Sunday, July 25, 2010

Malachi 4

"The Sun of Righteousness shall arise" (vs. 1-6)--The last chapter of the Old Testament points 400 years ahead--"the day is coming." It will be a day of judgment--or at least the beginning of such--for "all who do wickedly." Jesus brought God's final law to mankind, the Word which will judge us all (John 12:48). Those who reject it will suffer the consequences. "But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings" (v. 2), one of the loveliest verses in the Old Testament. They will grow fat on the blessings of God (v. 2), and trample the wicked. God's vindication (which is basically what the Day of Judgment will be) will also be the vindication of His saints. In verse 4, Malachi speaks to his fellow Jews. Until the Messiah comes, "remember the Law of Moses"--be obedient to those precepts which Jehovah gave you. And then, be on the lookout: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet" (v. 5), another reference to John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14). Some Jews were looking for the literal return of Elijah, and some thought Jesus might be him (Matt. 16:14). But Jesus' statement is unambiguous. John's coming (mentioned at least three times in the Old Testament, Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1, and here in Malachi 4:5) was a sign, an indicator that the Messiah was soon to follow. One last time, before the Old Testament revelation closes and 400 years of heavenly silence descended upon mankind, the Lord God points to the coming of the Messiah. When you see "Elijah," then know that "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" is coming. A great day for those who were looking for it, a dreadful day for those who weren't. John will turn (convert) men--all men, fathers and children--or, for those who will not turn to the Lord, there will be a curse upon the land--punishment for rejection. One last time, blessings for obedience, damning for disobedience.

The great prophets have finished their work. There will be no more message from God for 400 years. But He has said enough. Sufficient information has been proffered to point man to the coming Savior. The Old Testament closes with the same theme with which it opened, at least since Genesis 3 and the fall of man: Christ, the Savior, is coming. All through the law, psalms, and prophets God tells whom to look for--here's who will precede Him, here's when He will be born, here's where He will be born, here's His character, His work, His life, His death, His resurrection--and countless other prophesies, the life of the Messiah, in effect, written hundreds of years before He ever arrived. What else could God have done, short of taking away man's free will and forcing him to believe? No, if we miss the Messiah--and the Jews certainly did--it will be in spite of everything God had said and done. The Old Testament closes open-ended, in other words, with a full indication that something is yet to be. And 400 years later, God speaks again, through His Word, Jesus Christ. There will be none other after Him.

I have not even begun, of course, to exhaust the messages found in these erroneously-called "minor" prophets; indeed, at best, I've only touched the tip of the iceberg.  There is wisdom in these books that we will not discover until eternity, and hopefully, over the months and years, as my studies procede, I will reconsider, revise, revamp, and rewrite some of the things I have written in these posts.  Until then, I only pray that the Lord has been pleased with my efforts, that I have never strayed too far from the truth, and that the readers, now and in the future, will be blessed by my comments.  Readers will be far more blessed, however, by meditating directly on the words of the Holy Spirit through these great men, men "of whom the world was not worthy."  To God, His Son, and His Spirit be all the glory.

Malachi 3

"Behold, He is coming" (vs. 1-5)--The last two chapters of the Old Testament both speak of the coming Messiah. Verse 1 tells us of the "messenger" who "will prepare the way before Me." Jesus tells us plainly in Matthew 11:10 that this is John the Baptist. About 300 years before Malachi, Isaiah had spoken of the work of John in leading the way to Jesus (Isaiah 40:3). So the way to the Messiah is clearly marked. It isn't God's fault if people missed it.

The Christ is "the Messenger of the covenant" (v. 1). This "covenant" could refer either to the one in Genesis 3:15 where God promised all of mankind a Redeemer, or it could be the covenant with the Jews, which had the same purpose--to bring the Savior into the world. Either way, "Behold, He is coming." Yet, He is so righteous and holy that we have no right to stand in His presence. "Who can endure the day of His coming?" (v. 2). Only those who accept Him by faith. He will cleanse and purify His people. Notice that Malachi writes of the "sons of Levi" (v. 3) and "Judah and Jerusalem" in verse 4 within a context that is definitely referring to Jesus. This helps us understand the spiritual nature of prophecy; these references are not literal. All Christians are priests (I Peter 2:9--"sons of Levi"), and Judah and Jerusalem represent the people of God in the new dispensation. God will accept our worship (v. 4), and come in judgment against all kinds of wicked people "because they do not fear Me" (v. 5). The glorious coming of Messiah brings blessings to the righteous and cursings upon the disobedient.

"Will a man rob God?" (vs. 6-12)--God's nature does not change, nor does His purpose for mankind. Even since the fall of man, God planned to bring a Savior into the world and that intention never wavered. And even though the Jews were certainly deserving of obliteration, "you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob" (v. 6), because God had a higher purpose, i.e., to use those people to bring the Savior into the world. Thus, despite the fact that "from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them" (v. 7), God spared them, and offered to "return" to them if they would "return to Me" (v. 7). However, they didn't know the way: "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'" (v. 7). Well, one way was to quit robbing God. "But how have we done this?" they asked. "In tithes and offerings," the Lord responded (v. 8). They had been cheating Him of what was rightfully His, and the "whole nation" was "cursed with a curse" (v. 9). Verse 10 beautifully announces the way to "return": "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." God can shower us with such blessings, so many that we won't know what to do with them all. If Judah would only do as He asked, their sustenance would not be stolen nor would it fail (v. 11), and all the nations around them would call them blessed because of their abundance (v. 12). All of this, though, conditioned upon obedience and submission.

"It is useless to serve God" (vs. 13-18)--People who close their eyes cannot see the blessings God pours out upon us, and thus argue that serving God has no value. If we look only at this world, then the probability is that we will, indeed, see and understand very little of God and His righteous purposes. The Jews of Malachi's day had fallen into that mindset. They said, "It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance?" (v. 14). Well, they hadn't kept His ordinance so they had never really put themselves into a position where He could favor them as He had promised. Yet, verse 15 tells of their worldly view: "So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free." As we look at this world, who is it whom man exalts? The rich, the powerful--the "proud" are "blessed," the wicked are "raised up"; they seem to get away with all sorts of sins--they tempt God and aren't punished for it. Yes, that is the way things seem to be. But God's people stay together. Verse 16 is beautiful: "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name" (KJV). The eyes of the truly wise are on the Lord, and they are in His "book of remembrance." That's where we want to be when this brief life is over. His people belong to Him, will have great spiritual riches ("jewels," v. 17), will be spared His judgment, (v. 17), and know what is right and wrong, who serves God and who doesn't (v. 18). The wicked know their own, as do the righteous.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Malachi 2

A message to the priests (vs. 1-9)--This is an old story in the Old Testament, and it will be a major theme in Jesus' day: the failure of the religious leaders to provide proper direction for God's people. Now again, in the last book of the Old Testament, "O priests, this commandment is for you" (v. 1). The Lord would send a curse upon them "If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart" (v. 2). Verse 3 is pretty plain and graphic: Jehovah "will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts." That describes fairly clearly what the Lord thought of their religious service. The Lord had made a covenant with the tribe of Levi; they were the priestly tribe. The high praise given to that tribe in verses 5 and 6 might have reference to the fact that only the Levites stood with Moses on the matter of the golden calf (Exodus 32). For the most part, as noted at the beginning of the paragraph, the priests of the old law came in for their share of censure down through the centuries. But they did have a special calling from the Lord and a high responsibility: "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts" (v. 7). But, "you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi" (v. 8). Therefore, they were contemptible to the people. When the "godly" act in ungodly ways, even an unrighteous people are repulsed. Especially when "partiality in the law" is shown (v. 9).

The covenant profaned (vs. 10-12)--All of this had led to a profaning of the covenant (vs. 10-11). Interestingly, verse 10 refers to God as the Jews' "Father," a concept that is found very infrequently in the Old Testament, but dominates the relationship between God and His people in the New. Part of that might be the Roman concept of paterfamilias where the father of the family had total control over all in that family, was to be revered and reverenced unfailingly, yet was to always have a tender love and concern for those under his care. The people in Christ's day would understand such a concept; the Jews didn't have the same sort of relationship with their earthly fathers, or at least didn't view them in the same mold. In verse 11 of Malachi 2, the prophet refers to the people marrying "the daughter of a foreign god." Ezra complained about that at least a generation earlier (Ezra 9 and 10), and the people of his day apparently made some reformation of the condition. But it evidently didn't last. The Lord would "cut off" any man "from the tents of Jacob" who did this, especially if he had the unmitigated gall to bring "an offering to the Lord of hosts" (v. 12).
Hypocrisy (vs. 13-17)--While the theme of marriage continues through the rest of the chapter ("For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce," v. 16), the major idea of this section of Malachi is rampant hypocrisy. “You cover the altar of the LORD with tears” (v. 13). “Crocodile tears” we call them. The prophet, since the subject of marriage had already come up, uses that again as an example of their hypocrisy. They showed such "contrition" in their offerings to God, but "the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant" (v. 14). Practicing religious ceremonies is utterly vain unless accompanied by a righteous life; that theme also saturates the message of the prophets, as we have seen time and again in this study. And part of that righteous life means at home. Women were especially vulnerable in ancient times, for there was no government welfare system. If they lost their husband, then they could be in dire straits, which is why we read frequently about God's anger over the mistreatment of widows. Her son(s) and family could possible take care of her, but that wasn't always possible, either. So this hatred of divorce by God comes from at least three sources: "Did He not make them one..." (v. 15), and from the beginning, God intended for there to be one man/one woman. He tolerated other arrangements in pre-Christian age, but Jesus tells us that such was not what God planned, and now we must return to the original purpose (Matt. 19:1-9). A second reason God hates divorce (at least as this context mentions) is "He seeks godly offspring" (v. 15). Marrying heathen women as the Jews were doing would very often produce an unfaithful seed. Read what happened when such took place in Genesis 6. The third reason was the one I mentioned earlier--the predicament a divorced woman could find herself in without a husband to provide for her. Women weren't nearly as independent in the ancient world as they are today; and, not surprisingly, divorce was far less common. The hypocrisy of Malachi's day was summed up in verse 17 where the people had "wearied" the Lord by saying "'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them,' or, 'Where is the God of justice?'" If we can convince ourselves that evil is good, or that God's silence at our sins means He doesn't care or won't punish, then our rationalization for blatant hypocrisy is complete.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Malachi--Introduction and Chapter One

Introduction to Malachi--As with many of these "minor" prophets, we know nothing of this man beyond what is in his book. And that really tells us nothing, not even who his father was. Some think he might have been a contemporary of Nehemiah, and that's possible if Malachi was born early enough and Nehemiah lived long enough. Regardless, this book is no doubt the last written in the Old Testament, probably between 420 and 400 B. C. It closes with a promise of a better day, and that's something we will look at when we get to chapter 4. All of these prophets we've studied so far wrote books that were shorter than Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, but there was nothing "minor" about their work.

Chapter One

Jacob exalted over Esau (vs. 1-5)--Malachi had a unique way of writing, sort of a "call and answer" approach. After simply stating in verse 1 that the word of the Lord came to him, the prophet has Jehovah saying, "I have loved you," but the people responding "In what way have You loved us?" (v. 2). This is obviously a literary device, and one which Malachi uses frequently in the prophecy. It is shocking for Israel to ask God how He had loved them, but that was the general disposition of the people of Malachi's day. The Lord responded with a simple example: He chose (the younger) Jacob over (the older) Esau, and sorely punished the descendants of the latter (Jacob's offspring were every bit as worthy of punishment but had been spared the fate of their cousins). The "Jacob I have loved, but Esay I have hated" (vs. 2-3) must be understood in a comparative sense. God doesn't hate anyone; He simply chose Israel for His purposes. The Edomites thought they would be able to rebound (v. 4), but whatever they built, "I will thrown down" (v. 4). Israel would then know that they should magnify Jehovah (v. 5). The point of this section is to remind Israel of all that God had done for them--and no one else, not even their nearest kinsmen. How could they say that He didn't love them? It gets worse, if possible.

"In what way have we despised Your name?" (vs. 6-14)--God is due every bit of respect that man can give him--the respect a son owes his father and a master his servant. Well, God is worthy of more than that, but it was a suitable comparison at the moment (v. 6). Yet, "where is My reverence?" (v. 6). I wonder if the Lord isn't asking that same question of many of His people today. He spoke those words directly "to you priests who despise My name." Yet, they asked, "In what way have we despised Your name?" They weren't aware of having done so. But the Lord responded that when they offered inferior, unfit sacrifices to Him, such was "despising" His name. A point worth considering. If our worship today is not what it ought to be, then does the Lord consider us as "despising" His name?

The problem with Israel here was simple apathy in religious service. They didn't go back into idol worship; they had learned that lesson from Babylonian captivity. But now, by Malachi's day, they cared so little for their religion, that they were offering "the blind as a sacrifice...the lame and sick" (v. 8). "Is it not evil?' Indeed, it was. "Go offer it to the governor of Persia and see if he'll accept it," (v. 8, paraphrased). If it wasn't good enough for a pagan bureaucrat, then it certainly wasn't good enough for the God of heaven and earth. The one escape was the one He had always offered them: "But now entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us" (v. 9). In verse 10 we learn, however, that there was not even one honest priest among them, who would do the most simple task ("shut the doors" of the temple) without getting paid for it. The sacrifices of such people were vain. Better no sacrifices than vain ones (see Isaiah 1). The Gentiles, the pagan, heathen nations who did not have God's written law, would someday exalt the name of the Lord (v. 11), but Israel profaned His name (v. 12) with their useless, tawdry sacrifices. Worship was wearisome to them; they gave God the leftovers (v. 13). ”Should I accept this from your hand?" No, there would be a curse upon such people, "For I am a great King," (v. 14), and no monarch would accept this kind of service at the hands of his people. A great chapter in which we learn the crucial lesson that improper, listless worship is despising and profaning the Lord and His name.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Zechariah 14

The attack on Jerusalem (vs. 1-2)--This chapter does not appear to be a continuation of the preceding one, and identifying its exact meaning is not easy. It appears to be Messianic (v. 8), but again caution should be used in interpreting this section. I don't believe the Roman destruction of 70 A.D. is meant; verse 2 speaks of "all nations" gathered against Jerusalem. That could refer to the Roman Empire, but probably not in this case. If this chapter is Messianic, as I believe it to be, then the material here is figurative. God's people will come under serious attack. "Half the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city" (v. 2); Satan surely wins some battles in the spiritual warfare we fight.  The event described here has never happened, literally, to Jerusalem after the return from Babylonian captivity. Some commentators thus see the events of this chapter as yet future from our day, but I'm not inclined that way. Let's just consider it as applying to the church, and given verse 8, I think that's the best view.

The Lord attacks in return (vs. 3-7)--While trials often come to the people of God, He never leaves them totally in the hands of their enemies. He counter-attacks (v. 3), and provides a way of refuge and escape for His people (v. 4). The splitting of the Mount of Olives (v. 4) would be a spectacular event, if literal; but I believe it figurative--the Lord opens a door of escape for His saints. There will be great darkness (v. 6), but also great light (v. 7; judgment and mercy?). But He will be with His people (v. 5).

The living waters (vs. 8-11)--Five times in this chapter we read that significant phrase "in that day," and one of those is verse 8: "And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur." This is a pretty good description of the "living water" Jesus provides (John 4:10). Notice it flows in both directions (everywhere) and "in both summer and winter" (all the time). The gospel is for all mankind and it will be offered until the Lord returns again. "And the LORD shall be King over all the earth" (v. 9)--"King of kings and Lord of lords" (I Tim. 6:15). The land shall be fertile (v. 10, manifold blessings for His people), and "Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (v. 11)--Jehovah will guard His own. Again, spiritually this is a perfect picture of the church; literally, it has never happened.

Plague upon the enemies of God (vs. 12-19)--Verse 12 has a gruesome picture of what happens to those who fight against His people: "Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths." Not wise to be found on the opposing side in a war against Jehovah! There will be great panic (v. 13), God's people will fight together and obtain great booty (v. 14). The plague will strike even the animals of the enemies (v. 15). There will be complete and utter destruction for those who combat God's plan. Those who are left will submit to Jehovah (v. 16), and will come from everywhere to worship Him. If they do not, they will not be blessed (v. 17) and indeed, will continue to be plagued (vs. 18-19). The references (vs. 16 and 18) to the Feast of Tabernacles must be figurative, because it would require a restoration of the Law of Moses for that feast to actually be held again. One of the major losses of the Jews at the Roman destruction of 70 A.D. was all their genealogical records; no Jew today can tell you which tribe he is from, and the mixture is probably so great that there exists no pure line any more back to the original tribes. Thus, restoration of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe that would officiate at the Feast of Tabernacles, is impossible. Therefore, we have a reference to the worship of God in present times.

"Holiness to the Lord" (vs. 20-21)--"In that day" there will be a holiness like never seen before. All of God's people are holy (I Peter 2:5), and that is represented here as "every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the Lord" (v. 21). The pots in the houses of the people of God are every bit as sanctified as those in the Lord's house. This isn't profaning God's house by any means; it simply indicates the breakdown of the old law by the new, where everyone is a priest (I Peter 2:9). "In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts" (v. 21). Nothing but purity "in that day." There are, of course, "impure" people in the church who masquerade as true saints, but the Lord knows who they are and knows they are not His.  This whole section does appear to fit the church far better than anything Jerusalem has ever had or could have without miracles of an astonishing nature. And, we would ask, since eternal salvation can be found, for all, Jew and Gentile alike, in Christ Jesus, what would be the purpose of it all?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Zechariah 13

The fountain for sin and uncleanness (v. 1)--This beautiful verse speaks for itself:  "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness."  I will only add that this is obviously a continuation from the previous chapter because of the statement "in that day."

The cutting off of idols and the silencing of false teachers (vs. 2-6)--The first verse, as noted in chapter 12, applies to the church age.  Verse 2 also says "in that day" so we are obviously still referring to the New Testament dispensation.  Idols will be cut off--God's true people (Christians) will worship only Him (v. 2), and false teachers will either be killed (by their own parents who love the Lord more than they do error), or they will be ashamed, and take up another profession (vs. 3-5).  Even his friends will scourge him (v. 6).  Do not take that literally; he is speaking only of the purity of God's true church. There is no place for idolatry or false doctrine in the kingdom of God. 

"My Fellow" (vs. 7-9)--God then speaks of the one Who is "My Shepherd" and "My Fellow" (or "Companion," NKJV).  This is the Christ, of course.  He will be struck "and the sheep will be scattered" (v. 7).  Matthew has Jesus quoting this verse in Matthew 26:31.   But the Lord will take care of His own:  "And I will turn mine hand upon the little ones" (v. 7).  The NKJV's "against the little ones" is surely wrong here.  Tragically, only a small number (represented in verse as "one-third" of the land will "be left therein"--only a few will be saved.  The Lord will refine them and they will be His people and He their God:  "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God" (v. 9).  The trials will be difficult, but the victory will be ours if we remain faithful.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Zechariah 12

Salvation for spiritual Israel (vs. 1-9)—Zechariah begins a new section here, and the next two chapters are much easier. They refer to the Messianic age; of this there can be no doubt, for verse 10 applies to Jesus, John 19:37 being our witness. And since six times in this chapter Zechariah says “in that day” (and three more times in chapter 13), it is conclusive that this material applies, spiritually, to the third dispensation, the church age. Verse 1 establishes the authority of the message: “Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.” This declaration is from the all-powerful Creator of heaven, earth, and man. Jerusalem (the city of God, in this case, the church) will be protected. The “surrounding peoples” will “lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem” (v. 2), but “in that day I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples,” and they will be cut to pieces (v. 3). Verse 4 again reiterates “in that day,” as do verses 6, 8, 9, 11, 13:1, 2, and 4. And, once more, 12:10 (as well as 13:1 and 7) point directly to the Messiah. So many commentators miss that in their desire to have an earthly kingdom or some kind of future restoration of the Jews. The Lord only has to say something once for it to be valid, but in this instance, He says it nine times. It isn’t His fault if we miss the point. To conclude this section, our enemies will be confused in their battle (v. 4), our leaders will find their strength “in the Lord of hosts, their God,” (v. 5), and they shall “devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left” (v. 6). “Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place—Jerusalem” (v. 6). The church, the holy habitation of God, will not be moved. Verses 7 through 9 have basically the same message. The Lord will “save the tents of Judah” and we will all be equal before Him (v. 7). He will defend us, even “the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David” (v. 8, "for he who is least among you all will be great," Luke 9:48), and “in that day” those who “come against” His people will be destroyed (v. 9).

The spirit of grace (vs. 10-14)—All of this will be because of “Me whom they pierced” (v. 10). Zechariah (God) beautifully writes, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (v. 10). Finally, the grace that we need has arrived. And not just in sprinkles; He will “pour” it on us. For the people of God, while the death of Christ is a wondrous thing, it is also a cause for mourning: “Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (v. 10). There would have been no cross without our sins. “Blessed are they that mourn” (Matt. 5:4). Hadadrimmon was in the valley of Megiddo and the location where the good king Josiah, probably the second greatest king Israel ever had, was killed in battle by the Egyptians (II Chron. 35:22-25). It was a place of mourning (figurative in the case of Zechariah 12:11). He concludes the chapter by picturing a universal mourning—the house of David (the king), the house of Levi (the priesthood), and “the family of Shimei” (vs. 12-13), and “all the families that remain” (v. 14). All of God’s people will mourn, “by themselves,” (v. 14), i.e., for their own sins. Regarding Shimei, there are 11 men in the Old Testament by that name. The two most famous were a grandson of Levi (by Gershon), and the man who cursed David when he was fleeing from Absalom (II Sam. 16:5-13). Not a good idea, and he came humbly to David, begging for pardon when the rebellion was over and the king was restored to his throne. David graciously forgave him, but Solomon had him executed. I write all that to say it is unclear which Shimei is meant, probably the grandson of Levi. That seems to be the consensus, thus “the highest and lowest of the priestly order” (as one commentator says) are mentioned.

Chapter 13 will continue this, the very first words being “in that day.”

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Zechariah 11

Punishment upon Jerusalem (vs. 1-3)—This is an exceedingly difficult chapter, but many commentators see this as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. because of the rejection of the Messiah, Who is mentioned in this chapter. If we accept this interpretation—and it’s not a bad one, though I won’t be dogmatic about it and will follow it until I find something better—then the first three verses, in general, predict that destruction. “Lebanon” (v. 1) refers to the temple (“Open your doors”); the famous cedars of Lebanon were used to construct the temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. So there is wailing in all parts of Judea, from Bashan (v. 2) to the Jordan (v. 3). “There is the sound of wailing shepherds! For their glory is in ruins” (v. 3). This is perhaps a reference to the Jewish leaders who based so much of their power and authority on their attachment to a temple that would eventually lie in ruins.

The cause of the destruction just foretold (vs. 4-17)—And it is because of the rejection of the Messiah, of course. Jesus will explain this thoroughly, and clearly, in Matthew 24. Zechariah is a little more obscure. The Jewish “flock” will be fed “for slaughter” by the Roman armies (v. 4). The owners (religious leaders) didn’t care and “feel no guilt” (v. 5); they were rich and had no pity (v. 5). The Lord would have no pity, either, on “the inhabitants of the land” (v. 6). They would be given over to internal feuds and eventually the Roman armies.

Perhaps Zechariah (“I fed the flock for slaughter”) here enacts some of what the Lord is saying here (v. 7). He took two staffs, one called Beauty, representing the Jews’ peculiar excellency above the other nations (at least it was so intended by God), and the other called Bands, implying a bond of brotherhood among the Jewish people. The three shepherds who were “cut off (dismissed, NKJV)…in one month” (v. 8) are impossible to identify; the commentators are all over the lot on it, and I won’t speculate. Bottom line is, the Jewish leaders would no longer be the shepherds. Destruction is vividly portrayed (v. 9), and the staff, Beauty, was broken in two (v. 10), “that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples (Jews).” “It was broken on that day” (v. 11). If this chapter does refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, then this statement implies that God did allow a 40-year “probationary” period for the Jews after the death of Christ, the event which effectively ended the Law of Moses. Yet, until the gospel had been preached “in all the world” (Matt. 24:14, follow this link for an explanation: Matt. 24:14), the Jews were allowed some liberties to continue practicing their law. This would explain Paul’s actions in Acts 21. I only speculate here, for, once again, Zechariah is quite murky in his material. Verse 11 tells us, too, that “the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.” The Jewish Christian remnant understood what the destruction of Jerusalem was all about. Verse 12 and 13 refer to the Messiah and His betrayal—“give me my wages,” i.e., honor Me as the Messiah, or “if not, refrain.” He was betrayed, of course, for thirty pieces of silver which eventually went to purchase a potter’s field, as Zechariah here predicts. Then the other staff, Bands, was broken, destroying—or perhaps a better word would be “scattering”—Judah and Israel, something that indeed did happen after the Roman destruction.

Zechariah is then commanded (v. 15) to take up “the implements of a foolish shepherd,” whatever they might be. This represents a “shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces” (v. 16). The identity of this fellow is anybody’s guess. Some see the “Antichrist” here, but that’s ridiculous. If we follow the “destruction by Rome in 70 A.D.” theory, then we could look at the Jewish leadership as a whole as perhaps being meant. They were certainly “worthless” (v. 17) and severely wounded.

Again, I counsel extreme caution in these latter chapters of Zechariah. There is doubtless Messianic material here, but putting it all together concisely and coherently is far from easy. I do believe the above is the best explanation for this chapter. However, I reserve the right to amend upon future study.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Zechariah 10

The return of Judah (vs. 1-12)—The last few chapters of Zechariah are quite difficult, among the most challenging in the Bible. They appear to be Messianic, but it’s not always clear. There are some verses in chapter 10 that point to the church age, and I will look at them as I precede through this chapter. But I’m not going to be dogmatic about anything because of the obscurity of the material.

IF we assume the church age is meant, then all the material here must be understood spiritually. Does the term “in the latter rain” mean the “last days,” i.e., Christian dispensation. Possibly. Regardless, blessings flow from the Lord (v. 1); idols (worldly things) are useless, and false prophets “tell false dreams” and “comfort in vain” (v. 2). Those who lead His people astray make the Lord angry, but He will “visit” His flock, the “house of Judah” (the church?), and will give them strength “in the battle” (against sin and our enemies). Verse 4 in one which leads me to believe this is a Messianic passage: “From him [Judah] comes the cornerstone,” a term elsewhere used for the Christ (cf. Isaiah 28:16). And indeed, the Lord did come from Judah. It is possible that the first three verses apply to the Jews before Christ, leading into the “cornerstone” of verse 4. It’s just not terribly clear. Regardless, once that cornerstone is set, we shall “be like mighty men,” and we “shall fight because the Lord is with us” (v. 5). In other words, He will give us the victory. He will also provide strength and restoration (v. 6). The thought in that verse, “I will bring them back” (the house of Judah and the house of Joseph, i.e., all of Israel) is another clue that we might be dealing with the church age here. God had already brought the Jews back from captivity, so in this case, we are “brought back” from the captivity of sin. He will hear our prayers (v. 6). There will be rejoicing and peace (v. 7), redemption (v. 8), fellowship (v. 9), and salvation from sin and captivity. The references to Egypt and Assyria have to be figurative, representing bondage and captivity, and are used in Messianic passages elsewhere in the Old Testament (see Micah 5 for an example). While the Lord provides all these blessings for His people, He will plague His enemies: “all the depths of the River [Euphrates] shall dry up” (v. 12). The Assyrians were totally dependent upon that river for their existence; if it dried up, so would they. That’s what happens to those who live ungodly lives. And again, the Lord will strengthen us and be our God (v. 12). This is pretty typical language in the prophets for the Messianic period and that’s why I believe such is what Zechariah is writing about.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Zechariah 9

Prophecy against Syria and the Philistines (vs. 1-8)—As I’ve noted in earlier minor prophets posts, a lot of the prophets have “burdens” against foreign powers. In this case, Zechariah pronounces doom against two of Israel’s ancient enemies, Syria and Philistia. The “Hadrach” of verse 1 is a valley near Damascus, and “Hamath” (v. 2) “borders on it.” It’s interesting, in verse 1, “For the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the LORD.” Is Jehovah going to punish these wicked peoples or not? I suppose we could ask the same thing today about some of the evil cities of our generation, and the answer would be the same—“yes,” but in God’s own time. Tyre and Sidon thought they were invincible (v. 3), but the Lord would destroy them. The other great cities of the Philistines, Gaza, Ekron, Ashkelon, and Ashdod, would also come in for destruction: “I will cut off the pride of the Philistines” (v. 6). Tyre and Sidon were subdued by Alexander the Great some 150-200 years after Zechariah wrote (it’s hard to pinpoint the date of this part of his prophecy). Some of the cities mentioned above were actually destroyed before the days of Zechariah, which have led some to conclude that somebody else, perhaps Jeremiah or Hosea, wrote this section of the book. That’s possible, I suppose, but it seems more likely to me that Zechariah is speaking, in effect, in the “prophetic past”; these things have already happened as a warning to other cities who rebel against God, in this case, Tyre and Sidon. It’s not a major point.

The coming King (vs. 9-17)—This section is definitely Messianic, as verse 9 refers to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. A very clear statement of that event. He will establish a peaceful kingdom. “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem”—the ending of spiritual war (see also Isaiah 2 and Micah 4), and “He shall speak peace to the nations” (v. 10). The “nations” are the Gentiles; Christ is our peace (John 14:27; 16:33; Eph. 2:14). He will also rule universally: “His dominion shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth'" (v. 10). He is indeed King of kings and Lord of lords (I Tim. 6:15), and has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). Prisoners and captives (spiritual) will be set free from hopeless circumstances (“waterless pit,” v. 11), and blessings will be doubled (v. 12). God’s people will be exalted against those who oppose them (v. 13). He will lead them and fight for them and defend them (vs. 14-15), and they shall be victorious. He will save them and exalt them (v. 16). God’s goodness and beauty are “great” (v. 17), and youth will thrive and prosper (v. 17). Some of this is pretty difficult, and there are those who think the reference to Judah, Ephraim, and Greece in verse 13 make much of this passage literal, because, indeed, the Jews did have to deal with Greek oppression for a couple of centuries. But the context begins with a Messianic reference (v. 9), and I don’t see a change to literalness anywhere, so I’m sticking with a spiritual interpretation for the Christian age. Zechariah is one of the most difficult prophets to understand, and the next five chapters aren’t going to be any easier.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Zechariah 8

The Lord’s zeal for Zion and Jerusalem (vs. 1-8)—Chapter 7 speaks of God’s punishment of the former people because of their refusal to hear the message He sent via the prophets. But chapter 8 is a declaration of hope. Jehovah is still zealous for His people, Israel (v. 2), and will return and “dwell in the midst of Jerusalem” (v. 3), “the city of truth.” The peace and prosperity of the city is pictured in quaint terms in verses 4 and 5: “Old men and old women shall again sit In the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” It will be a marvelous thing that He will do (v. 6), bringing His people back from wherever they have been scattered (vs. 7-8). “They shall be My people and I will be their God, in truth and righteousness” (v. 8). To indicate the emphatic truth of this section, seven times the phrase “thus says the Lord” (or some equivalent) is found. God only has to say something once for it to be true; with this repeated emphasis, we are impressed with the determination of the Lord to fulfill His promise.

Prosperity upon righteousness (vs. 9-17)—The Lord does expect something in return, of course. Those who, currently, had been heeding the preaching of the prophets are given encouragement in verse 9: “Let your hands be strong…that the temple might be built.” Don’t be discouraged by what happened before “these days [when] there were no wages…no peace…” (v. 10). That’s not the way it will be now: “’I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,' says the LORD of hosts” (v. 11). There would be prosperity and abundance (v. 12). Israel’s enemies will no more frighten them (v. 13). Just as the Lord had determined to punish their fathers because of iniquity, He is just as determined “to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah” (vs. 14-15). Yet…”these are things you shall do…” (v. 16). These promised blessings are not unconditional. Jehovah expected the people to speak the truth, do justice, have a pure heart, “not love a false oath” (vs. 16-17)—in other words, live a righteous, godly life in return for His favors. That had/has always been the case, of course. Subsequently, we will see that the Jews, for their part, were not terribly faithful to the Lord’s requests, and there would be problems as a result. But God’s blessings are available for those who put themselves in a position to receive them.

Mourning turned into joy (vs. 18-23)—Thus, the fasts and mournings the Lord had been asked about in chapter 7 will be a thing of the past. They would be turned into “joy and gladness and cheerful feasts” (v. 19). “Therefore love truth and peace.” People from all over will come together and “pray before the Lord and seek the Lord of hosts” (vs. 20-21), even “many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem” (v. 22). Other “nations” always refers to non-Jews (Gentiles), and more often than not refer to the Messianic, church age. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. There just don’t seem to be any other references, in this chapter, to the Messiah or Christian dispensation. This is all in answer to the question asked in chapter 7. The bottom line is, Jerusalem and Judah will be so fruitful, so well provided for by God, that “ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’" (v. 23). All men will want to take part in the glory and grace God’s provides for His people. Palestine was a land “flowing with milk and honey” and just waiting for a people who would humbly submit themselves to the Lord. The Jews never really did, even after the captivity, though there would be no more idolatry and worship of Canaanites gods and goddesses. That is the one lesson they learned from their exile in Assyria and Babylon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Zechariah 7

Question regarding prayer and fasting (vs. 1-14)—We are two years later now (v. 1, cf. Zechariah 1:1), and men were sent (by somebody, the Hebrew is unclear and thus the best versions are, too) “to the house of God to pray before the Lord” (vs. 2-3). They asked the priests and the prophets, “Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?” (v. 3). This “weeping” and “fasting” was inaugurated as a result of the destruction and burning of the temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Since the people had now returned home, should they continue this memorial? The Lord’s response through Zechariah was a rebuke.  They had not really mourned over their sins against Jehovah; they were only sad because of the loss of their temple (v. 5). What the Lord really wanted was obedience (v. 7). In verses 9 and 10, He lays out before them, in general, what He expects: “'Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.'” As the prophets had told the people time and time again, ceremonial rituals were vain unless accompanied by a righteous, holy lifestyle. Their fathers had refused to heed that message (v. 11). “Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts” (v. 12). Thus, when calamity came upon them, and they cried out to Jehovah, but “I would not hear” (v. 13). He scattered them among the nations, and their land lay desolate (v. 14). The chapter ends there, but the warning is plain: Hear and obey the Lord or disaster will come. A simple chapter which is very illustrative of man vs. God. Man wants to get by with as little as possible. God has given us His word and thus our responsibilities towards Him. We refuse to obey, ruin results, we cry out to Him, but it’s too late. Happens over and over and humanity never learns.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Zechariah 6

The four chariots (vs. 1-8)—These visions do not get any easier. The prophet sees four chariots coming from between two bronze mountains. Bronze represented in the ancient world solidity and strength, but in this vision, solidity and strength of what? Well, the angel told Zechariah in verse 5 that the chariots “are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth.” Clarke’s idea that the four chariots represent four kingdoms (Assyria, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks) doesn’t seem to fit the text. I’m a little skeptical about being that specific here, especially given the angel’s words in verse 5. So, since the chariots are from heaven, the brass mountains must represent some kind of celestial strength. The purpose of the chariots was to “walk to and fro throughout the earth” (v. 7). To keep an eye on what is going on? We aren’t specifically told and the references are obscure. The horses are of various colors; red can represent blood, or courage, black is death, white is purity or victory, dappled is anybody’s guess; perhaps a mixture of prosperity and adversity, as one commentator suggests. The “north country” is probably Babylon, or at least that’s what Zechariah’s readers would probably have believed. My best guess for this vision is that God is sending our His emissaries into all the world (“four” is the world number) to keep an eye out in behalf of His people. Especially in the north, where trouble nearly always comes from. Again, it is a very vague prophesy (to us), and perhaps made more sense to the people of Zechariah’s day. And perhaps not.

The Branch (vs. 9-15)—This vision is a little easier to comprehend. Three men, Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, came from Babylon, bearing gifts. We know nothing of these men other than what is stated here. Their gift of silver and gold was to be immediately taken to the home of a man named Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. Again, we know nothing of this man. Elaborate, dual, crowns were to be made and placed on the head of the high priest, Joshua. This is totally symbolic of the Messiah, of Whom the rest of this section is devoted. The dual crowns represent kingship and priesthood; Joshua was only priest, so he cannot literally be meant here. But verse 12 introduces for us “the BRANCH,” the Messiah, as is evident from other Old Testament passages that refer to the Messiah under that figure (cf. Isa. 11:1; Jer. 5:23). Now we move into the Christian age. The Messiah, “shall build the temple of the Lord” (the church, v. 12), and “He shall bear the glory” (v. 13). He “shall sit and rule on His throne,” and—very important—“He shall be a priest on His throne” (v. 13). Notice, He will be a priest and king at the same time. This can only refer to the Messiah. It is also very much worth noting that His priesthood and kingship are simultaneous. But as a result, they cannot be earthly, as premillennialists teach. Jesus cannot be a priest on earth (Hebrews 8:4) because He is from the wrong tribe; only Levites could be priests. So Jesus can’t be a priest on earth. But since He is going to be priest and king at the same time, and He can’t be a priest on earth, He can’t be a king on earth, either! This wipes out the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth. Because of His work as priest and king, He is better able to keep peace (“the counsel of peace shall be between them both,” v. 13). The crown given to Joshua will be a “memorial in the [literal] temple”—a constant reminder of this prophesy—to the ones who brought the gift from Babylon (v. 14), but also to “those from afar” (v. 15). They will have a part in building “the temple of the Lord” (the church). “Those from afar” are the Gentiles, who obviously also make up part of the church. When all this happens, we will know this is the work and voice of the Lord (v. 15). A marvelous prophesy of the church.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Zechariah 5

The flying scroll (vs. 1-4)—Zechariah’s next vision was of a flying scroll (v. 1). It’s length and width, 30 feet x 15 feet (v. 2), was the same dimensions as the temple porch (I Kgs. 6:3), where the law was usually read, thus seemingly implying that the scroll was divinely authorized. The scroll was flying (its curses were swiftly to visit the transgressors?), and it was open, thus none could be excused for not knowing its contents, viz., no one can be excused for not knowing God’s laws. The angel told Zechariah that the scroll contained “the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth” (v. 3). This seems to indicate universal judgment, though the ASV’s “land” very possibly limits it to the Jews or the Babylonians. Regardless, there will be punishment for malefactors (v. 3). Verse 4 is largely a repetition of verse 3, only that the Lord speaks openly, rather than through the angel. Whether this is intended as universal or local (Babylon or Judea), the message of full judgment against sin is clear—“it [the curse] shall remain in the midst of his house and consume it, with its timber and stones”—totality (v. 4).

The woman in the basket (vs. 5-11)—Zechariah is then commanded to “lift your eyes now, and see what this is that goes forth" (v. 5). Zechariah sees a basket with a woman in it. The KJV and ASV use the word “ephah” instead of “basket,” and this is a little more accurate; the ephah represented an ordinary measure of grain. A lead disc (NKJV; “talent of lead,” KJV, ASV) is placed over the basket to secure the woman inside (vs. 7-8). The angel tells Zechariah that the woman (or the whole thing) represents wickedness (v. 8). The “wickedness” almost assuredly was the impiety and iniquity of the Jews (v. 6); the “earth” (NKJV, KJV) or “land” (ASV) means Judea, and again, the ASV may have the better sense here. Zechariah then spots two women, “coming with the wind in their wings, for they had wings like the wings of a stork” (v. 9), and they pick up the basket and haul it off. “Where are they carrying the basket?” Zechariah asks the angel in verse 10. “And he said to me, "To build a house for it in the land of Shinar; when it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base" (v, 11). This is a little obscure, but I think the following may be the fundamental thought. “Shinar” is “Babylon,” which symbolizes here all the foes of the people of God. Sin will be taken away from His people and dwell among those who oppose Him and His cause. The intended purity of God’s followers is being illustrated. Get sin out from among us and into the world where it belongs.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Zechariah 4

The lampstand with seven lamps (vs. 1-10)—Zechariah’s next vision (his fifth--remember there are no chapter divisions in the original writing) was of “a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps” (v. 2). There was a lampstand of gold in the tabernacle/temple, but it didn’t not have the seven lamps attached (Ex. 25:31-32), not were there two olive trees on either side of it, as in Zechariah’s image (v. 3). He asked the angel what the vision meant (v. 4); the angel responded, “you don’t know?”, and Zechariah confesses his ignorance (v. 5). Was Zechariah supposed to know what these visions meant? Was the angel’s words a rebuke? They sound like it, but they probably weren’t. One writer suggests this was “a stimulus to reflection on the mystery,” and I think that’s a good explanation. The angel explains that the vision is “the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel,” to encourage him in his work of rebuilding the temple. The Lord would be the source of the governor’s strength (vs. 6-7). And there would be no obstacles: “'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!” (v. 7). And when the temple is finished, there will be great rejoice—shouts of “grace, grace to it!” Zerubbabel is plainly told that he will finish the temple, and thereby know that the Lord has been with him (v. 9). People may despise the Jews for their little land and wealth (‘the day of small things”), but the work will be done under the watchful eye of the Lord (v. 10). It is not altogether clear, to me, how the lampstand and lamps relate to the Lord being the source of Zerubbabel’s strength, but then, we don’t have to understand it. If the Lord says that “X’” means “X” then that’s what it means! The various interpretations of the commentators are as various as there are commentators. Best to leave well enough alone here and let the angel’s answer suffice, though it may not be clear to us. Zechariah may have had some understanding at his time, some historical reference, that is currently lost to us.

The two olive trees (vs. 11-4)—Zechariah was as confused as the rest of us. “What are these two olive trees?” (v. 11), and olive branches (v. 12). Again, the angel asked him, “Do you not know what these are?”, and again the prophet professes his ignorance (v. 13). So it is explained to him that the two trees are “the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth" (v. 14). There is near universal agreement that these two “anointed ones” are Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Zechariah 3

Sin forgiven (vs. 1-5)—The next vision Zechariah sees is Joshua, the high priest, standing before “the Angel of the Lord” with Satan there also “to oppose him (Joshua)” (v. 1). Satan obviously wants to accuse the Jews of sin, hoping that the Lord won’t forgive them, but Jehovah rebukes him, and reminds us of His choosing of Jerusalem (v. 2). This is important. If Satan can get the Lord to condemn the Jews, and thus utterly destroy them as He has done Assyria and Babylon, then the devil will have succeeded in aborting the redemption of mankind. Remember that the Messiah was to come through Israel, so obliterating the Jews will land everybody in hell with Satan. But the Lord will have none of it. Joshua, indeed, was standing before the Angel “clothed with filthy garments” (v. 3), symbolizing the sin that had stained the Jewish people. But the Lord “spoke to those who stood before Him” (angels?) and told them to remove Joshua’s filthy garment and clothe him “with rich robes” (v. 4). There’s no question what this means because Jehovah says, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you” (v. 4). It was wholly an act of God’s grace, the only hope for Israel, or the redemption of humanity. Satan was hoping for justice, not mercy. Joshua is given clean clothes and a “fair (clean, ASV) mitre on his head” (v. 5) symbolizing his restoration to the high priesthood and the acceptance of his sacrifices (the NKJV’s “clean turban” seems to miss the point). The people have returned from captivity, God has forgiven their sins, and will allow them to offer their sacrifices again. All by His grace, for they certainly didn’t deserve it. But then, do any of us deserve the grace of God? Such is an oxymoron.

A message for the high priest (vs. 6-10)—The Lord would allow the high priest to continue his work “If you will walk in My ways, and if you will keep My command” (v. 7). All of this is made possible because of “My Servant the Branch” (v. 8). This is a reference to the Messiah. He is called “the Branch” is several places in the Old Testament (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 6:12). Without His redeeming work, of course, none of this would be possible. The stone (“cornerstone,” Is. 28:6) will be laid before Joshua; it has seven eyes—the all-seeing providence of God. The last statement of verse 9 is significant: “'And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day”—the cross of Christ. And “in that day” there will be peace with God (v. 10). The “under his vine and under his fig tree” is used on more than one occasion in the Old Testament as a proverbial statement of peace (cf. Micah 4:4). The Jews have been restored and forgiven, and the larger purposes of God through the Messiah will come to pass. Satan cannot prevent that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Zechariah 2

The man with the measuring line (vs. 1-5)—In his next vision, Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line (v. 1). “Where are you going?” “"To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length" (v. 2). The walls of Jerusalem had yet to be rebuilt; what will be the dimensions of the city of God where His people will dwell? Revelation 11 has a similar event, with not exactly the same meaning, but close. In this vision in Zechariah, however, there will be no need to rebuild the walls, for “'Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it” (v. 4). Why? “For I,' says the LORD, 'will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst'" (v. 5). Jehovah will protect His people; they won’t need artificial means—if they would be faithful to Him. They weren’t much more spiritual after the exile than before, so the walls will indeed be rebuilt under Nehemiah. But the promise is there for them if they would believe and accept it.

Flee from Babylon (vs. 6-9)—There was no longer any reason for any Jew to remain in Babylon. Some of them did, after the captivity, because that was where their homes were. Remember, the Israelites spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon, so there were many people born in that land and who had never been to Israel. Babylon was their home, so the Lord has to encourage them to return to their true home, Israel. It would be a good idea to get out of any foreign territory, because “surely I will shake My hand against them" (“the nations which plunder you,” v 8), "and they shall become spoil for their servants” (v. 9). No one should want to be caught in a location where Jehovah will render vengeance. “He who touches you touches the apple of His eye” (v. 8).

“I will dwell in your midst” (vs. 10-13)—This passage almost surely refers to the church age; this is evident because of the statement in verse 11, “many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day.” That certainly could not be said of any period of the Jewish dispensation, and indeed, was contrary to what the Lord intended for that age. Indeed, the coming of the Messiah is a reason to “sing and rejoice” (v. 10). We will belong to Him, and He “will again choose Jerusalem,” the church, the holy city of God (v. 12). Revere God, “for He is waked up out of His holy habitation” (ASV, v. 13). He is ready to act in behalf of His people

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zechariah Introduction and Chapter One

Introduction—Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai. He started his prophecy two months after Haggai. He calls himself the son Berechiah, the son of Iddo who was also a prophet, though we don’t know anything else about it. Both Ezra and Nehemiah call Zechariah the son of Iddo, but this is common, i.e., referring to descendants as “sons.” Jesus was the “son of David.” We don’t know much else about Zechariah; his prophecy gives little more information about him. His book is a difficult one, especially the latter chapters where there is a lot of obscure prophetic material. The first half of the book contains a lot of metaphors, symbols, and visions, but many of them are explained for us. Like Revelation, it’s a beautiful book once this symbolic material is understood.

Chapter One

“Do not be like your fathers” (vs. 1-6)—After introducing himself in verse one and dating the beginning of his prophecy, Zechariah gets right into his message from God. “The LORD has been very angry with your fathers” (v. 2). We saw from the book of Haggai that, for the first 16 years of their return from captivity, the Jews had been negligent in their service to Jehovah, so Zechariah follows up with God exhorting the people to return to Him and He would be gracious and return to them (v. 3). People can choose their course of action, and the Lord’s response will be based on ours. Their fathers had been obstinate, even though God’s prophets had preached to them; “do not be like your fathers” (v. 4). The Lord had exhorted them to “turn now from your evil ways,” but “they did not hear nor heed Me” (v. 4). What happened to your fathers? Well, they are all dead, of course, but their message of being disobedient and punished remains. Where are the former prophets? “Do they live forever?” No, they don’t, but their message of repentance and salvation remains, and it is as true now as it was when first preached (vs. 5-6). Everything happened just as the prophets said it would, and the Lord dealt with those former people according to their ways and doings. And, of course, the clear implication is that He will do the same with the current generation of Jews. Thus, return to the Lord.

The four horsemen (vs. 7-11)—This next revelation to Zechariah was approximately three months later (compare verses 1 and 7). The prophet sees four horsemen, which remind us of the four horsemen of the book of Revelation (Revelation 6). Or rather, the four horsemen of Revelation should remind us of the horsemen here because Zechariah was first. The prophet sees (by night, perhaps emblematic of the darkness and affliction the Jews suffered under) a man sitting on a red horse, which probably symbolizes blood and war. But he is sitting under myrtle trees, trees of peace. There were three horses behind him, the significance of which is unknown (v. 8). Zechariah asks the angel, who was talking with him, “My lord, what are these?" (v. 9). The angel said “These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth,” (v. 10), apparently observing what was going on because they announce in verse 11 that, having gone “to and fro throughout the earth,” they find peace. The Persian empire dominated the Near and Middle East at the time, and beside sporadic outbreaks in various provinces, largely kept order for about 2 centuries. The Jews, of course, were still in affliction, but they weren’t at war and had been allowed, by the Persians, to return to their homeland.

Zealous for Jerusalem (vs. 12-17)—The angel who spoke with Zechariah then asked Jehovah asking Him how long it would be before He had mercy “on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” (v. 12). Well, this is a bit of divine pageantry, if you will; the Lord had been merciful to them in allowing them to return home, but yet the people were still dominated by a foreign power. The Lord spoke “good and comforting words” (v. 13), and announced that He was “zealous for Jerusalem” and “angry with the nations at ease” (vs. 14-15). Jehovah had used these nations to punish His people, “and they helped—but with evil intent” (v. 15). Read Isaiah 10 for some interesting information about this. The Assyrians did God’s will, but for their own benefit, not because they were trying to please Him. The Lord will allow His temple to rebuilt and His people to dwell in their former cities. “And will again choose Jerusalem” (v. 17). Jehovah’s choice of the Jews was not because of any righteousness or worth on their part, but in keeping with a promise He had made to mankind back in Genesis 3:15—the coming of the Messiah—which would be filled through the descendents of Abraham (Gen. 12:3). So there is a much larger purpose here than simply the restoration of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.

The four horns and the four craftsmen (vs. 18-21)—Zechariah then sees four horns (v. 18), which usually represent power. “What are these?” he asks the angel. “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem” (v. 19). Trying to find four specific nations that did that is a bit problematic, so the idea is probably a totality—all those who had played a part in the Jews dispersion. Then Zechariah sees four craftsmen (v. 20, “carpenters,” KJV, “smiths,” ASV). “What are these coming to do.” The craftsmen will be God’s tool in punishing those who had afflicted His people (v. 21). So the promise of God to His people is that He saw their affliction and misery, and those who so abused them would some day have retribution return upon them. It’s always nice to see justice done. These thoughts in the last half of Zechariah 1 remind us much (or should) of the principles found in the book of Revelation. Since Zechariah was written long before John penned the Revelation, some of the signs and symbols of that last book should already be familiar to us, and we should be able to understand them better. It is to our shame that we do not, and that is totally due to our failure to fully study the message of the Old Testament prophets.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Haggai 2

Comparing the two temples (vs. 1-5)—About a month later, the Lord spoke to Zerubbabel and Joshua again (vs. 1-2). The subject was a comparison of Solomon’s temple with the current one, which wasn’t anywhere near completion, but it was already obvious it would be far inferior to the first one. After the captivity, the Jews simply didn’t have the resources to erect a building with the splendor and magnificence of Solomon’s temple. There were apparently a few, very aged people, who might have seen and remembered the first structure (v. 3). They would been in their late 70s or 80s because the date here is some 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first temple. Apparently the Lord assumed that the inferiority of the current temple might be a singular disappointment to the people because He urges Zurbbabel, Joshua, and “all you people of the land” to be strong and work, “for I am with you” (v. 4). He had made a covenant with them when they came out of Egypt (see Deut. 5:1-4), and He was going to honor it (v. 5).

The Desire of All Nations will come (vs. 6-9)—Inherent in that promise (v. 5) was the coming of the Messiah. Such will be the most magnanimous event the world has ever seen (“I will shake all nations,” v. 7), and the temple (the church) would be filled with glory. And “the glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former” (v. 9). And His people will be blessed with peace. God never let the people—or us—forget the true aim of it all: salvation from sin through Jesus, the Desire of All Nations. Indeed, those who do not desire Him should, as one day they, too, will bow before Him and confess Him (Phil. 2:10-11).

An unclean people (vs. 10-14)—Even though the Lord has brought the Jews back from captivity, they were never to forget the cause of their captivity in the first place and their continued sin in His presence. We all stand in need of God’s mercy at all times. The blessing He gave them of allowing them to return home did not mean that, all of a sudden, they were lily white pure in His eyes. No, the uncleanness was still there, and indeed, that was why this new temple had to be built. There are two analogies here: If one carries something holy on his person and touches something not holy, does that make the latter item holy? No, it does not (v. 12). If a person touches a dead body and thus, according to the Law of Moses, becomes unclean, does whatsoever he may touch also become unclean? And the answer to that is yes (v. 13). Israel’s uncleanness was still manifest before God, as evidenced by the fact they had been so slow in rebuilding His temple.

Blessings are forthcoming (vs. 15-23)—The prophet ends with a message of hope. After reminding the people that the shortage of goods was a punishment for their lack of spirituality (chapter 1, and it is noted here again in verses 15-17), the Lord told them that “from the day that the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid…from this day I will bless you” (vs. 18-19). When we finally decide to be obedient to the Lord’s will and busy with His work, we will find ourselves the recipients of divine grace and favor. There is a beautiful thought along this line in Daniel 10:12—“Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard.” If we will humble ourselves before Him, pray, and do His will, we can expect God to notice and provide what we need. Haggai’s final message is words of encouragement from the Lord to Zerubbabel. In a picture of destructive warfare, Jehovah promises strength to the governor, and “will make you like a signet ring” (v. 23)—exalt Zerubbabel in the eyes of the people. The Jews had returned home, they were rebuilding their temple, and the Lord promises them protection from their enemies. What more could they want?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Haggai--Introduction and Chapter 1

Introduction—We know nothing of the personal history of this prophet. He is one of three—Zechariah and Malachi being the other two—who prophesied after the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity (Zechariah was a contemporary, Malachi came about 100 years later). Haggai began his work approximately 16 years after the return from Babylon; that would be around 520 B. C. When they got back to Judea, the Jews began working on God’s temple, but stopped because of opposition from some Samaritans. That story is found in the book of Ezra, chapter 4. Samaritans were foreign peoples who populated the land following the removal of the northern kingdom into captivity by Assyria in 722/21. They interbred with the Jewish riff-raff that the Assyrians left in the land, thus were “half-breeds,” and despised by the Jews. This is clear from several New Testament passages (e.g., “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans,” John 4:9). These people are never called “Samaritans” in the Old Testament, but that’s who they were. With this opposition, the Jews, who had laid the foundation of the temple (Ezra 4), ceased their work and didn’t begin again until Haggai and Zechariah exhorted them to do so (Ezra 6:14). It took about four years to totally finish the work. Haggai constantly attributes his message to the Lord. Almost 30 times in 38 verses, he says something like “the word of the Lord came,” or “thus saith the Lord.” Every preacher needs to fill his preaching with “thus speaks the Lord.”

Chapter One

The bag with holes (vs. 1-11)—Haggai doesn’t even tell us who his father was, but he does date his prophesy minutely. Darius was a king of Persia, Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah, and Joshua was the high priest (v. 1). Again, as noted in the introduction, this would be about 520 B.C. Haggai chides the people for their failure to rebuild the temple (v. 2), the first of which (Solomon’s) had been destroyed in 586 by Nebuchadnezzar. They had been building their own “paneled houses,” and allowed God’s house “to lie in ruins” (v. 4). Thus, the Lord said to “consider your ways” (v. 5). The land was unproductive (v. 6); “’Why?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of your runs to his own house'” (v. 9). The Lord had withheld the dew, and “the earth withholds its fruit” (v. 10). Drought came and so “the labor of your hands” was unfruitful (v. 11). The most picturesque description of this calamity is found in verse 6: “he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes." I’ve got a pair of pants like that. Thus, again, the message is “Consider your ways” (v. 7), and get to work on the Lord’s temple (v. 8).

The people obey (vs. 12-15)—More often than not, the preaching of God’s word gets results—either positive or negative—and in this case, good came from it. The governor, Zerubbabel, and the high priest, Joshua, “with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God” (v. 12). When they started work, the Lord told them “I am with you” (v. 13). The Lord “stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel” (v. 14); how? Verse 13 gives a clear answer: “Then Haggai, the Lord's messenger, spoke the Lord's message to the people.” Stirring up people to obedience is the main purpose of “Thus saith the Lord.” The people did more in 24 days than they had in the previous 16 years (v. 15). Preacher, preach the Word!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Zephaniah 3

“Woe to her who is rebellious” (vs. 1-3)—In chapter 3, Zephaniah returns to his denunciation of Judah and Jerusalem. The city was rebellious, polluted, and oppressive (v. 1). There is a four-fold condemnation in verse 2: “She has not obeyed His voice, She has not received correction; She has not trusted in the LORD, She has not drawn near to her God.” That’s a pretty good summary of Judah/Jerusalem’s failures. As usual, the leaders of the people were foremost in sin—princes, judges, prophets, and priests—they were oppressive, ravenous, insolent, treacherous; “they have done violence to the law” (vs. 3-4) And as a result, “the just Lord is in the midst thereof”—justice must be served (v. 5). “He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame.” As an example to Judah, the Lord had “cut off nations,” (v. 6) including some of those mentioned in chapter 2; their streets were desolate, their cities destroyed and completely uninhabited. And “I said, 'Surely you [Judah] will fear Me, You will receive instruction'" (v. 7); surely Judah has learned from others. But no—“they rose early, and corrupted all their doings” (v. 7). “Therefore” is the first word of verse 8, and it isn’t hard to guess what follows. The Lord would “pour on them My indignation, all My fierce anger; all the earth [Judah] shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” When He tells them to “wait for me,” it is simply an announcement that God will fulfill His promises and threatenings. He doesn’t change and sin will be punished.

Restoration (vs. 9-20)—But like many of the prophets, Zephaniah ends his prophecy with a message of hope. Again I remind the reader to always recall the great theme of the Old Testament—Christ is coming, and He is coming through the Jewish people. Thus, even though they were every bit as worthy of punishment as Sodom and Gomorrah (Hosea 11:8), there is a higher purpose here—the redemption of all mankind. God had made that promise all the way back in Genesis 3:15 and its fulfillment would be through Abraham’s descendants. There would always be a “remnant of Israel” (v. 13). Some see this section as Messianic, i.e., referring to the church age, but I don’t see any references to Christ here. It appears simply an announcement of return from Babylonian captivity. It is a picture of beauty and holiness, which didn’t exist in Israel following the return, but isn’t perfect in the church, either. But it is possible, given the righteousness described here, that spiritual Israel, the church, is in view rather than national Israel. Regardless, the standard is for “pure language that they may call on the name of the Lord” (v. 9). They would be returned “from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia”—from the farthest reaches of captivity (v. 10). There would be no shame, for the wicked shall be removed from their midst (v. 11), and only a “meek and humble people” who “trust in the name of the Lord” shall remain (v. 12). It’s only a “remnant,” but they would “do no unrighteousness and speak no lies;” they would “feed their flocks” and not be afraid (v. 13). This was a great cause for rejoicing and gladness (v. 14). The Lord will no longer need to punish them (v. 15), and “you shall see disaster (or, “evil,” KJV) no more.” There will be no cause to fear (v. 16) because “The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save” (v. 17). There would gladness, peace, love, and singing. The weak and the helpless, those who had been oppressed for so long, “I will appoint…for praise and fame” (v. 19). Verse 20 sounds like return from Babylon, but again, could be spiritual bondage: “At that time I will bring you back, even at the time I gather you…When I return your captives before your eyes," says the LORD.” Again, my only hesitation in applying this to the church age is the omission of any allusion to the Messiah. Certainly the righteousness and holiness described in this passage does not describe how the Jews acted after their homecoming from Babylon (though there was no more idol worship), but again, this is designed as a message of hope, especially for those in Zephaniah’s age who had remained loyal to the Lord. Even though most of them would be dead before the restoration from exile, they would understand that the Lord had seen their own affliction and righteousness and that a better day for all was forthcoming.

And so ends the writings of another great, but often overlooked, prophet of God in the Old Testament. What lessons could be learned if we would only do so.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Zephaniah 2

Call to repentance (vs. 1-3)—Following the strong, dramatic words of denunciation in chapter one, Zephaniah follows up with a call to repentance. Gather together and listen, “O undesirable nation,” or, in the ASV’s words, “O nation that hath no shame” (v. 1). Before it’s too later, “before the day of the LORD'S anger comes upon you” (v. 2), “seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth…seek righteousness, seek humility” (v. 3), and “it may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD'S anger.” The Lord always promises goodness upon repentance. Zephaniah’s words here indicate that there was still some hope; at least, the “meek of the earth” might escape the worst of God’s judgments. Certainly humbling ourselves before God is a must if we wish to forego His wrath.

Judgment upon the nations (vs. 4-15)—In the rest of this chapter, Zephaniah has some words of condemnation for several nations around Judah, who had plagued God’s people through the years. In verses 4-7, he prophesies against Israel’s ancient enemies, the Philistines. Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron (v. 4) were all famous Philistine cities. The Cherethites (v. 5) were perhaps foreign mercenaries. King David apparently used them at times (cf. II Sam. 8:18; 15:18), but so did the Philistines. Clarke says they were Cretans (from the isle of Crete), and may have been a colony of Philistia. Regardless, the Lord’s message was “I will destroy you; so there shall be no inhabitant" (v. 5). “The seacoast (where Philistia was) shall be pastures…and a remnant for the house of Judah” (vs. 6-7). When the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity, that land would be theirs. No more Philistines, who had before the time of Abraham (Genesis 21:32). In verses 8-11, Zephaniah writes of the coming doom of Moab and Ammon, who were the sons of Lot by his daughters (read this disgusting tale in Genesis 19). They were to be punished for having “reproached my people and made arrogant threats against their borders” (v. 8). Thus, “surely Moab shall be like Sodom, and the people of Ammon like Gomorrah” (v. 9). Pride was also a noteworthy sin of these peoples (v. 10). No more Philistines around today, nor are there any Moabites or Ammonites. Zephaniah’s prophesies have proven true. Verse 12 has a brief prophecy against Ethiopia: “You Ethiopians also, you shall be slain by My sword.” This is largely the same geographical region as Ethiopia occupies today, but it was larger in ancient times. Nebuchadnezzar pretty well took care of these people, about the time he sacked Jerusalem; but notice, no permanent annihilation was prophesied as with Philistia, Moab, and Ammon. The last few verses are a prediction about Nineveh and the Assyrians (vs. 13-15). It appears that this prophecy of Zephaniah may have been in the 630s before the final destruction of that city and empire, because in the prophet’s words, that event is yet future. The arrogance of this wicked city is eloquently described in verse 15: “This is the rejoicing city that dwelt securely, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is none else besides me.’" But Nineveh would “become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down” (v. 15). Verses 13 and 14 speak of Assyria’s destruction as yet future; verse 15 speaks as if it had already come. It probably hadn’t happened yet by the time of Zechariah’s work, but it was so sure to happen that he speaks as if it already had.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Zephaniah Introduction and Chapter 1

Introduction—The word “Zephaniah” means “hidden by Jehovah.” In 1:1, his lineage is traced back four generations, to Hezekiah, who is reckoned to be the king of that name. If that’s true, then the prophet obviously has some royal blood in him. He prophesied during the reign of Josiah (c. 642-611 B.C.), who is probably the second greatest king of Judah, after David. Josiah completely cleared Judah of all idolatry, and though very soon after Josiah’s tragic death in 611 Babylon entered Judah and began carrying the people away into captivity, there is no reference to idol worship in the southern kingdom after Josiah. His interesting story is told in II Kings 22 and 23, and again in II Chronicles 34 and 35. But he was the last good king of Judah. The fact that Zephaniah, in eloquent, powerful, and even frightening terms depicts the devastation of Judah during the reign of one of their best kings is evidence that the corruption in the country was deep, and that for the people, any reformation had been only skin deep. But again, very soon after Josiah’s death, Nebuchadnezzar showed up and captivity commenced. That is the aim of Zephaniah’s prophecy.

Chapter 1

God’s stern denunciation of Judah (vs. 1-6)—After introducing himself in verse 1, the prophets gets right into the strong condemnation of Judah by Jehovah. “I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land” (v. 1). Man, beasts, birds, fish—nothing will be left when the Lord finishes with Judah. Now, this language is hyperbolic, obviously, but it does indicate the wrath of Jehovah in no uncertain terms, and the completeness and finality of His judgment on Judah. Captivity is coming; there will be no more pardon or patience. Interestingly, the statement in verse 4 ”I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place” apparently took place during the reign of Josiah; but certainly, following the return from Babylonian captivity, we read of no more idolatry in Israel. That’s the one lesson—about the only one—they learned from the period of bondage. God’s righteous judgments will not only be on the idolaters of Judah, but also on “Those who have turned back from following the LORD, and have not sought the LORD, nor inquired of Him" (v. 6). That’s probably a specific reference to the idolaters, but certainly, in general, would encompass anyone who refused to obey the word of the Lord.

The Lord’s sacrifice (vs. 7-9)—It’s time to listen to the Lord God (v. 7), for “the day of the Lord is at hand.” That’s a recurring theme in Zephaniah, meaning judgment is near. The Lord has prepared a sacrifice and invited His guests (v. 7). This doesn’t appear to be a sacrifice that one would want to be called to: “In the day of the LORD'S sacrifice…I will punish the princes and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with foreign apparel” (v. 8). The leaders of the people once again come in for special mention. Verse 9’s “all those who leap over the threshold” is interesting, and I want to share some thoughts from Adam Clarke as to its possible meaning: “It is most probable that the Philistines are here meant. After the time that Dagon fell before the ark, and his hands were broken off on the threshold of his temple, his worshippers would no more set a foot upon the threshold, but stepped or leaped over it, when they entered into his temple…Some understand it of haughtiness and pride: others think that leaping on the threshold refers to the customs of the Arabs, who used to ride into people's houses and take away whatever they could carry; and that this is the reason why, in several parts of the East, they have their doors made very low, to prevent those depredators from entering. In this manner, we learn the Persians have frequently oppressed the poor Armenians, going on horseback into their houses, and taking whatever they thought proper.” I can’t imagine why Zephaniah would bring the Philistines into this at this point, but it’s possible, I suppose. I prefer the “haughtiness and pride” understanding.

Mourning and wailing (vs. 10-13)—All of this, not surprisingly, will be accompanied by “a mournful cry from the Fish Gate” and “a wailing from the Second Quarter”—various parts of Jerusalem (v. 10). No one will escape: “I will search Jerusalem with candles,” in effect, looking in every nook and cranny for anyone who thinks they might avoid the judgment of God. And the Lord will “punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, 'the LORD will not do good, nor will He do evil'” (v. 12). At times, men believe that, because God is being patient with them, He will always be patient with them and there will never be a day of reckoning. Not so. And it is a lesson America should learn. If we think we are immune from the laws of history and the wrath of God, then we are as foolish as ancient Judah. Desolation approaches (v. 13).

The day of the Lord (vs. 14-17)—How can I improve on the words of the prophet here?: “The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers” (vs. 14-16). Of course, one can never “improve” upon God’s word, but there are times when no comment is even necessary. The reason for this “day of the Lord” is plainly stated in verse 17: “Because they have sinned against the Lord.” And the end result: “Their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse” (v. 17). And nothing will save them: “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath” (v. 18). The “whole land shall be devoured,” and “He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land” (v. 18). That’s pretty clear. And such is always the consequences of sin.