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Zechariah 1 Commentary – Part 2

1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying,

The date of this verse puts it somewhere around November of 520 BC. This is just after Haggai started his ministry. The cool thing about Zechariah is that he basically adds to the information that Haggai has given us. Haggai focused on the building of the temple while Zechariah showed that God was interested in more than the temple. God is interested in the people. The date of this first chapter is very interesting in that it comes between the two visions that Haggai had, which were in the 7th and 9th months. Zechariah and Haggai both also used a Gentile king to show the date of their prophecies, which gives credence to what Luke said in Luke 21:24 that the age of the Gentiles had started.

There is very little that is known about Zechariah. As discussed last week, we know he was captive in Babylon and a priest as well as a prophet. There are over 27 different Zechariahs in the Bible. The only information we have about this Zechariah comes from Ezra 5-6.

Ezra 5:1-2 – Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

Zechariah’s name means “God remembers.” This is something that is important to realize as he writes about how God continues to care for them. Zechariah worked alongside several such as Haggai, Ezra, and others. The important thing to remember about Zechariah is that while God wants to accomplish His work, He wants to do so with His people.

Jesus even mentioned Zechariah in Matthew 23:35.

Matthew 23:35 – so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

“The Lord was very angry with your fathers.

The first 6 verses of this book are basically an overview of what he is about to say in the rest of the book, which is a very strong call for repentance. It starts with telling God’s people that He is very angry with their fathers. He wants them to turn back to the Lord, something their forefathers had forgotten. The same sin that angered the Lord is the same sin that led them into captivity.

One thing to remember is that these people are probably the same and you and I. Most likely very nice people. Only 50,000 thousand returned from the hundreds of thousands that were taken into captivity.

The Hebrew use of “very angry” is actually translated as “sore displeased.” It actually means that, while controlled, it was a long, brewing anger.

Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

God wants His people to know that He really wants them back. God used the exile to teach the Israelites that they needed God and that they were to obey Him. God loves them, but He doesn’t want to force them to follow Him.

God uses the name “The Lord of hosts” many times and shows that He is the supreme commander of Israel, as is written in 2 Chronicles 26:11, that He is also the commander of the armies of other nations, as is written in Judges 4:2, and that He is the commander of the heavenly armies as was written in 1 Kings 22:19.

This verse, after explaining who is dictating this, is to call for repentance. It shows His people that they will not receive His blessing until they return to Him.

Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.

In Jewish culture, your lineage was very important. In Ezra 9:7 we are told that the people know the sins of their fathers. God is showing His people that their fathers did not even listen to God’s prophets. The false prophets of the day were proclaiming prosperity when their sin was leading them to desperate times.

Because their fathers listened to the false prophets, God needed to prove to the people that His warnings would come true. With captivity still in their mind, God is hoping that they will listen to His warning this time around.

Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?

Their forefathers were all dead. The prophets who warned them were all dead. The false prophets who deceived them were all dead. In 1 Peter 1:25 we are told that the Word of the Lord remains forever. The unfaithful died in captivity. They died in a foreign land. They died with a lack of respect and in tough conditions.

But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, ‘As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’”

God is telling His people that the Abrahamic covenant is still in place. God’s Word is eternal. It accomplishes everything it sets out to do. What we learn here is that the fathers who were in captivity told their children who were born in captivity what it was that got them into the situation.

These prophecies that the real prophets of God proclaimed actually came to pass.

On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying,

This is the beginning of the eight night visions. All these visions happened in a single night. The first vision lays the groundwork for the other seven. Like an Avengers movie, if you haven’t seen the others, you will be missing vital information.

These visions are to build the confidence of His people so that they build the temple. The first vision took place about 3 months after the original call to repent.

The day itself seems special to God because on that same day five months earlier the temple was started and that same day two months prior Haggai had been given his vision.

“I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.

This vision starts with a man riding a red horse standing in the myrtle trees with other horses behind him. This red horse that the man is riding is important as red is typically the color of judgment or blood (see Isaiah 63:1-3 or Revelation 6:3).

It is thought that the “myrtle trees in the glen” means the valley of Hinnom, which is outside the temple precinct.

These visions follow a chiasm. The first and last relate to each other, the second and third and the sixth and seventh are pairs, and the fourth and fifth are the climax of the chiasm.

The horses show judgment and victory in their colors.

Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’

There are actually two different angels in this first chapter. The “angel who talked with me” and the “angel of the Lord.”

10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’

This rider could be a recon mission to see how the temple is being rebuilt. It runs opposite to what we see in the book of Job (vv1:7, 2:2) where Satan is walking through the earth looking for evil, God has his own people patrolling the earth as well.

The myrtle is an interesting tree. It isn’t like the mighty cedars of Lebanon or the oak trees in other places in the Bible which have strength. Myrtles have blossoms that are fragrant when crushed. This shows the grace that is present in the affliction that Israel received.

11 And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’

The world is at peace. But, as we will see in a few more verses, God is not happy with the nations during this peace. Israel is still struggling, but the rest of the nations are at peace and content. Darius defeated 9 rebellious leaders across 19 different battles, bringing the world to peace.

This angel of the Lord is a preincarnate appearance of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:3 – For when they shall say , peace and safety; the sudden destruction comes upon them

12 Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’

The angel of the Lord, or Jesus, is asking the Father how long Israel must suffer. Looking forward, we see this verse rewritten in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 6:10 – And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, o Lord, holy and true, will you not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.

All the way through to the book of Revelation we will still be crying this and Jesus will still be interceding for us.

13 And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.

The words that Zechariah talks about here are actually listed in the following verses of 14-17. This reinforces that God cares about His people and loves them. These verses run complimentary to Jeremiah 29:10-11.

14 So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.

The first word of comfort is that God is jealous for His people. If you remember, God described Himself as jealous when He made the covenant with Israel in Exodus 20:5 and 34:14. What is seen as a good jealousy can also be seen as a punitive one as is seen in Deuteronomy 29:18-28 and Ezekiel 5:13.

The bottom line is that God loves His people. At the time of Zechariah that was those under the Abrahamic covenant. Today, that same jealousy is given to the church. Many times in Scripture we see that jealousy as God as the husband wanting to maintain His wife.

It is interesting to see dual names for Jerusalem. While this could simply flow with the poetry of the day, it could also come to mean that it is a Jerusalem of the past and a Jerusalem of the future.

15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.

The nations of the world were God’s instruments of judgment on Israel. But those nations went beyond what God desired for the punishment of His people. This can be seen in Isaiah 54:7-8 because those nations did not understand that the punishment was for a limited time.

16 Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.

The Lord is ready to bless His people. Not only would the temple be rebuilt, but they would grow in prosperity. The temple was completed about 515 BC and the wall around the city was completed around 444 BC (Nehemiah 7:4, 11:1).

Isaiah 40:9-10 discusses the prosperity that would follow.

The measuring line that Zechariah talks about describes the exactness that would be used in making sure this was done properly. It can also mean that Jerusalem would be the measure by which all others will be measured as well.

17 Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”

The walls of the city would be completed about 75 years after the temple and God would choose Jerusalem as his earthly throne (Psalm 132:13). This will happen in the book of Revelation, the millennial kingdom in Revelation 20.

This one verse holds the key to several prophecies about the millennial kingdom. The presence of God in Ezekiel 48:35, the temple in Ezekiel 40-48, Jerusalem being rebuilt in Jeremiah 31:38-40, the punishment of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46, prosperity in Isaiah 60:4-9, and the blessings of God’s people in Zechariah 9:17.

Jerusalem becomes the capital of the world.

18 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns!

Now we begin the second vision. In Daniel 2 there were 4 Gentile governments that were to come to power. The horns represent those governments. Most likely, we are looking at the four main powers of Rome, Greece, Babylon, and Persia. But there are a couple different views on this as I will explain in the next verse.

19 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he said to me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”

Daniel 2 goes into detail about these powers, or horns. Daniel 7 gives another vision of the powers.

When this vision occurred, Babylon had already passed. This means that both the Medes and the Persians were in power and both Rome and Greece were future powers.

Another way to look at it is an allusion to past powers given in the book of Daniel, which would be Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome.

Even another way to look at it is Assyria, Egypt, Babylon and Persia. Each of those powers had “scattered Israel.”

One more view is that the number 4 symbolizes “universal” and the horns symbolize “power.” This could mean that the world is universally against God’s people, seeking to scatter them. But that is very much spiritualizing something that could very well be simple.

I hold to the view that the horns are Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.

20 Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen.

Now things  get a little more weird. We now have 4 craftsmen that show up. These craftsmen are the ones who will overthrow the horns. As with Genesis 12:3, God has promised to curse those who have cursed Israel.

21 And I said, “What are these coming to do?” He said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.”

Each of the kingdoms had come to defeat the one before it. So Persia destroyed Babylon. Greece destroyed Persia. Rome destroyed Greece and God’s kingdom will destroy Rome.

Another possible view looks less at the book of Daniel and more at the book of Ezekiel. The four craftsmen would be the four judgments: sword, famine, beasts, and plague.  While the Ezekiel prophecy is specifically about the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, there are parallels in Revelation 6-19.

It is important to note that God knows who has hurt His people. He keeps a record of it and He will punish those who punish His people.

Commentary of the Book of Zechariah – part 1

Every morning I read a chapter of the Bible and then go to God in prayer. One of the benefits to this is that I get to read a lot of the Bible over the course of a year. That said, it also gives me a lot of things that I take notes on to come back and study more in depth.

The book of Zechariah is one of those books that required I take a lot of notes to study at a later date. Over the next few months I will be studying Zechariah and creating my own commentary on what I study and read.

Each post will be another chapter and I will go verse by verse. One of the hopes that I have for this commentary is that it will move beyond the word by word commentary and add into it the timeless truths that are filled throughout the Bible.

Overview of the book:

Zechariah was the grandson of the priest Iddo. He prophesied to the people of Judah at some point after they had returned from their exile in Babylon. In Ezra 5, we are told that both Haggai and Zechariah were the ones pushing for the people to rebuild the temple. In Jeremiah we are told that the dates of the exile would be 70 years and that God would usher in a time of His kingdom at the end of it. Unfortunately, the time is almost up and life is still very difficult.

It is Zechariah that explains why this is so.

Zechariah returned with his grandfather after the Babylonian exile around 538 BC with the first group of exiles to return. His family lineage meant that he was both a priest and a prophet. Even though he never served in an official temple, he would still have an idea of what it would be like.

While Zechariah was young, he came alongside Haggai, who was much older, to prophecy. While Haggai was focused on the sin and selfism of the Jews at the time, Zechariah’s message was one of encouragement and hope.

The book itself is not from a single time period in Zechariah’s life. His messages begin at around the time of Haggai’s with the first vision being documented in the fall of 520 BC. During this message he is calling on Judah to repent of their sin.

Early in 519 BC he received 8 visions and then late in 518 BC he received 4 more.

Beginning in chapter 9 of the book, there is no more dating of his visions, but his mention of Greece means that this part of his book happened much later in his life, most likely somewhere around 480 BC. He would have been a couple decades before both Ezra and Nehemiah.

Overall, Zechariah’s book spans a total of about 40 years!

But that isn’t the only thing interesting about this book.

Zechariah also contains the most messianic passages throughout all the minor prophets.  He is like a mini-Isaiah. We see both the first and second comings of Christ in this book.

Zechariah’s name means “The Lord remembers.” This is very fitting as he writes from the perspective of hope that God will remember the promises He has made to His people. While it is easy to read this book and think that things should happen one right after the other, the truth of the matter is that there are generations between many of his prophecies. All of his prophecies point to the rebuilding of the temple and eventual reign of a future Messiah.

So why would one from the 21st century want to read the book of Zechariah?

It is very easy to get discouraged when we listen to the daily news or read the Twitter feed of so-called Christian leaders. The book of Zechariah has its share of judgments on the people of Israel, but it focuses on a future hope. The people in Zechariah’s time had lost their perspective. They were hopeless.

Zechariah chose to speak the Word of God in hopes to correct that perspective.

God desires to give us a hope and a future. One that is focused on God’s kingdom and filled with a desire to see us serving Him joyfully and with a new perspective.

 

Depravity & Delight – A Study in Psalm 36

Did you ever do your morning devotions and wonder why you were crying?

That was me this morning. You see, each morning I take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. We walk about 2 miles each morning. It is during that time that I try to do my morning devotions and prayer time. My devotion is simply a chapter of the Bible. Lately I have been working through the Psalms.

This morning was Psalm 36.

Have you ever known anyone who was genuinely delighting in God alone?

That is what Psalm 36 is about.

David talks about delighting in the Lord in other places. Psalm 37:4 says:

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of desires in my heart! Keeping the desires of my heart provided could be God’s full-time job!

But Psalm 36 was today’s devotion.

And David begins this chapter in a way that he doesn’t use too often. David identifies himself as “the servant of the Lord.”

Psalm 36 – For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.

The only other time David uses this explanation is in Psalm 18.

Why did David use that explanation in only those two Psalms? I’m not sure. But delighting in the Lord goes along with being submissive to the Lord.

But this isn’t the only strange thing David does in this Psalm. He starts this chapter by giving an analysis of sin’s effect in our lives.

Psalm 36:1-4 – Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.

I start to question what David really means here. Is David speaking about, as Calvin call them, the “abandoned despisers of God” or is it much more than that? I have a problem thinking that David is simply talking about a select group of people here. I think this is more a treatise on the condition of the human heart.

And this is where conviction came in this morning.

Have you ever had an argument with a friend or a loved one?

My wife and I had a pretty big argument the other night. When you think “big argument” your mind immediately goes to hard questions like addiction or worse.

But no.

We were arguing over something small and insignificant.

Yes, the argument was a little more than that, but at its core, we were arguing over something that means nothing in the grand eternity of life.

Now both of us have valid points in our arguments. And both of us have nothing but the good of the outcome in our minds.

But neither of us were unified with each other in the Spirit of God. We were both unifying around our own agendas and when we have divided passions we get a lot of spent energy rather than positive momentum.

But these four verses hit me hard. I had to text my wife from work this morning to own up to my shortcomings. I can’t speak for my wife, but my own transgression, whether that be pride or anger or even simply divided passion, spoke deep to my own heart as David says here. And, if you look at most Hebrew manuscripts, it actually says “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in my heart.”

My transgression was speaking to me deep in my own wicked heart.

During this argument with my wife I was not fearing God. I had an agenda and I was, literally, hellbent on enforcing it. My own pride and the thoughts that I had was flattering in my own eyes. I was so blinded by pride and arrogance that I couldn’t see my own iniquity.

Because of that, my words to my wife were trouble and not wisdom.

Later that night, I laid in bed and my mind was racing. Satan had a secure grip on my mind by that time and, just as David says in verse 4, I laid in bed and trouble was plotted in my mind. By the end of the night, I fell asleep so angry and I didn’t even reject the evil that was in my mind.

Those first four verses show us what the human heart, divorced from God’s grace, becomes. It is an unfolding of sin. It starts in the heart and it then continues to go into our words and then into our actions.

While there are interpretive differences in some manuscripts, there are some amazingly profound insights into sin and how flattery works in our lives to lead us into sin. This flattery leads us to think that we are justified by God for all of our actions, even those He calls sin.

Man, sin sucks. It is painful to come face to face with our own sin. The Puritan Ralph Venning said, “Consider that no sin against a great God can be strictly a little sin.”

So, in verse 1 our sin deceives us so that we don’t even know we are in sin. By verse 3 we see that our wickedness and deceit is happening toward God and others. Then by the end of verse 3 we see the downward spiral that our sin has placed in us. We abandon the wisdom we once had and we think about the next sin rather than denouncing sin altogether.

This is where I was in my argument with my wife. I was in the depths of depravity in my own pride.

But then, without any transition, David jumps right into the delightfulness of God.

David takes us from depravity to blessings in verses 5 through 9.

Psalm 36:5-9 – Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

The Hebrew word for “steadfast” is hesed. It is usually combined with the word for “faithfulness” to show a covenantal love. In the Septuagint, it is combined with “mercy.” The Hebrew work for “stork” comes from hesed as well because the Israelites noticed how tender and careful the stork was with her young. Combining this with Psalm 104:17, we see a better picture.

Psalm 104:17 – Where the birds build their nests, And the stork, whose home is the fir trees.

Baby birds are ugly. They spend all day crying for food and they aren’t able to support themselves. And yet, the stork shows this loyal love to her young. This is a picture of God’s loyal love to us.

How does David go from sheer depravity to overflowing joy?

Because he realizes that the permanence of the Lord is the beginning of delight.

We are permitted to take refuge in God’s house! How can you not be excited about that!

Not only are we given refuge but we are given our fill of meat and drink. In verse 8 David uses the word “abundance.” That is literally translated as “fatness.” This pictures the best meats that would have been offered to the temple for sacrifice. And then to drink from the river of God’s delights would literally mean to be drunk on God.

To truly appreciate the idea of the “river of your delights,” you need to look at who David is writing to. This is a desert people. A flowing river would mean life. It gives you something to bathe in or water your crops with. The word for “delight” is Eden, which could be a reference to the original Garden.

This is such a different view of the effects of sin before.

Is your concept of God this big? Do you see His faithfulness and love that large? Do you see his provision as abundant and delightful?

If you see God as this big then you can begin to move beyond the wickedness of sin and move into the life and light of Christ.

So David starts off by showing us how sin deceives the sinner by flattering him so that he plans and pursues it rather than hating it. Then David abruptly contrasts the immense delightfulness of God to make us want to seek Him as the source of every blessing.

Then, David ends his Psalm with verses 10-12.

Psalm 36:10-12 – Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.

This prayer is for those who know God. Even though we know God and we experience His love and grace and mercy and all the blessings that flow from Him, we need a continuing flow of it from His river of delights.

To go back to the argument with my wife, it is when I stop seeking God that I fall into wickedness. We will never be fully sanctified until we are with Jesus face to face. Until that point we need to constantly be seeking God’s righteousness. We don’t just want to see God for an outward behavior but for an inner heart change.

That is the struggle of the modern day Christian. We sin so we seek God’s righteousness. When we do well enough to act good enough we stop seeking God and therefore we fall back into sin as it flatters us again.

If we stay on that cycle, we find our lives, our relationships, and our thoughts become tainted by the world because we can rely on our own righteousness for only so long. We need to rely solely on Christ to change our hearts and minds.

When you find yourself struggling with something, look inwardly first to determine if you are stuck in sin before you allow sin to flatter you and deceive you.

A Study of the Kings

The past 9 months I have been re-reading the Bible verse by verse. Each day I would take 2 chapters in the morning and 2 in the evening and read through them on my walk with the dog. After reading them I would pray about them, asking for discernment and passion in desiring to read my Bible. Then I would go back and re-read those 2 chapters again before my walk would end. In essence, I read the Bible twice during that time period.

Throughout all of it I started becoming more and more uncomfortable with how the average Christian, including myself, views the Kingdom of God. We spend hours listening to sermons on getting our lives right or being a good Christian, but we don’t even know what the Kingdom of God is.

In my first devotion after re-reading the Bible, I studied Matthew 1:1-17.

The very first words of the New Testament lay out the genealogy of Christ. Most of us just gloss over those first 17 verses of the New Testament to get to Christ’s birth.

Why?

There is a lot of power in those first 17 verses!

They lay the groundwork for the kingship of Christ.

If Christ is going to teach about His Kingdom, then He better be a King.

In all of our hymns, worship songs, sermons, and even the old creeds the underlying theme is the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ.

And those are important!

But if those are the only things we are supposed to be concerned with, then why are Matthew 3-26 in there at all?

Christ is a King, make no mistake of that. To simply call Him friend, brother, and other adjectives dilutes who the true Christ is.

So, as I read through verses 1-17 of Matthew 1, I came to realize that I didn’t really know much about the history of Christ. My own King, Savior and friend I knew very little about.

There are so many kings listed in those 17 verses that I had no clue about. I had read about them, but I mostly glossed over when I read about another person names Jeroboam or Jehoia(fill in the blank). I wanted to know who these men (and one woman) were who are listed in the royalty and kingship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The past few months I have been consuming everything I could about these Old Testament Hebraic kings. I’ve been studying them through Scripture and commentary. I’ve traced each one through the verses and found the associated prophet to go along with them.

Then I went online and found others that did the same. I didn’t want to take any of their information because I wanted to mine for the information myself. What I did want to see is what format people used to document each of the kings.

That brings me to today. I finished tracing the kings and the prophets of the Old Testament from Saul to the captivity of both Israel and Judah. After doing this I find that Matthew 1:1-17 comes much to life.

Please, I want this to be a living document. If you see anything in here that is incorrect please comment or email me. I am always looking for ways to make my study of the Bible better and better. Just click the link below and it will hopefully take you to my study.

Kings of Israel and Judah

Here Comes the Judge

What would America do if we were sent a “judge?”

Judges 10:11-12 –  The Lord answered: In the past when you came crying to me for help, I rescued you. At one time or another I’ve rescued you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites.

In the Old Testament, when Joshua died, the Jewish people were independent and in their own land. It was also a time where there was not a single strong leader in the land at all. This led to a leadership vacuum.

Joshua did some amazing work right before he died. He took over almost all of the land, divided it among the tribes, and then disbanded the army that was assembled to conquer the land. For lack of a better term, it was the United States of Judaism. There were 12 tribes with only a loose connection to each other.

During this time, there was no central government. The only thing holding them together was the Tabernacle. But Jews were deciding not to go to Tabernacle anymore. They were performing their own sacrifices on their own private altars.

Over the next 300 years, there would be 15 Judges that would come along. Since there was no central government, enemies would sneak, and sometimes walk in brazenly, to infiltrate the tribes. Over the 3 centuries, all of the men over those ages would have to step up to protect their families and friends. At the end of the day, a man just feels beaten down when non-stop enemies are coming at you.

While they were able to destroy the armies to the east and the west, the armies to the north had allied with the strongest military leader of the day, Sisera, and created multiple new technologies (chariots and steel weapons) that the Jews simply could not defeat.

Judges 4:4 – Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

Deborah, the 4th Judge, would rally an army from one of the tribes and defeat Sisera and his amazing new technology. While he escaped, he was eventually cornered, seduced, and killed by the woman who seduced him when she drove a nail through his temple. After Deborah defeated the northern army completely, they found a short 40-year peace.

The next 8 Judges ruled over Israel for 120 years. Some were good and some were not-so-good. After 12 Judges, it was time for Samson to step up. By this time, the Philistine army to the west had started to get active.

Samson was interesting. He was not one who would rally the troops as other Judges had done. Samson was a Lone Ranger kind of guy. He was also very unorthodox in his approach to leading. He married Philistine women. One of them, Delilah, eventually led to the capture of Samson. On the day they were to make a public spectacle of him, he garnered enough strength to bring the entire area, filled with 10,000 Philistines, down around him and those who were there killing everyone.

1 Samuel 3:13 – For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them.

The second to last Judge, Eli, made the mistake of losing the Ark of the Covenant during a battle. The Philistines, who seem to have caused a lot of problems over the 300 years, stole the Ark and tried to incorporate it into their pagan worship. What they found is that the Ark caused a lot of problems to occur. The pagan idols would collapse. The towns they put it in would break out with plague. Finally, with all of the Philistine cities refusing to take the Ark, they sent it back to Israel.

The final Judge, Samuel, was raised by Eli and turned out to be one of history’s greatest prophets and equal to Moses in many ways.

Not many Christians speak about or preach on the Book of Judges. It is really a book on the military leaders of Israel. But it is more than a military journal. The book explains the 300 years between Joshua and 1 Samuel and it also sets up the book of Ruth. More importantly, it sets the stage for the Jews to be shown as simply human, as we have seen throughout the entirety of Scripture.

They did what was right in their own eyes. This means they disregarded what God had declared to be right according to the Law.

Judges 17:6 –In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Modern day America can easily be seen as a country that is dire need of a Judge, although war has changed since the days of the Old Testament Judges. Our country is not, nor has been for some time, under the control of a strong leader. The country is doing what is right in our own eyes. And the unified states are only loosely related.

But what would happen if a Judge appeared?

Typically, Judges led up to a time when the people would come closer to God. The 300 years the the Jewish people were under the leadership of the Judges led up to Samuel, easily one of the most amazing men since Moses.

But to get to that point, for Israel’s heart to be softened to the point that they accepted the rule of the final Judge, it took a lot of struggle, demoralizing times, and pain.

I think about my own life.

Many times I find myself calling for Jesus’ return. I find myself asking God to please make this the final breath for our current world.

But then I wonder what life would look like for me and if I would truly be grateful for that to happen.

I am imagining all of the bad things that will happen leading up to Christ’s return, things that are already occurring. But then I wonder how it could get any worse. There will be no peace left on the earth. There will be significant inflation. There will be significant death from famine and beasts. There will be large earthquakes and stars will fall from the sky. Grasses will be burned, fish will die, the water will be poisoned, the smoke will get so thick that the sky will vanish from sight, plagues, and plenty more will happen before the church get raptured.

So, wow.

My life looks pretty good right now.

Yea, I don’t make as much money as I used to, but I have a lot more time with family. Yea, life is still crazy, but I am still alive and have people around me who love me.

So, yes, I would love to have Christ return. I would love to see this world get the judgment it deserves and finally live a life of true peace.

But, in all honesty…

I don’t know if I am ready for all of that suffering for me and my family.

So today I am going to simply live a life that Christ has given me. A new life, born out of the destruction I caused in my old life and given to me because God loves me. I will continue to pray that I can stay faithful to God, to those I love, and to my church. And I will work in my secular job and minister to the people God has given to me to minister to.

And eventually I will make it to heaven.

Psalm 34:1-3 – I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

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