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December 14: Zechariah 1
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December 14: Zechariah 1

2 Chronicles 16; Revelation 5; Zechariah 1; John 4
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Zechariah is a prophet writing 67 years after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. After that horrific event, many in Israel were taken captive to Babylon. They’ve now returned, not yet literally, but in their hearts - at least some of them.

But the work of rebuilding the temple and society remains. The prophet Ezra will deal with that. Zechariah, on the other hand, delivers visions that are harder to apply to a certain event in his time. However, the New Testament will quote from Zechariah repeatedly, especially the book of Revelation.

Those references are still to come. For now, chapter 1 serves as an introduction to the first part of this book. And its lesson is simple and clear, from verse 3:

Zechariah 1:3 (ESV): . . . Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

This is, has been, and will be the default stance of God toward His people. Even after long generations of rebellion, He is still the prodigal son’s father: ready to respond with open arms at the first sign of his son’s return.

The rest of chapter 1’s visions portray how God works this out in the world. Sometimes His people stray, and they require discipline (15a). And often He uses, as a means of discipline, other nations who do not know Him. But afterwards He will discipline those nations, for they inevitably go beyond what the LORD required of them (15b). In short, He is just in all that He does.

But His judgments are not the end, but a means to another end. The LORD only chastises His people in order to bring them prosperity again, on the other side of the discipline (17). He brings judgment to clear away sin and guilt, that He might again lavish His people with blessing.

And this is the promise Zechariah is to cry out (14-17). Yes, the LORD disciplines. But His goal is actually His people’s prosperity. Here lies both the great danger of experiencing God, and how we should therefore relate to Him.

The danger was aptly put by Cotton Mather: “Godliness begat prosperity, and the daughter ate the mother.” God’s law has the added benefit of perfectly agreeing with how God created the world. Thus, in general, those who repent of their rebellions and get on with following God experience prosperity. But then prosperity carries its own temptation to defect from God’s ways. What is the solution?

It is only - only! - an optimistic faith in God, who gets the most glory not from judgment, but from forgiving His people and blessing them. Thus if we are in a time of God’s chastisement - and our culture certainly deserves to be - it is sub-Christian to only bemoan the wreckage. Faith looks up with optimism, to His promises to bring prosperity after our repentance. And so that optimistic faith repents.

Then, in the prosperity that follows repentance, we must live afresh with yet still more optimistic faith - that God has yet still more blessings for us. This kind of living is characterized not by grabby discontentment, but happy gratitude, in the God Who is there. This God is no stingy Ebenezer Scrooge, but the Giver of life and all good things. Biblical gratitude is restful and happy, because it knows where present blessings come from, and it banks itself on the future generosity of the Giver.

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Pilgrim's Bread
Pilgrim's Bread Podcast
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