Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm afraid of doing it wrong.

This section has had two lessons in it for me, but at the same time it speaks strongly to where I am with this study. The exiles had returned to Israel, and God told them to keep working. He didn't want them to fall back into the ways of their fathers. I also learned that I bring my baggage with me wherever I go.

I was seriously debating whether or not I should go on with my study here because my motives were off. I realized that my own baggage was causing me to think about what I put here in a way which was NOT, "What will God teach me," but rather "I'll show them." I get a lot of search hits from "how many do not be afraids are in the Bible." I wanted people to see what I found, and know. I wanted people to follow with me, and learn. But in reality, this is a learning lesson for me. If I'm wrong on my research, which means there are in fact 365 in the Bible, and if I'm the only one to find out if that is true (or not) I have to continue. As I have said, and it is the truth, each week God has shaken me to my core, or touched a situation I was in, with what He showed me in that week's lesson.

You know what this has shown me? That we don't not do things because we have baggage, because we all have baggage. So, like the Israelites were told to keep working, I feel I am to keep working, too. God will continue to teach me. I will see things through a certain perspective, but my learning will alter the perspective as well. If I stop what good is that? If I stop learning and growing through God's Word then I'm at a dangerous place of possibly falling back to my old behaviors. No, giving up is not the option. Moving forward is the only thing we can do. The only thing I can do.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The fear of starting without all the answers

Zechariah 8:13,15
As you have been an object of cursing among the nations,
O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing.
Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.
So now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah.
Do not be afraid.

It was interesting to read the commentaries for this section of this book. While I look to see what is said in context, you can see by the research I share that I always also look back to what others have seen here. I want to learn from those who have come before, and so their words are important to look at, though I have always reserved the right not to agree. This section seemed to be so important to several in order to explain the coming Messiah and the New Covenant.

The Geneva study bible stated this section showed we cannot turn to God until He turns our hearts toward him. Coffman’s Commentary said the purpose of these verses is to show “obedience will be the primary condition in the establishment of the New Covenant.” How can one section of the Bible be interpreted in such opposite ways? Because we bring our baggage into it.

I have to admit I am as guilty as the next person, though we all strive not to do it I am sure. We want to only read what the scripture says. We want to know what God teaches. But we come to His words with baggage of expectations and experiences, and sometimes just down right selfish pride, which alters how we read what has been said.

I obviously will not be the one to clear up grace verses action, though I often point to James in times like this. They go together in a mysterious way we won’t ever really be able to understand. Christ died for our sins and was resurrected again before we even knew him, while we were still sinners, and yet the acceptance of that grace has the expectation of obedience, for if we love him we will obey him. Maybe it’s not ours to fully understand this side of heaven.

What we do know, here, is Zechariah has told the returning exiles not to be afraid and to keep working hard because God would bless them. God has determined to do good again towards his people. And so, Zechariah in verse 16 says: “‘These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this.’ declares the Lord.”

Question 1: When have you come to a situation with thoughts and ideas which altered the way you saw something? Was it against another person, or the word of God? How can we clear our motives so that we walk in truth and justice?

Question 2: Despite our baggage and expectations God has work for us to do. We don’t have to know all the answers to work hard. Have you delayed starting something you know you were meant to do? Can you move forward even if you don’t have all the answers?
Dear Lord
I don’t know the answers
And sometimes I seem to have more questions than anything
Forgive the times I have been sure of my pride
Forgive the times I have not listened with an open heart
Forgive the times I have seen through my eyes
Help us Lord to be your eyes and ears
And to live as you would have us do so

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Returned Exiles' Fear

Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai. They both spoke to the returned exiles. Haggai focused more on the religious life of the people, while Zechariah focused more on the nation. So, what can we learn from his words? We are not the nation of Israel. We are, however, people of God.

Israel had returned to their land yet they were falling into the same behaviors as those before the exile had done. Their heart, while fasting or feasting, was not toward God. They did not do what He asked and they had given up on the building of God’s Temple.

Zechariah comes and tells them not to grow weak, to keep their hands strong, and to live according to how God had called them to live as a nation. They would no longer be a curse, but they would become a blessing. God had punished Israel and Judah for their actions, but now He had determined to do good again to them. He told them not to be afraid.

Zechariah 8 13 15

Zechariah 8:13,15

As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong. ... so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. (NIV) 
And as you have been a curse and a byword amond the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong and hardened. ... So again have I purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Fear not! (Amplified)  
It will come about that just as you wee a curse amond the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong. ... so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear! (NAS)

ESV Book Introduction: Zechariah encouraged the returned Jewish exiles to repent and renew their covenant with God... Zechariah reassured them of God's abiding comfort and care. God would continue his covenant with Israel. Messianic hope was rekindled during Zechariah's ministry, and the book ends with the promise that the Lord would establish his rule on all the earth.

William Orr:
Theme - The first returning group of exiles was 50,000 strong, but had been hindered and finally stopped building God spoke through Zechariah (and Haggai) to stir up their hearts and renew their labors. While Haggai's burden seemed to be the religious life of the people, Zechariah's was to concentrate on the national and political. His ministry extended over two years and he was used to bring to completion the restoration of the temple. His main ministry looked far into the future envisioning both the first coming of the Messiah and His return in power and great glory.

Geneva Study Bible:
Verse 15 declares that man cannot turn to God until He changes man's heart by His Spirit and so begin to do good to them, which is to pardon his sins and to give him his graces.

Coffman's Commentary:
13 - This (so will I save you...) was the GREAT blessing God always had in mind from the beginning of his promise to Abraham until the present day. To be saved by God! Nothing can compare with such a blessing.
15 - No factor of the divine providence is any more ignored or denied than is this one. All of God's promises, either for destruction or for blessing are contingent, always, invariably, and eternally contingent upon the status of the recipient with regard to the fact of whether or not he is obedient to the Lord. There are no preferred classes where this rule is suspended, not even for those who say they 'believe' but do not obey the teachings of the Lord. The purpose of these verses is to show that obedience will be the primary condition in the establishment of the New Covenant.

Matthew Henry:
13 - your restoration shall be as much taken notice of to your honour as ever your desolation and dispersion were to your reproach; you shall be applauded and admired as ever you were vilified and run down

Reformation Study Bible:
This chapter is a picture of the ultimate state of the kingdom of God.

13 - Even a Jewish commentator saw this 'It is possible, that this may have been spoken of the second temple, on condition that they should keep the commandments of the Lord; or, it is still future, referring to the days of Messiah: and this is proved by the following verse which says, 'O house of Judah and house of Israel.' During the second temple the house of Israel did not return.'