Prophet of Hope – Zechariah

Zechariah (fresco by Michelangelo)

Zechariah (fresco by Michelangelo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Book of Zechariah begins in the first verse with the word of the Lord coming to this prophet in the eighth month of the second year of Darius’s reign. This is October/November of 520 B.C., and places it between Haggai 2:1 and 2:10. Zechariah was a priest. The text tells us that he was the grandson of Iddo, who was one of the Levitical priests that came back from Babylon with Zerubbabel, the grandson of king Jehoiachin (Nehemiah 12:1-4). 

Zechariah is sometimes referred to as the prophet of hope. The people had been back from captivity for twenty years. Taxes were high, especially in light of Darius’s preparations for his campaign against Egypt. Jerusalem was far from restored – in fact, the people felt like they were nothing on the world’s “stage.” The temple foundation had been started shortly after their return, but the effort had stalled due to opposition. Discouragement ruled the day, and the only thing to do seemed to be to just try to get by in the best ways that one could.

Zechariah's vision of the four horsemen (Zecha...

Zechariah’s vision of the four horsemen (Zechariah 6:1-8), engraving by Gustave Doré. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is where Zechariah comes in, letting the people know that despite adversity from hostile enemies, they must remain faithful because God is in control. He was in control of everything before, during, and after captivity. He is in control of what is happening now, and He is in control of what will come to pass. The book is full of apocalyptic visions and oracles that read much like the apocalyptic literature that would come to be so popular, and filled with language and symbolism that would be very meaningful to the people of the times.

The first six chapters are a series of eight night visions that we could spend several pages discussing. They are a combination of reassurances of God’s favor for His people and of Messianic promise – restoring the covenant and the house of David. Chapter 7 takes up two years after these night visions, dealing with all of the fasting that the people are doing. The Lord has not commanded them to do so much fasting. What He wants from the people is for them to return to faithfulness and live by His commandments.

Concluding with chapters 9-14, various future events are addressed – at the forefront are God’s coming judgment on the nations that oppressed them and much emphasis on the coming Messiah. There is much encouragement in these chapters, but also warning – God has had more than enough of idolatry and wicked leadership! The future looks good indeed, but it depends on their faithfulness.

/Bob’s boy
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

 

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Restoring God’s House – Haggai

The biblical prophet Haggai. Woodcut from the ...

The biblical prophet Haggai. Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On most of the occasions in scripture that we read of a prophet who had been preaching to God’s people about a particular subject, that prophet finds little good to come from the recipients of that preaching. A notable exception was Nineveh’s repentance when Jonah gave them God’s warning – but Jonah wasn’t exactly thrilled about that response, was he? Haggai and Zechariah are two exceptions that stand alone – at least as far as the rebuilding of the temple is concerned.

Haggai begins with reference to “the second year of Darius,” and that historically sets this book in the year 520 B.C. Chapter 1:1 gives us “the first day of the 6th month,” which makes the starting date of this book August 29, 520 B.C. It just doesn’t get any better than that with biblical dating. In fact, we get 5 such exact accounts of dates from Haggai. Just 24 days after Haggai’s first message, the people start work on the temple on September 21, 520 B.C. (Haggai 1:15 – the 24th day of the sixth month). Haggai 2:1 occurs in “the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month,” which is October 17, 520 B.C. Haggai 2:10 and 2:20 both happened on “the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month,” which is December18, 520.

Per the decree of Cyrus, the people began returning from captivity in 538 B.C. They started working on the temple in 537, but that ceased in 536 due to opposition (see Ezra 3:1-4:5). The work had been left unfinished for 18 years when the Book of Haggai begins. The reign of Cyrus the Great ended about 530 B.C. When his son Cambyses died in 522, a general, Darius I, rose to power in his place.

Haggai and Zechariah were present at the rebuilding of the Temple of God during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, after the return from exile. The Medo-Persian Empire included the lands of Media and Persia, much of the area shown on this map and more. The Jewish exiles were concentrated in the area around Nippur in the Babylonian province. The decree by King Cyrus that allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple was discovered in the palace at Ecbatana.

Haggai and Zechariah were present at the rebuilding of the Temple of God during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, after the return from exile.
The Medo-Persian Empire included the lands of Media and Persia, much of the area shown on this map and more. The Jewish exiles were concentrated in the area around Nippur in the Babylonian province. The decree by King Cyrus that allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple was discovered in the palace at Ecbatana.

Haggai picks up in verse one of the first chapter where Ezra 5:1 makes mention of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, as it was after Haggai’s message that the temple construction was re-started. Then came Tattenai’s letter to Darius to try and stop the rebuilding. But the elders did not stop while they were waiting for the letter to reach him (Ezra 5:3-17). It was Darius’s decree (Ezra 6) that ensured the temple would be completed.

It was God’s will, of course, that ensured Darius would make such a decree. God called Haggai to move the people to action because they were stalled in completing the work of rebuilding the temple. Some form of “thus says the Lord” occurs 19 times in 38 verses, and the words”Lord of hosts” occurs 14 times, illustrating God’s sovereignty. Haggai’s message has them examine their situations and their lack of prosperity (Haggai 1:5-7, 2:15-19) in light of the work they had left unfinished. In chapter 2, the Lord (through Haggai) spoke to Zarubbabel, (who was in the line of David as the grandson of Jehoiachin) and Joshua, the High Priest.

The Lord intended to re-establish His people in their land, along with the house of David (Haggai 2:23). He had promised to bless the world through them (Haggai 2:9). There was a coming Messiah to prepare for. It was time to go to work!

/Bob’s boy
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

 

Psalm 89:27-52 – Will You Hide Yourself Forever?

In this second half of Psalm 89, it quickly becomes apparent that it must indeed have been written after the exile and the capture and deportation of king Jehoiachin. Where we pick up verse 27, the psalmist is still writing a rather long section that is quoting God – His promise and covenant with David (2 Samuel 7), as well as His warning to Solomon of what will happen if David’s heirs stray from Him (1 Kings 9).

The Anointing of Solomon by Cornelis de Vos. A...

The Anointing of Solomon by Cornelis de Vos. According to 1 Kings 1:39, Solomon was anointed by Zadok. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The psalmist is “reminding” the Lord of His promises, yet he acknowledges that the heirs to David’s throne did exactly what the Lord warned against. Still, he seems to be faltering in his confidence that God is going to keep His covenant with David alive now.  Verses 38-45 in particular accentuate that sentiment, and verse 39 specifically says so, saying “You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust.” The latter part of that verse obviously refers to Jehoiachin’s fate.

Verse 46 is where the psalmist specifically acknowledges that the things that have happened are a result of God’s wrath against His unfaithful people: “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?” Verses 50-51 do indeed suggest a time before the Lord dealt with the Edomites and the others who betrayed Israel, as it speaks of all of the nations that now mock them.

In verse 49, the psalmist questions the Lord earnestly about when the end of His anger will come: “Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” He ends his prayer with “Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.