Archive for the tag “Scripture”

Zechariah 11 Commentary

Zechariah 11:1 – Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars!

The question is whether this is showing us a past historical event (the Babylonian invasion) or a future prophecy. Based on the rest of this book, I would venture that this is a future prophecy that is predicting the Roman moves against Judea.

The area of the mountain passes between Lebanon and Israel are called the “doors of Lebanon.”

This chapter is setting up the events that will lead to God’s people rejecting the Messiah when He does come.

Zechariah 11:2 – Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled!
Lebanon’s strength was in her cedars. Throughout the Bible we see the strength of the “cedars of Lebanon.” They were a sought after commodity. This could be talking about an economic crash. If the strong cedars, which were a top trading commodity were ruined, how much more will the lesser commodities be ruined.

But I think this goes a beyond that in that the cedars show the strength of Lebanon. This is showing that strength being destroyed.

Zechariah 11:3 – The sound of the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is ruined! The sound of the roar of the lions, for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!

This is a powerful verse that describes the leaders of God’s people being brought down. The wail of the shepherds means that the Jewish leaders will be ruined. Their glory will be ruined. Look at Mark 13:1, as the disciples are talking to Christ and they say that the stones and buildings are beautiful. Jesus tells His disciples that those stones will be destroyed.

Everyone will mourn because of the rejection of the Christ.

Zechariah 11:4 – Thus said the Lord my God: “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter.

Zechariah moves into the explanation of how this destruction is to come about.

Different translations have different words for what the shepherd is to do to the flock. Some say to pasture them. Others say to feed them. Some say to take care of them. Others simply say to shepherd them.  Feeding, or caring for the sheep who are doomed to slaughter, is to provide them God’s Word. This means that they have no excuse of ignorance when the Messiah does come.

Acts 20:28 shows this specifically.

The more we go through this prophecy, the more we will see that Zechariah seems like he is acting this prophecy out. I don’t believe he is simply reciting it. I believe there are actions that go along with it.

Zechariah 11:5 – Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich,’ and their own shepherds have no pity on them.

Some translations of this verse say “hold themselves not guilty” instead of “go unpunished.” The adversaries of God’s people don’t feel guilt in the destruction of them. And God allowed this to happen.

As for “those who sell them,” God is talking about the rulers of Judah. Their selfishness basically sold their people to Rome. Look at verses such as John 11:48-50.

God even addresses those who sold His sheep to Rome and became rich. Look at Luke 16:14. The Pharisees missed the Messiah because they were lovers of money. The leaders have no pity on them.

Zechariah 11:6 – For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, declares the Lord. Behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand.”

God is removing is pity on His people, which means he is going to deliver them into the hands of the Romans. This is a little bit of a foreshadowing of things to come when the Roman rulers, such as Vespasian.

Zechariah 11:7 – So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep.

A shepherd in ancient Israel would use two staves to lead their flock. One staff would be used to protect the sheep from danger while the other would be used to direct the flock. The names are Favor and Union (in some translations, “Beauty and Bands”). Beauty is God’s favor on His people while Bands is the reunification of Israel and Judah (see verse 14 later)

The flock doomed to be slaughtered are those whom Jesus came for (see Matthew 11:5). Some translations go so far as to say “the poor of the flock.”

Zechariah 11:8 – In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me.

This is a pretty hard passage to understand. Who are the “three shepherds?” This is definitely in a prophetic voice, so I would have to think that there is something much more than shepherds being named aside the Good Shepherd.

I tend to like Dr. James Boice’s view that the three shepherds are most likely the roles of prophet, priest and king, which were taken away after the Roman conquest. These roles have never been restored as they are now fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Zechariah 11:9 – So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.”

In chapter 7 we saw that God would not listen to His people. This was a pretty intense form of punishment. Now, God is telling them He will not be their shepherd.

They rejected the Good Shepherd and ended up in occupation and famine.

Zechariah 11:10 – And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples.

God is setting aside His providential care for His people. The covenant that He is speaking of here is from Deuteronomy 28:1-14. This paved the way for Rome to invade and conquer.

Zechariah 11:11 – So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.

God’s people knew the covenant had been annulled. God has defended His people, but now they were about to become food for, as the Bible calls, the “wild beasts” of the Gentile world.

Zechariah 11:12 – Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.

Thirty pieces of silver is used a lot in Scripture. In the book of Exodus, it is the price given to a master whose slave was gored by oxen. A good slave was worth twice that amount. This meant that the final slap in the face would be that Jesus’ life was worth thirty pieces of silver, making Jesus worth no more than a common slave.

Zechariah 11:13 – Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.

The thirty pieces of silver was thrown into the house of the Lord. This is a prophecy that was fulfilled when Judas, filled with the guilt of condemning Jesus, threw the silver on the floor of the temple and the priests used it to purchase a field from a potter.

Zechariah 11:14 – Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

The breaking of the first staff in verse 10 symbolizes the rejection of God’s people by the Good Shepherd. The breaking of this staff is showing the breakup of Israel and Judah, most likely under Roman rule.

In reading Roman historian Josephus, he said that things got so bad after the Romans conquered that Jew fought against Jew as severely as the Romans had beaten them.

Zechariah 11:15 – Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd.

It is at this point that Zechariah is to play the role of a “foolish shepherd.” This entire chapter is filled with dramatic moments that seemed to be acted out by Zechariah.

Zechariah 11:16 – For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.

These last few verses show both the first century choices and the final choice of the Antichrist. This shepherd uses his staff to beat the sheep.

God is allowing this shepherd to rise up because of the rejection by His people for the Good Shepherd. If we look at some prophetic verses, we see that this is exactly what the Antichrist will do.

Check out both Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15-22.

Another interesting thing to note is that God is raising this leader up. Many times in history we hear about a country who believes that God has sent a leader to them. He may very well have done so, but just not in the manner in which the country believes. The leader that God may be raising up could be a leader that will be a foolish shepherd instead of one who points us to the Good Shepherd.

Zechariah 11:17 – “Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!”

This verse is filled with verses from all around Scripture. From Daniel 7-8 and 24 to 2 Thessalonians 2 to Revelation 19-20, we see that the worthless shepherd will have his arm and right eye taken away from him. The arm is seen as a symbol of power while the eye is a symbol of intelligence.

Revelation 13 tells us that the Antichrist will survive a severe hit.

Revelation 13:12-14 – It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.

You are Free

Ok, I need to air some dirty laundry here. I have something I need to admit to you all.

I, not so secretly, love Christian rock from the 1980s and 90s.

Yes, the music sounds very similar to secular bands like Depeche Mode, Motley Crue, or Run DMC. Sometimes the theological message of the songs is, well, way off base. And many times those artists weren’t even really Christians, they were simply cashing in on the latest craze.

But bands like Daniel Amos (hands down my absolute favorite band of all time), Adam Again, the 77s, Mad at the World, 20/Twenty, Crumbacher, Rage of Angels, Common Bond, the Altar Boys, Bride, Code of Ethics, D-boy, the Dynamic Twins, Farrell and Farrell, Jacob’s Trouble, Jerusalem, Leviticus, One Bad Pig, and yes, even Petra are all still on my playlists to this day.

I don’t even listen to Hillsong or Bethel or any of those top 20 Christian artists today.

So why do I bring all this up?

In 2017, one of my favorite Christian bands from that era reunited to record an album.

Roger and Randy Rose, otherwise known as Mad at the World, put out a new album in 2017 entitled Hope. The album goes back to their earlier sounds of being very Depeche Mode-esque. They cover a lot of songs that deal with leaving behind our oppressions, addictions, and hang-ups in life.

The underlying theme of the album is that we have hope in a Savior, Jesus Christ.

One of the songs really struck me tonight.

It is called You are Free.

One of the key points in this song is that once we accept Christ, we are free. Jesus died for all the sins that we have ever done or will ever do, once and for all.

But Satan continues to tell us lies, claiming that we will never be free. The problem is that we believe those lies.

Roger Rose sings in this song the words of Isaiah are repeated as a benediction of sorts as he quotes Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Isaiah (quoted by Luke, quoted by Roger) uses the word free twice in this series of verses. It is the exact same word used twice which literally translates to “deliverance.”

So what are we delivered from?

Many would say sin.

But that isn’t entirely true.

Even the most well-meaning Christians still sin.

No, what we are delivered from is the power of sin.

Sin can no longer control our appetites. It can no longer keep us slave.

But I know so many people who are living as if they were never delivered. Some of them are close to me. Some are just people that God has placed on my heart without knowing who they are or the details of their oppression.

To the person who is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol or pornography, there is deliverance in Christ and accountability found in community.

To the person who is struggling at work, fighting for their job daily, God has freed you of the concern over other people’s views. You are not a slave to them, you are free in Christ. Seek first the kingdom of God and then you will find all you seek.

To the person who has been fired from their job, God has given you a freedom to pursue Him. Seek Him during this transition and understand that God will take care of you. The Creator of the universe adorns the sparrows and they don’t have any needs that God has not met.

To the person who is dying of a deadly disease, know that now is the time to finish well. Take this time to celebrate the blessings God has given you in your family and friends. Make your legacy a desire to see God’s Name proclaimed for years as yours diminishes through the years.

To those who have sinned and have been found out, know that the truth is freeing. It may lead to short term pain and significant change, but eventually God will show you the way that leads to heaven as you mature and learn how to live as Christ desires.

To those who have sinned and are doing well at hiding that sin, you also need to know that the truth will set you free. The more you fight repentance that more energy it takes from you and the more you drift from God. Once you repent and come clean, you will find that freedom waits for you. It is your choice.

To person who just feels like he or she can’t go on and wants to take their life, know that freedom comes in living. If you give in to the sin of suicide, you will never know the person God has created you to be. You are beautiful. You are not a mistake. You are a beloved child of God and there is a community of believers who love you and want you to know that.

To those who have been hurt by others or called stupid or fat or bad, know that those words can only define you if you allow them to. God created in you someone special. God created you to be you, no matter the circumstance. Don’t allow people define your purpose, allow God to define it.

To the single parent who is trying everything just to provide a decent life for their children, know that God sees your sacrifice, and, while you might feel like life is a constant closing door, your children will understand your sacrifice and they will rise up to call you blessed.

To the divorced parent who doesn’t have custody of the children, simply be there for them as much as you can. Allow them to see all your bumps and bruises and teach them where to follow in your footsteps and where not to.

To those who are alone, take this opportunity to find your purpose in Christ. You are never alone, God has promised not leave you nor forsake you.

To everyone else that I have left out, God has a purpose and a plan for you. You simply need to know that and follow that.

You are free.

Accept the freedom that comes in Christ.

Don’t believe Satan’s lies.

Believe your freedom and live a life that exemplifies it.

Christian TMZ – Ripped from the Headlines

James 3:1 – Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment, for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.

This past week we had a lot of news. If you are not a Christian, some of this news will seem like non-news. But for Christians, there is a lot going on that needs to be talked about and studied. Four major news stories for Christians come to mind.

First, who hasn’t heard of Robin Williams’ suicide? No one. Robin Williams was an iconic actor, philanthropist, comedian, and activist. He was an Oscar-award winning actor who was battling depression which many speculate comes from his early onset Parkinson’s. Williams joked about his Episcopalian faith which he called “Catholic lite.” He struggled with addictions throughout his life, but overcame them and was sober and drug-free at the time of his death. He gave generously to UNICEF, St. Jude’s, Amnesty International, and raised over $50 million for the homeless through Comic Relief.

I am not going to get on this blog to discuss Robin Williams’ views on Christ, Christianity, or anything else. I am simply going to say that this should prompt us as Christians to a wake-up call. How long do we truly have with those we love?

Let me ask you a question, Christian? If you knew you held the keys to kingdom of heaven and withheld them from those you loved, would you be any better than a murderer? Now, a Christian is no better than a non-Christian. The only difference is that the Christian is going to heaven. But you are basically telling all of your loved ones they can go to hell if you withhold the saving grace of Christ from them.

Robin Williams made me laugh. In some of his movies he made me cry. In others, he drove me to action (you can’t tell me that when you watched Dead Poet Society that you didn’t want to stand on your school chair and chant, “Oh Captain, my Captain.”) But Robin Williams died before his friends desired him to die. He died before his loved ones expected it. How little time do we truly have to spend with our loved ones.

Make the most of it, Christian. Tell them about Christ. Show them love. Be the hands and feet of Christ to those we love the most.

James 3:5b-6 – Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites.  And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.

Next, both Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church were removed from the Acts 29 network of churches for something that Pastor Mark wrote online many years earlier. In 2000, Pastor Mark attacked Christian men and used various vulgar terms to do so. He also went on to claim some very antagonistic statements against women, saying that his view was Biblical.

This has caused countless of his flock to protest Mars Hill with banners that say “Question Mark.”

Now I am not a perfect person. Especially in this digital age, it is very easy for something we said many years earlier to show up and destroy our character. If this was simply something that happened in 2000 and he learned from it, repented and forgot it, then this would be less of an issue. But that isn’t where the story ends. He continued to celebrate it in 2006 and then later plagiarized sections of his 2013 book A Call to Resurgence. Pastor Mark has had years of living a lie and no accountability.

I have read a lot of what Pastor Mark wrote in 2000. He speaks a lot of truth in his words. But he also speaks a lot of heresy in there. But one thing is for certain, what we say (whether through our mouths or through our hands in writing) will be with us for a very long time.

I pray for Pastor Mark. I have read a lot of his works and have even used a lot of his quotes over my years at seminary and even to this day. I pray that he gets the help needed to continue the ministry that God has set in front of him. In the meantime, Christians should be very open about how Christianity is not the invention of man, but of God. We follow God. Yes, there will be great men who come and go and provide us with great insight into the faith, but the final authority to every Christian is the Bible. That is what I stake my life on, not on what Pastor Mark said or didn’t say.

James 3:13-16 – Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.

Third is that the Gungors, who won Dove Awards for their worship hits “Beautiful Things” and “Dry Bones” came out as saying that they don’t take the Bible as literal and came out calling Christians who do “crazy.” While they did apologize for those who felt they were deceived by their belief, they did not apologize for the outburst afterward that attacked literal-minded Christians, myself as one.

Christianity is filled with people who believe slightly different things than other Christians. That is why there are so many denominations out there, some heretical, others completely acceptable. God gave us a brain and the ability to think. Because of that, many of us are going to come to conclusions about Biblical views. Certain things, such as when the rapture is going to happen, for example, are not tenets of the Christian faith that can be easily explained. But then there are those items that are very straightforward that ALL Christians should believe. These include the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture.

It is very dangerous when a person in authority is not held accountable to anyone. This is always the danger with musicians. Many musicians write their songs in a vacuum, without anyone to review it other than the producer who is hoping to make millions from the song. The same thing happens in movies or on TV or, unfortunately, in some churches. Everyone needs accountability. Without accountability, you will begin to stray your thoughts away from Biblical instruction and into your own views. My suggestion to everyone reading this is to find someone to hold you accountable. Your own personal accountability is what God will be looking at when you stand in front of Him on your final day.

James 3:17-18 – But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.

Finally, another popular Christian musician has come out with something against Scripture. Vicky Beeching came out as gay, claiming God loves her just the way she is. Now while there is some truth to that, there needs to be more clarification than a soundbite. Beeching wrote the worship song, “Glory to God Forever” told various newspapers in the UK about her views. She came out with the quote, “I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people.”

Vicky is not completely incorrect in her statement, but, as with all lies, they are usually masked in some truth.

God does love every person regardless sexual preference. But just because God loves you does not give you license to call a sin in the Bible acceptable. Homosexuality is clearly a sin. It is a sin against yourself and God.

If you are gay, I am not saying that you cannot be saved. My brother lived a gay man and died a gay man. I believe he had a stronger faith than many of the professed straight Christians out there. But my brother did one thing that many do not. He took his homosexuality captive to Christ.

You see, when we become a Christian, we choose to leave behind our old ways. If you were ever addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, work or whatever, you will know what I mean. You leave behind those addictions. But that does not mean the feelings will simply go away. You kick an addiction to alcohol, you give it up and never drink again. That is what my brother did with his homosexuality. He chose to give it up and never practice it again. He prayed incessantly for Christ to keep him pure.

That is what we need to do with every sin, whether it is large, like homosexuality or addiction, or small. Ask Christ to take your sins from you. Nail them to the cross. Take them captive to Christ. Give them completely up to Him.

James 3:11-12 – Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.

Tired of Listening to the Voices in my Head

James 4:6 – But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

C’mon, fess up. You do it too.

You have a big decision to make and you have that internal conversation with yourself to try and figure out if you are doing the right thing.

Can I get an AMEN?

C.S. Lewis has said, “Pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

He has also said, “It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men.”

Lately I have noticed a whole lot of different voices in my head.

There are the voices of the outside world. Those are the ones that are telling me that I need to be more successful, have a better house, eat better food, and drive a better car.

Next, there are the voices of the Christian world (to define this, these human beings who are just as fallible as myself who have the same voices going on in their heads). These voices are telling me that I need to get more accountability partners, do more Bible studies, get into more ministries, and expand my reach. It is also the same voice that tells me that I need to reach more people with my blog and write a book.

Third, there are the voices of our loved ones. Those are the ones that tell me I need to be a better parent, slow down so I can make more time for family, be more of a success (but not at the risk of family, of course), and to pay more attention to them.

Then there is the voice of God. This is the voice that says simply, “Give all of this to Me and let Me handle your burden.” This, of course, is the voice I listen to the least.

Finally, there is my own voice. This is the seemingly quiet voice that says things like, “You are an elder at church, you need to live up to a Christian standard” or “Why can’t I act more like Jesus?” or “I just don’t understand” or “When is it my turn to enjoy this life?” Of course this voice is completely and utterly selfish. It is the “me” voice.

Romans 8:14 – For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

With all of these voices in my head, and I assume many of them are in your head as well, it is no wonder that we as a society are sorely lacking in stability and love.

I have been trying to analyze these voices in my head more and I have come up with one surefire test to see if it is a voice we should be listening to.

The best way to determine if the voice in your head is one that you should listen to is to….give it the God test.

First, does what you are listening to bring glory to God? The voices in my head have a tendency of being “me” focused. “Why can’t I understand this?” “When is it MY turn to enjoy life?” There is nothing in there about God getting the glory.

One thing is painfully true when we attempt to live a life that is given to Christ, we will live a life that strives to put Christ first. If the voice in your head is giving you more “me” answers and less “God” answers then you are listening to the wrong voice.

Second, does the voice in your head line up to Scripture? If this voice in your head tells you to do something that goes against Scripture, then you are listening to an incorrect voice. Now, when I say “line up to Scripture,” I mean the whole story. If you are crushing on a woman who isn’t your wife, don’t just read about the part of the story in the Bible where David has the woman’s husband killed so he can fool around with her. Make sure you read THE WHOLE STORY in the Bible, not just the parts you want to read.

It is important that you use a systematic theological approach to this. In layman’s terms, systematic theology studies the Bible to synthesize and summarize what the Bible as a whole teaches about the topic we are looking into. Therefore, if the voice in your head is telling you to go have an affair and you look up the parts of the Bible where a saint screwed up and had an affair but you don’t put it together systematically with what all of the reactions of the saints are about affairs, then you are not lining the voice in your head up with Scripture properly. What does Jesus say about it? What about Paul?

So let’s recap. When the voices in your head are putting ideas in there, first see if those ideas and voices are bringing glory to God. Next, check systematically in Scripture to see if the voice in your head lines up the Christian worldview. If either of these are missing, then the voice in your head could simply be the voice of Satan, or worse yet, yourself without God.

John 10:27 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

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