Thursday, November 20, 2014

"God's future plans for Jerusalem and the rest of the world … "

Day #328:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 21st

Scripture Reading:  Zechariah 8 - 14 …

We live in this world and make our plans for tomorrow, next week, next month or even further into the future, often missing the "big picture."  When that happens, we become vulnerable to disappointment and frustration and discouragement because OUR plans are always subject to change … GOD's aren't! That is clear throughout these chapters of Zechariah.  It is important to remember that God sends Haggai and Zechariah to the remnant from Judah who had returned from their captivity in Babylon and who were engaged in rebuilding the temple.  It appeared that they were in danger of being overcome by their enemies once again, but God uses Zechariah to point them to a future that HE would bring about Himself.

We who live today have already seen the fulfillment of some of these things and the rest lies ahead.  God declares to Zechariah and to the remnant, "I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her" (8:2).  God had brought back this remnant to the very place His temple had been and was now providing everything they needed to rebuild it.  Some of what God says applies to THAT day, while other things point to the future.  God says, "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem.  Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain" (8:3).  He promises to save His people "from the countries of the east and the west.  I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God" (8:7).  This is the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham to be God to him and to his descendants.

Verses 9-19 of Chapter 8 appear to speak to the remnant in Zechariah's day.  God says, "I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah.  Do not be afraid!" (8:15).  God helped them rebuild the temple by moving foreign kings to provide all they needed and by protecting them from their enemies.  The last part of Chapter 8, however, appears to speak to a more distant future:  "Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat Him. … In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you" (8:22-23).  These are more than words prompted by an active imagination!  They are the living words of the God who keeps His promises and brings things that are not into being!!

Remember that the beauty of prophecy is that it often includes words for the present, the immediate future, the more distant future and the very end of human history.  All of this is part of the one plan of God for all time, for God is beyond time.  So Chapter 9 reveals God's plans to bring judgment on the enemies of His people, and He speaks specifically of Ashkelon, Gaza and Ashdod, the cities of the Philistines (Palestine).  "I will cut off the pride of the Philistines" (9:6).  And He concludes, "never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch" (9:8).  This must speak of the future, for the temple built in Zechariah's day was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans.

Zechariah is then given a glimpse into the not-so-distant future of several hundred years from his day:  "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (9:9).  But then he points to the end:  "He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth" (9:10).  Some mistakenly believe this refers to Christ's spiritual reign from heaven, but the rest of Zechariah indicates that there will be a literal fulfillment that includes both the spiritual AND the physical realm, for in Christ they will become one.

In Chapters 10-11, God speaks of His people as a flock in need of a Shepherd:  "The people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd" (10:2).  Matthew records that when Jesus looked out over the people who were gathered to hear His teaching He saw them as troubled and oppressed, "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).  Yet God promises, "I will strengthen the house of Judah and save the house of Joseph.  I will restore them because I have compassion on them" (10:6).  In 10:8-10 God promises to bring them back from distant lands "and there will not be room enough for them" (10:8).  We have witnessed the fulfillment of this promise in OUR day!  "Assyria's pride will be brought down and Egypt's scepter will pass away" (10:11).  God arranges the nations of the Middle East and the whole earth to accomplish His purposes and plans.

The picture of the "two shepherds" in Chapter 11 continues the theme of God's people as His flock.  While difficult to interpret, Zechariah speaks of a "flock marked for slaughter" and the attempts of the prophets, the priests and the kings ("the three shepherds" - verse 8 … ??) to shepherd God's flock.  Jesus came to be the "Good Shepherd," (John 10), and He was rejected (the thirty pieces of silver were the price paid to Judas to betray Jesus).  A worthless shepherd would arise who would desert the flock (perhaps the "False Prophet" in the days of the Antichrist).

However you interpret Chapter 11, God is showing His people that they need a Good Shepherd and there is only One who qualifies:  "I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep" (John 10:11).  Jesus promises that His sheep will hear His voice and not one of them will be lost, for the Father has given them to Him and no one or thing is more powerful than He is! (John 10:27-30).  No one can snatch them out of His hand.  Just as God makes that promise to those who believe in Jesus today, God has made that promise specifically to a remnant from Israel and Judah.  If He does not keep His promise to them, how can we have any assurance that He will keep His promise to us?  It is through the One Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, that all of God's promises are sealed!!

Finally, Zechariah speaks of God's future dealings with Jerusalem and Judah.  I often point those who claim that the Church has replaced Israel as the people of God to these chapters and ask them to explain them.  They have not happened yet, so either they must be ignored, explained away as not saying what they clearly say, or understood as pointing to God's future dealings with these people, in fulfillment of all He has promised throughout the prophets of Israel and Judah.  Let me point out the difficulty, and yet the importance of understanding Biblical prophecy …  Chapter 12:1-3 states that God is going to "make Jerusalem a cup that sends all of the surrounding peoples reeling.  Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem.  On THAT day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her.  I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations.  All who try to move it will injure themselves."

God says that He will save the dwellings of Judah and "will shield those who live in Jerusalem. … On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem" (12:7-9).  But this will not happen without extreme difficulty.  In chapter 14, God says, "I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped.  Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city" (14:2).  So which is it?  Will God protect Judah and Jerusalem or will they face this horrible time of suffering and trials?  The answer to that is, "YES!"  Both of these things are true!

Jeremiah writes of a future time of trials for Israel and Judah when God declares, "The days are coming when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess" (Jeremiah 30:3).  It is significant that He mentions Judah AND Israel.  He goes on, "How awful that day will be!  None will be like it.  It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, BUT he will be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7).  Some have called this "the time of Jacob's trouble."  Without question, the nations will be gathered against Jerusalem (Revelation 16:16), but they will not win!  While there are some in Israel who have believed in Jesus as the Messiah, there will come a time in the future when the whole remnant of Israel and Judah will put their faith in Him.

"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  They will look on Me, the One they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child" (12:10).  There is only ONE whom Zechariah can be speaking about, and His Name is Jesus!  "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity" (13:1).  God will save the remnant of His people (Romans 11:11-12, 26-29).  It is vitally important to take God's Word literally unless there are clear indications that God is using symbolism to paint a picture of a different reality.  Knowing that God will keep His promises to the remnant of Israel and Judah confirms the faithfulness of the God who has promised to save you and me from His coming judgment.

Zechariah's visions conclude with the coming of God's reign on the earth during the Millennium.  There is no other period of time that these verses can possibly point to.  Once again, since this is part of God's revealed Word, we do ourselves harm if we simply ignore them or try to explain them away!  They are rich in truth for those who know God!  When the time of trouble comes for Jerusalem, "the LORD will go out and fight against those nations … On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem" (14:3-4).  While Jerusalem and her inhabitants faced a horrible destruction in 70 A.D., the rest of this prophecy was not fulfilled.  It must lie at some point in the future.

There will be a time of judgment on the enemies of Israel when "the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with Him" (14:5; Revelation 19:11-19).  And the outcome has already been determined:  "The LORD will be King over the whole earth.  On that day there will be ONE LORD, and HIS Name the ONLY Name!" (14:9).  "Jerusalem will be raised up and remain in its place …  It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed.  Jerusalem will be secure" (14:10-11).  "Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles" (14:16).  If this is not during the Millennium, when is it?  God's Word is true, no matter what men may say!

All of these things are a great encouragement to those who know the One true God who has revealed Himself in His Word and in His Son Jesus Christ!  Our plans do not always come to pass, but GOD's DO!!  Once you see your life in Christ as being part of God's plan for the world, life has meaning and you understand that you are a special creation of God, chosen to bring Him glory, to declare His Name to the world around you - TODAY!  We are here for a time and this is our time in God's plans.  We know the Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for His sheep.  We have heard His voice and He has drawn us to the Father by His Spirit.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

There will be a future time when all these things come to pass.  Until then, God calls you and me to be faithful to Him, to trust Him always and to proclaim His truth and what is to come to all who will be given "ears to hear."  As the writer of Hebrews says, God will "shake not only the earth but also the heavens" (Hebrews 12:26; Haggai 2:6).  But there is one thing that cannot be shaken:  the kingdom of God.  "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God IS a consuming fire!" (Hebrews 12:28-29).  AMEN!

"LORD God Almighty, as heaven and earth are full of Your glory, so Your plans for the future point to the future glory of Your kingdom.  As one of Your sheep, who has heard the voice of My Good Shepherd, I rejoice in Your promises and give thanks for Your faithfulness.  You alone can bring to pass all that You have foretold and in the midst of all that is happening in my life and in the world around me, I praise You for the sure and certain hope that You give through faith in Jesus.  Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

No comments:

Post a Comment