yahweh might enter the temple...The particular verb form...may emphasize that Yahweh attains glory through the people’s obedience to Yahweh’s own command to rebuild the temple. Haggai 1, 283–284

Chapter 2 contains three prophecies that tell the people that God is renewing the Davidic covenant, and its blessings and  promises, and that what they are doing to obey God will have tremendous worldwide significance. God can make very small acts of obedience to Him have tremendous and far reaching results

Haggai reminds the people rebuilding the temple that the Spirit of Yahweh is present with them just as Yahweh has been present with their ancestors, with whom Yahweh made the covenant after bringing them out of Egypt, when they build the tabernacle...Haggai admonishes the people not to fear because Yahweh will cause a cosmic upheaval that will bring a greater glory to the present temple. Haggai 2.6–9, 295

The language of the section shows that Haggai likely sees Zerubbabel as a messianic figure, one who represents a hope for political independence under a restored Davidic dynasty and one who, like the Davidic monarchy, represents Yahweh the heavenly king on the earth. Haggai 2.20-23, 313

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