Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Symbols of things to come … "

Day #321:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 14th

Scripture Reading:  Zechariah 1 - 7 …

Like many of the prophecies of the Old Testament, Zechariah's visions contain predictions that would take place in the near future, mixed with those that have not yet taken place, that will be fulfilled in the events surrounding the return of Jesus Christ, the "King" of whom Zechariah and other prophets speak. God exists beyond time and enters into time to reveal Himself to mankind.  Rather than throwing up our hands and declaring that we can't understand, we need to ask God for wisdom to interpret and apply His Word through Zechariah to our own lives and to our own time, insofar as they speak to us as the people of God today.  Losing sight of God's control over history may lead to despair or to a sense that WE hold the future in OUR hands.  Like Zechariah and those who believed in the one true God in his day, we are instruments in God's hands, called to declare that "our God reigns!"

And who IS this God?  Zechariah declares that He is "the LORD Almighty" and speaks of things that even he did not fully understand at that time.  The words of Chapter 3, verse 8 are important as we listen to God speak to and through Zechariah:  "Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come …"  What God was doing in the lives of those who had returned from exile in Babylon was symbolic of what He would do in the future when He promised to bring His people back to the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  We live in that time today!

In his visions, God gives Zechariah a glimpse into the spiritual realm, where His horsemen (angels) go about all the earth and bring back reports to the One who sent them.  Zechariah was sent to encourage the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem and arrives on the scene shortly after Haggai.  The angel said, "This is what the LORD Almighty says:  'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure'" (1:14-15).  God sees what is going on in the world, and He says, "I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt" (1:16) … "… and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem"(1:17).

Some interpret this to refer only to the next few decades that followed, but there is more here that points all the way to the very end of the age.   In Chapter 2, Jerusalem is measured and God says, "whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye" (2:8).  "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion.  For I am coming, and I will live among you" (2:10).  "The LORD will inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem" (2:12).  This undoubtedly had a measure of fulfillment as God brought the people back to Jerusalem and Judah and they were in the process of rebuilding the temple (the sign of God's presence among them).  But there will also be a future time when all the nations of the earth will see God's glory through these people.  He has said it and it must be so!

The beauty of Chapter 3 is in the picture of forgiveness and cleansing that is given to Joshua the high priest.  Satan stands there to accuse him and the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan!  The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!" (3:2).  I love that!  Joshua stands there dressed in filthy clothes, but the angel is told to take off his filthy clothes and then he says to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you!" (3:4).  Many people fail to grasp that God not only removes our sins from us, but also clothes us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus!!  The writer of Hebrews declares that "by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:14).  And Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:21:  "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!"

Yes, these men were symbolic of things to come.  In fact, God says, "I will remove the sin of this land in a single day" (3:9).  This points us to Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, and also to another event and another time described later in Chapter 13, verse 1.  We'll talk more about that when we get there.  Meanwhile, God continues to give Zechariah visions of things to come.  There are the "two olive trees" in Chapter 4 … "These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth" (4:14).  Could these be the "two witnesses" of Revelation 11?

Then there is the "flying scroll" and the "woman in a basket" of Chapter 5.  Again symbolic of the near future and the distant future, God reveals that His covenant remains in tact with His people and that His curse remains on those who swear falsely and who take His name in vain.  Wickedness will be banished from the land and exiled to "Babylon," literally and figuratively.  It is important to note that the climax of wickedness in Revelation 18 is called "Babylon," again perhaps literally and figuratively. God has promised to destroy wickedness and evil from the face of the earth and to banish it from His kingdom forever.  That is a great comfort to us as we struggle with evil in our world today and many people ask why God doesn't do something.

In his Revelation, the Apostle John writes of the New Jerusalem, "The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Revelation 21:27).   All of God's promises will come to pass, for Jerusalem and for those who are God's people through faith in Jesus Christ.  Sin, evil and wickedness hang like dark clouds over the whole earth as creation groans and we cry out.  But God hears our cries and will act, even as He did when He brought the captives back to Jerusalem in the days of Zechariah.  He has promised and He never fails to do what He has promised to do.

The vision of Chapter 6, with the four chariots and four horses, represents "the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world," as they go out on behalf of the Lord to accomplish His purposes.  As God said to Zerubbabel in Chapter 4, verse 6:  "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:  'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty!"  How we need to remember that truth today.  The nations of the world and often the people around us cause us pain and heartbreak, and we struggle to overcome the temptations to doubt, to fear, to be overwhelmed.  Then we try to use our own strength and power, forgetting or not knowing that God is ready to fight for us, to give us His supernatural strength.  Like those in Revelation 12:11, we will overcome "by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!"

Joshua received a crown (6:11), but God points Zechariah and the people of Israel to "the Branch," who will "build the temple of the LORD" (6:12).  This "Branch" "will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on His throne.  And He will be a priest on His throne" (6:13).  It's not Joshua who will bring redemption, but One who will come later.  God had already spoken of the "Branch" in Chapter 3, verse 8, where He said, "I am going to bring My servant, the Branch."  Who is this One whom God is going to bring, who will be both King and Priest?  Isaiah writes of this same person when he writes, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him ..." (Isaiah 11:1-2).

The Hebrew word for "branch" is "nazar," from which we get the words "Nazarene," and "Nazareth."  The "Branch" is none other than JESUS, the descendent of David (from the stump of Jesse).  He is King and He is Priest and He will reign over all the earth.  In Chapter 7, God questions the fasts of the people and calls them to soften their hearts and listen to God's Word.  Then they will experience His blessing.  "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion ..." (7:9).  God promises to bless those who come to Him and Jesus says, "Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  But who will come?  Again Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44).

Has the Father drawn you?  Have you heard His voice?  Have you been born again by His Spirit and responded in faith and obedience?  For those who answer the call, there is a "crown of righteousness," which the Lord Himself will award to those who long of His appearing (II Timothy 4:8).  Our sin has been atoned for and we are now "dressed" in the righteousness of Christ and have access to God's presence.  Jesus is building the spiritual temple of God, His Church, and we who believe are "living stones!"  Praise God for these "symbols of things to come" which, today, are becoming a reality right in front of our eyes.  Truly, our God reigns in majesty!

"O LORD God Almighty, to You I come through Jesus, my King, my High Priest.  While the pattern of sin and rebellion is all around me, You have revealed that history is unfolding towards the reign of Jesus Christ over all things and by Your grace, I am part of His kingdom right now!  Use me, Father, to point others to the future You have promised.  Help me to understand the symbols of truth which point to what yet lies ahead, and to place my hope not in how things "might" turn out, but in how You say they WILL turn out ... for Your glory and my good.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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