Archive for the tag “Judah”

Zechariah 8 Commentary

Zechariah 8:1 – And the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying,

As we have seen before, this tells us that we have yet another message coming from God.

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.

The word “jealous” is typically used when God is telling of something that He is intensely passionate about. Some translations use the phrase “zealous.” In Exodus 20:5, we learn that God is jealous and will not tolerate anything rivaling His glory. This phrase is being used to show that He is passionate about restoring his covenant with His people.

The phrase “Thus says the Lord” is in this chapter of Zechariah 10 times. When we see this phrase, it is to stress the promises God has made with His people.

Zechariah 8:3 – Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.

I find it interesting that some versions of the Bible call Jerusalem a “city of truth” and the ESV calls it the “faithful city.” While they can be used to mean similar things, reading it without context can lead to confusion.

A faithful city is one that will be faithful to the Lord. Yes, that does include the truth of God’s Word and love, but I think that we can easily pass by that word in the Bible in our 21st century American minds. When I read other versions and see “city of truth” I perceive a city that is ruled by God and their words and their actions are both based on the truth of God alone.

I believe the phrase “city of truth” needs to be used here rather than “faithful city” because of the tie it has to verse 16. This would make this chapter more consistent with the rest of the book.

We also see in this verse the “holy mountain,” which ties back to Isaiah 6:3. The mountain is holy because God is there.

We need to remember that simply returning from captivity did not end the sin that God’s people would do. This is more prophetic than historical in nature. The sin won’t come to an end until the Savior returns a second time.

Zechariah 8:4 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age.

Think of what those who were in captivity returned to. Jerusalem’s walls were all destroyed and they were coming back to a city that was a ghost of what it once was.

Between this verse and the next, we see that God is promising to have the city be vibrant once again.

Zechariah 8:5 – And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

There would be families once again growing in Jerusalem. The Targum (a spoken translation of the Tanakh, or the Scriptures, in a language for the common people) says that instead of playing in the streets, these children will be singing or praising God in the spaces of the city.

Children are seen to be a blessing from God. With these same children playing in the streets, they have nothing to fear. Peace has come to Jerusalem.

Zechariah 8:6 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the Lord of hosts?

The people must have marveled at being called home. I am sure that the captives were struggling to not lose hope, but the situation that they were in must have seemed hopeless.

This one act, bringing God’s people home, was a miracle that only God could make happen!

Zechariah 8:7 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country,

This is a very interesting verse! Think of this in terms of history. The Israelites were taken captive to the north. The western scattering didn’t happen until the first century AD! At this point, there were no Jews in the western world.

I really believe there are two different ways to look at this verse: physical and spiritual. In the physical sense, east and west could mean the entire world. Think of Deuteronomy 30:3: “That then the Lord your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all nations where the Lord has scattered you.”

In the spiritual sense, God is speaking of the salvation that is offered to the entire world. Think of verses like Malachi 1:11 or 1 Timothy 4:10.

Zechariah 8:8 – and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

When I read this verse, I immediately think of Hebrews 8:10: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them on their hearts: and I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people.”

But then I realize that the verse in Hebrews is reverse of this. In this verse, the people must want to be God’s before He will be theirs.

This is one of the most important promises in all of Scripture! Imagine the awesome time we will have with God being our God and us being His people! This is both physical and spiritual. It isn’t just for Jews. It is for all.

Zechariah 8:9 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.

God is talking about the building of the temple in this case. He is encouraging His people to get the temple built. The foundation of the temple had been laid over 15 years before this was written. As we will see in the upcoming verses, the were running out of money and they were facing opposition.

But one can’t help but think about Ephesians 6:10 in this: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”

Zechariah 8:10 – For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor.

This is a backward look at a forward promise. God is telling them that where they came from was very poor in condition compared to where He is about to bring them to.

Zechariah 8:11 – But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts.

God is not going to allow the same fate to happen to this remnant that He did to the people before.

Zechariah 8:12 – For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

This verse and the next show the depth of God’s promises to His people. God is about to reverse the curses from Deuteronomy 28 and Jeremiah. Let’s look closer at this.

There will be a sowing of peace. Most other versions have listed “the seed shall be prosperous.” I think I like the other versions more than the ESV again in this. Simply saying that there is a sowing of peace doesn’t show the countering of Haggai 1:6 in which there would be sowing and it wouldn’t come to much.

Then we see that the vine will give her fruit and the ground shall give its produce. This is a counter to Haggai 1:11 in which there was a drought.

The heavens will give their dew. Again, we are countering Haggai 1:11 in which the drought was prevalent.

Zechariah 8:13 – And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.”

Both Judah and Israel are brought back. Unified. God is not going to have them be a curse among the nations, but a blessing. A couple of verses to think about for this:

Genesis 12:2 – And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

Then another one that speaks to this, after Jesus was resurrected,

Galatians 3:28-29 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave to free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

Zechariah 8:14 – For thus says the Lord of hosts: “As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts,

So for the idolatry, abominations, and sins of the fathers, God brought disaster to His people. He didn’t end the relationship, however. As these are His sons and daughters, He wanted them simply to turn back. His people needed punishment.

Zechariah 8:15 – so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not.

God has forgiven them and has chosen now to bless them. Just as in Isaiah 14:24 we see that whatever God plans He does, the same can be said here. The time for fear has passed. The time for abundant faith and blessing has come.

Zechariah 8:16 – These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;

As in all other times, the blessings come with obedience. We can’t expect to see God’s blessings if we choose to be disobedient. We see similar words in Psalm 15:1-5 when David asks who can live on the holy hill.

To stay under God’s blessing, these need to be a people who will speak the truth and execute honest judgment. Ephesians 4:25 tells us to speak truthfully to our neighbor and to put away our lying.

Zechariah 8:17 – do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”

Our hearts determine who we are. Our character. Anything that runs counter to God’s Law is hated by God. Just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are to take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Zechariah 8:18 – And the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying,

We are about to get a new message. This is one that includes us Gentiles in it as part of the promises.

Zechariah 8:19 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.

The fasts that are listed, which were to commemorate the destructions and/or deaths of others, are now to be feasts that are joyful times to celebrate what the Lord has done for the remnant returning.

Zechariah 8:20 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities.

This tells us that people from all over the different cities will be coming to Jerusalem. I like to think that this is foreshadowing the travels of Paul. Paul traveled all over the place and the people he came in contact with became part of the family. This is the same family that God is talking about in this verse.

Zechariah 8:21 – The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’

The people from the other cities will come to seek the Lord. These Gentiles care about each other. This reminds me of John 13:35 where Jesus tells His disciples that people will know they are His by the love they show one another. The fact that these Gentiles are going to each other to help them seek Christ shows that love that Jesus is talking about.

Zechariah 8:22 – Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.

This is very exciting! People from all around the world will come to seek God and to pray to Him. Galatians 3:8 says that God justifies the heathen through faith and that all nations are blessed.

Zechariah 8:23 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

Ok, here’s a question. Why “ten?” Typically when ten nations is used in a verse it stands for the world governments. This means that the world will be seeking Christ. The Gospel was given to the Jew first, then the Gentile. But God is available for all nations.

Revelations 7:9-10 – After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, all kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.

This isn’t fake news

2 Kings 18:29-30 – This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

If you have been anywhere in America over the past year, you have heard one phrase thrown about a lot, “fake news.”

The Republican party uses that term to damage the Democrats. The Democrats use that to try and implicate the President in lies. The President uses that term to divert attention away from himself and place it on anyone who opposes him.

But fake news isn’t a new phenomenon.

It has been around for several thousand years.

During the time of Hezekiah’s reign in Judah, Sennacherib from Assyria attacked all the cities of Judah and captured them.

2 Kings 18:31-32 – “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern,  until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!

Hezekiah was a good king.

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

Because of this, even though the fake news affected his people and himself, he trusted in the Lord.

They tore their clothes and went to the Lord in prayer. Isaiah responded to them with the word from the Lord. He told them not to worry because the Assyrians were evil and Judah was doing right in the eyes of the Lord and that they would not only be delivered from the Assyrians, but the Assyrians would be destroyed.

2 Kings 18:32-35 – “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’  Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?  Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand?  Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

The fake news continued.

But Hezekiah remained faithful to the Lord and convinced his people to do so as well. He showed his example of being faithful to the Lord and Judah followed his example.

And the Lord showed up.

The Assyrian army was destroyed. 185,000 Assyrian were destroyed and Sennacherib, king of Assyria, ran away from his armies and to Ninevah, where his sons decided to kill him.

Today we are surrounded by fake news.

I am not going to claim to know which voice in the media is the right one. I am also not going to claim to know which political voice is correct.

But one voice has remained constant throughout the ages, God’s.

The Bible is timeless.

It holds answers to all of today’s problems. In essence, there is but one answer, Jesus.

If we as a people, a nation, or an individual humble ourselves before God and wait for Him to move on our behalf then He will show up in a mighty way. He will deliver us from our enemies. He will heal our lands. He will heal our bodies. He will heal our relationships.

All we need to do is pray and wait for Him to move.

And He will.

This message is for everyone!

Are you a politician? Seek the Lord first.

Are you clergy? Seek the Lord first.

Are you a husband or wife who is struggling in your relationship? Seek the Lord first.

Are you looking to change your situation at work or home? Seek the Lord first.

We can easily get distracted by reaching out to friends, family, coworkers, and others to get our information. But if we don’t start with the Bible, then there is a good chance we are getting fake news.

We need to go to the truth before we seek the fake.

So as you listen to all the “words of wisdom” out there, before you pick up another newspaper or another commentary or another radio show or another TV broadcast or another politician or another person, reach for the Word of God. Seek the Kingdom of God first and then the truth will be given to you.

Woah! That’s a Lot of Woes!

Habakkuk 2:1 – I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.

So when we last left our hero, Habakkuk (why couldn’t I have picked an easier name to spell throughout this series), he was waiting on God’s reply.

God tells Habakkuk not to worry because the Babylonians are going to get their due. He says it may seem like it will take a long time, but it will happen. I am fairly certain God knew to say this because Habakkuk, while a very devout man, he was a man. When we don’t see something happen, we begin to question whether it was meant to happen at all. In the Bible, God spends a lot of time doing what is called “tarrying.” When justice tarries, as it did with the Israelites in Habakkuk and happens all around the world today, we begin to think it is never coming. We get on social media and begin to blast either the conservative or the liberal blaming it on them.

Faith in God is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Habakkuk 2:4 – But the righteous one will live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:4 is one of the most quoted verses in the book of Habakkuk and is spoken about by James in James 2. He says, “the righteous will live by faith.” Some versions say “faithfulness.” Both faith and faithfulness are part of what Habakkuk is trying to say. Faith is WHAT you believe while faithfulness is acting according to what you believe.

James 2:22 – You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected.

Many people like to claim that faith isn’t true by using the example of the smoker who knows it is bad for them but doesn’t stop thinking they will be fine. That is false faith. Placing your faith in an object which is specifically bad is not what the Bible is talking about. Faith, in the Bible, is specifically geared toward a single entity, God. Anything outside of faith in God is false faith. Faithfulness is following God’s law to serve God and others. There was a remnant in Judah that God would protect. Verse 2:4 is geared toward them to tell them how to proceed during the dark days coming.

In verse 5, we see God explaining Babylon, comparing her to a drunkard. Babylon was well known for their drunken parties. It is how Cyrus defeated Babylon in 539 BC. Here is the account by the Greek historian Heroditus, “But, as it was, the Persians came upon them by surprise and so took the city. Owing to the vast size of the place, the inhabitants of  the central parts (as the residents at Babylon declare) long after the outer portions of the town were taken, knew  nothing of what had chanced, but as they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and reveling until they learnt about the capture. Such, then, were the circumstances of the first taking of Babylon.” (translation by George Rawlinson)

Verse 5 goes on to show that the Babylonians were never satisfied. They would continue to look for places to conquer and would war with anyone they felt they could beat.

This is an important contrast. The Babylonians, described as proud, or arrogant, spend their time going out and abusing others while the righteous are humble and place others before self and do acts for for the good of others.

While this one is very specific with Babylon and Judah, there is a universal truth proclaimed and it leads into the “oracle of the 5 woes.” While pride is not specifically called out in the oracle, it is something that is a human trait that we need to be wary of and oppose. We need to constantly be on guard for pride in our hearts as we make choices and decisions lest we become a singular Babylon instead of a righteous person.

Habakkuk 2:7 – Since you have plundered many nations, all the peoples who remain will plunder you

Verses 6-20 describe the rest of the “woes.” There is a woe to the greedy which says that those whom the greedy have taken from will take from you. There is a woe to the dishonest as they will bring shame upon their house. There is a woe to the violent that God’s glory will become known in their cities as violence does not come from God. There is a woe for those who get drunk and naked for they will be filled with disgrace, not honor and glory. And finally there is a woe to the idolater, and those who worship something other than God. Those are not alive, they do not speak. They are not active in this world. Only God is a living, active being creating and generating history each and every minute.

Habakkuk 2:19 – Look! It may be plated with gold and silver, yet there is no breath in it at all.

The chapter ends with a very sobering verse, “But the Lord in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence.”

Here, God is giving a message to Habakkuk, and to all who believe in Him. He is telling them to simply be silent and spend time in God’s presence. THAT will oppose injustice. THAT will bring down strongholds. THAT will bring about lasting change.

We can’t simply sit on the sidelines as injustice happens, but we can’t go out and attack with our words or actions simply being the opposite voice of those who are bringing injustice. How, then, will that bring justice to THEM?

Yes, we need to think about those being persecuted and abused. Yes, we need to act out against injustice of all sorts. But we CANNOT and SHOULD NOT act without spending time being SILENT in prayer in HIS PRESENCE. That will affect the change in our own hearts to see how we should proceed. The goal is not be the one with the loudest voice at the end. The goal is to be the one who shines the light of Christ.

In everything we do, whether it is speaking out against the government, standing up for pro-life, pro-marriage, anti-gun, or anything, we need to speak Christ, not our opinion.

That is the challenge.

That is where we fail.

Look at social media and you will see post after post littered with hate speech against another person.

For our battle is not against flesh and blood! It is against the powers. It is against the authorities. It is against Satan in this present day and age.

That is where our anger needs to be directed. Not to MSNBC or Fox News. Not to Republicans or Democrats. Not to Israel or Palestine. None of those or more.

We need to direct our anger appropriately and know just who is pulling those strings.

It is Satan.

And he is laughing our world all the way to hell.

So, Christians, wake up. Before you speak out against something, check your own self first and make sure that when you speak out against something that YOUR voice is not heard and the CHRIST’S WORD is taught.

Habakkuk 2:20 – But the Lord is in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence.

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