Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Zechariah 2: God's glory will dwell with us -- so return to him!

Okay, Mollie, I'm going to follow suit and put up some lengthy post outlining the message of a biblical passage. My choice: Zechariah's third night vision (2.1-13). In 1.7-17 we see Zechariah receive a message from God that he is angry with the nations who took their punishment of his people too far. God is passionate for his people and will deal out retribution and restore his people and their city Jerusalem, blessing it with his presence. And to pave the way for such blessing, he calls his people to return to him (1.1-6).

Some commentators break this up into a vision (2.1-5) and a resulting oracle delivered by Zechariah (2.6-13). I beg to differ (along iwth Walter Kaiser and John Calvin): its entirety is in the vision, and the "me" of vv. 8, 9, and 11 is the "another angel" of v. 3, that is, the Angel of the LORD (1. 12), who throughout the OT is a manifestation of the preincarnate Son of God. Basically, vv. 1-5 and 10-13 are a continued message, with vv. 6-9 seriving as a parenthesis concerning the fate of Babylon, hearkening back to its promised ruin in 1.15, 18-21.

VERSES 1-5, 10-13
Zechariah sees a man carrying a surveyor's line, who is planning on measuring Jerusalem. When the Jews returned from exile beginning in 538 B.C. (this message was delivered to the people in 519 B.C.), the city was in shambles--the temple included. The people believed that this meant their complete rejection by God; even Jesus' disciples thought the temple's destruction would mean the end of the world (see Matt 24.1-3). The people despaired when they began rebuilding the temple and the city because of how small it was and because of the ever-present oppression of neighboring peoples (Ezra 3.12; 4.1-5; Hag 2.3). The anel sends a message to the man telling him to drop any thoughts about measuring the city. In other words, "Don't look at the city's present size, however small it may be right now. Don't look to the current visible situation, but to the glory to come!" "Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls [lit. like unwalled villages] because of the multitude of men and cattle within it." Why? Because God promises to be a "wall of fire around her" and her glory within.

In vv. 10-11 God declares that in the time of Jerusalem's restoration "many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst." From numerous other places in Scripture referring to the post-exilic restoration of Jerusalem, this influx of people isn't limited to the Jews coming back from being scattered to the four winds in the diaspora (v. 6), but also that persons from many peoples will join themselves to God and enter into covenant relationship with him (Isa 11.10-16; 49.19-20; 56.6-8). We see this fulfillment not in some distant "millenium," but right here and how in the building of the church. We can see that the "multitude" of v. 4 is reflected in John's heavenly vision of the church in Rev 7.9-10. And the parallel account of the restoration of Israel followed by the destruction of Babylon (Gog and Magog) in Ezekiel 38 (also Rev 19.17-21; 20.7-10) clearly portrays the church era. Why? We see in Ezekiel a great eschatological battle following the close of the "millenium" in which Gog (Babylon) battles the "land of unwalled villages" (38.11; see Zech 2.4). The battles described in Rev 19.17-21 and 20.7-10 are one and the same, both being records of the downfall of Babylon/Gog, the worldly and spiritual powers set up against the kingdom of Christ.*

Such ruin upon Babylon will come "after glory" (Zech 2.6), that is, after the time of glory promised in v. 5. So it will come after God gathers a multitude of people from among the nations to become his partners in the new covenant (cf. the gathering of the elect from the four winds, Matt 24.31).

The Jews thought too small; they looked to physical walls and boundaries. Were they not just as blind to the inclusion of the Gentiles as well, believing that there are barriers of ethnicity preventing their inclusion? This is exactly what God is calling them to reject here. City walls were not only for defining boundaries; their chief goal was protection from enemies. We need to see things from a God-sized perspective in which the "GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies" (Msg.) is in control of things and is working to bring about his glory among the nations of the world. He cannot and will not be thwarted by anyone in bringing people to himself and slaying all physical and spiritual powers set up against his kingdom--a verdict already cast and accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet without the eyes of faith, all we can see is opposition. But God promises us much more: he is creating an expansive people no longer defined by earthly walls and borders, in need of the protection of the weapons of man ("Jerusalem will be a city without walls"). On the contrary, his people are now marked by the fire of his purifying and protecting presence, namely, that of his Holy Spirit ("I will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst"; cf Isa 4.2-6; Acts 2.3).

Let us dream big and trust in the LORD of hosts in bringing even the most unexpected people to himself. He makes no limits to whom he can and will include, and his promised protection of an impenetrable wall of fire is with us.

God here calls his people to flee Bablyon because of (1) the promise of blessing upon Judah (1.16-17; 2.4-5, 10-13) and (2) the coming judgment of Babylon. The God who is "exceedingly jealous" for his people is aroused from his holy dwelling, irate against those who have sought to harm the "apple of His eye." Babylon's destruction never did totally occur yet: Cyrus king of Persia overthrew it in 539 B.C., and Darius of Persia later chastized it severely for its rebellions (521), but destruction was hardly the right word -- at least nothing like what happened to Jerusalem. The reality is that the true judgment of Babylon is yet to come by the sword of Christ the Victor (Rev 19.17-21). So God calls to his people: "Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon."

We see this same call echoed in Rev 18.4-8, where we see Babylon as representative of sin and rebellion against God. In the 6th century B.C., life in Babylon and Persia was more prosperous than in the province of Yehud and the frail city of Jerusalem. Not only that, but a long, tiring journey was required to make the trip back home. We, too, are called to leave our patterns of sin and return to the dwelling and presence of God, our hearts' true home. This often comes with a loud wake-up call of "Ho there!" (Zech 2.6; Isa 55.1) or "Awake, O sleeper!" (Eph 5.14). The promise stands for us to enter into relationship to God through faith and repentance: "Return to me, and I will return to you" (Zech 1.3).

- - -

*This, therefore, reveals that the "thousand years" of Rev 20.1-6 are actually the present age inaugurated by the life of Jesus and culminated by his second advent. This stance is known as "amillenialism" or "realized millenialism."

1 comment:

halfmom said...

I wish I knew how to get rid of the spam for you. It's no so bad on your xanga.

Thanks for the paragraphs - it makes reading much easier. I continue to enjoy reading what you are writing - and am praying for plenty of fresh water - both physically and spiritually.