zechariah

2 Chronicles 27-28, Zechariah 10

Today we’re reading 2 Chronicles 27-28 and Zechariah 10.

This devotional is about Zechariah 10.

One of the metaphors that repeats throughout scripture is that people are like sheep. Like sheep, people are given to wandering off on their own. They will follow the voice of a leader--a shepherd--they trust but without a shepherd, they tend to wander into trouble. A good leader of people, then, both provides a clear voice for the people to follow and watches out for them to keep them from straying too far from the group. When sheep stray too far from the herd, they are vulnerable to predators and to accidents. A good shepherd leads his sheep and watches out for them.

Here in Zechariah 10:3 God expressed anger toward the leaders of his people. The reason for his anger is that these shepherds give voice to lies. Verse 2 says, “The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain.” The result of these false, destructive, deceitful instructions was that “the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.”

God promised to provide the leadership that the kings and priests and prophets were not providing. Verse 3c-d says, “the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah....” But notice the result of that leadership in the next phrase of verse 3, “and make them like a proud horse in battle.” The metaphor changes, then, from the pool being like wandering sheep to becoming strong, able horses in battle. This suggests that God’s leadership takes us when we are weak, foolish, and vulnerable but develops us into strong, capable creatures.

Jesus was the shepherd God had in mind for this as we see in verse 4a, “From Judah will come the cornerstone” which is one of the images used to describe Christ. Christ has become the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). He is the cornerstone on which God’s people and our lives are built (1 Peter 2:6-7). Part of the leadership he provides is to give undershepherds (1 Peter 5:2-3) to his people to serve the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). The elders of our church, then, are here to provide you with the spiritual leadership and nourishment you need to make you strong and able to serve the Lord like a warhorse in the spiritual battles we face in this life.

Thank you for spending the time to read the Old Testament with me this year and to mediate with me on the meaning of these texts each day. I trust this is helpful to your life and that you’re using the word to grow in your faith.

But be sure to put what we’ve been learning into practice in your life. This is the goal of spiritual growth--to make us useful to God and his cause. What have you learned as a believer this year? How have you grown in your faith? Where are you serving the Lord more capably than before?

2 Chronicles 26, Zechariah 9

Today read 2 Chronicles 26 and Zechariah 9.

This devotional is about Zechariah 9.

Israel and Judah were almost constantly at war. Solomon’s kingdom was peaceful but most of the rest of their history in the land was marked by combat with the surrounding nations. Here in Zechariah 9:9-10, God promised that Jerusalem’s king would bring peace.

The peace he would bring would not be a passive (or pacifistic) kind of peace. Verse 9 says he comes “righteous and victorious.” The word “righteous” describes his justice; he would deal properly with every criminal. The word “victorious” described his relationship with other nations. Like the Babylonians who imposed peace by defeating other nations, this king would bring peace by winning all his wars. Verse 10e says, “His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” This sentence defines the borders of Israel as God intended them to be. Under this king, God’s people would rule the world. Once the world was subject to him, however, the mechanisms of war would be unnecessary. Verse 10a-c says, “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.” This king would not need to use force to enforce the peace as other empires, like Rome, did. Instead, his reign would end warfare on earth.

Despite all the military overtones in this chapter, verse 9 describes this king as “lowly and riding on a donkey.” The word “lowly” means “humble” and depicts a king who is not insufferable in his arrogance. The fact that he arrives in Jerusalem “riding on a donkey” is probably in contrast to riding on a powerful warhorse. The description of this king as both “righteous and victorious” but also “lowly and riding a donkey” teaches us that he will be powerful but approachable; just and loving at the same time.

You may recognize that Matthew (21:5) saw Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the fulfillment of this prophecy. Yet Jesus only fulfilled part of it. The military victory of Jesus as well as the peace and justice he will bring await the literal kingdom that Christ will bring in eternity. This is our hope as believers in Christ. When you see injustice in this world, when you hear about the loss of human life through violence and wars, remember that these are symptoms of an unredeemed world. Christ will finish the work he began in his first advent. We can look forward in hope and eagar expectation to his return, then, even as we celebrate his birth this time of year.

2 Chronicles 25, Zechariah 8

Read 2 Chronicles 25 & Zechariah 8 today.

This devotional is about Zechariah 8.

How much work would you do on a house that was about to be demolished? How much would you spend fixing a car that had over 200,000 miles on it? Would you put a lot of effort into anything that you thought might not last very long?

That’s the question God’s people were grappling with after they returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. God had returned them, yes, but what about the next time he was angry? What about the next world power driven to domination? Maybe some of the older adults would live out their natural lives in this homeland, but would their children enjoy the same peace and stability?

In this passage God assured his people that his blessings would reside in Jerusalem for a long time. People would get old there (v. 4) and watch families form, have children, and grow into adults (v. 5). That was hard for the people to believe (v. 6) but not for God. Notice that he is called “the LORD Almighty” twice in verse 6.

The promise of this chapter was that people should make significant capital investments in the land and the city again because those investments will pay off (vv. 12-13). The ultimate investment they needed to make was in God’s house, the temple. Verse 9 says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Now hear these words, “Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.”’” God was committed to these blessings but in order for the spiritual aspects of them to manifest (such as verse 8), they needed to rebuild the center of worship and instruction, the temple.

That was the application for them. What about us? Jesus could return at any moment and God’s presence rests in the people, not in a church building. So how would this passage apply to us?

The New Testament teaches clearly that Christ’s coming could happen at any time and that no one knows when it will happen. We should be ready, therefore, for Jesus to come. BUT, the same apostles who taught us to be ready for Christ’s coming also commanded us to be busy while we wait for Jesus (see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13). We should not wait for Jesus as if we are waiting for a bus; we should wait for him as if we are waiting for guests to come to our home. They could come at any time so we should be busy preparing to welcome them. We should invest in God’s work as if it will last 100 years or more because it might last that long on this earth and, even if it doesn’t, God will reward us for investing our time for him and his work.

One more thing about all of this: In Zechariah 8 God’s concern was that his people think long-term by building a building. Buildings can be great tools but God’s work is about people, not buildings. So when I talk about investing in God’s work “as if it will last 100 years or more” I am talking about reaching and discipling the next generation. Do you have a younger person in your life that you are investing in spiritually? A church can die in one generation if it fails to reach, train, and engage the next generation in ministry. All of us, then, should be looking for younger people--our children/grandchildren first--to disciple and develop. It is too rare to see in one church “men and women of ripe old age” (v. 4) and “boys and girls playing there” (v. 5). It is a rare thing to see but a beautiful thing in God’s sight. May it be true of our church as we seek to invest in the Lord’s work for generations.

2 Chronicles 22-23, Zechariah 6

Today we’re reading 2 Chronicles 22-23 and Zechariah 6

This devotional is about Zechariah 6.

We’ve already noticed that God spoke to Zechariah through highly dramatic, visual, symbolic visions like the flying scroll he saw in chapter 5. Here in chapter 6 he saw “two mountains” made of bronze (v. 1) and four chariots with horses of many colors (v. 3). These horses and chariots represented “the four spirits of heaven” going from the Lord throughout the earth (v. 5). The point of his vision was that the unrest with Babylon, which resulted in the Babylonian captivity of Judah, was over (vv. 8-10). God’s people are now returning to their covenant land and will be at rest.

In verses 10-11 Zechariah was instructed to get gold and silver from some of the exiles who had returned from Babylon and make a crown to put on the head of Joshua the high priest. Then Zechariah was to give Joshua a word from the Lord, “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’” Our translation seems to imply that Joshua is the Branch and will serve as both priest and king. However, the Hebrew indicates something else. The translation “here is” is not meant to indicate, “Here, this guy, Joshua is the Branch.” Instead, it is meant to convey something like, “Look, Joshua here symbolizes one who is called ‘The Branch.’” The one who is referred to as, “The Branch” will give life to Israel by building the temple of the Lord, receiving the majesty of the king, and being Israel’s priest as well as her king (v. 13). Verse 13 concluded by saying, “‘And there will be harmony between the two.’” After years of struggle between kings--some of whom lived to honor the Lord and many more of whom did not--the Branch would unite the kingship and priesthood of Israel in one person. This is, of course, a prophecy of Jesus. He is our king, our Lord but also our savior, the one who made atonement for us.

Israel is still waiting for this priest-king to finish his work of unifying the nation politically and religiously and, since we have been grafted into the branch by God’s grace, we wait with Israel for this fulfillment as well. As we look forward to Christmas on Sunday, we remember not only coming of Jesus our Lord and Savior but also the promises he will fulfill when God’s time for them comes.

2 Chronicles 21, Zechariah 5

Today, read 2 Chronicles 21 and Zechariah 5.

This devotional is about Zechariah 5:1-3.

In these verses, the prophet saw a large scroll flying through the air. The scroll measured 30 feet long by 15 feet wide (v. 2) which indicates that it was unrolled. There was writing on both sides of the scroll and in both cases the writing was a curse. One curse was against “every thief” and the other was against “anyone who swears falsely” in God’s name (v. 3). The curse itself was that the person who either stole or lied “will be banished.” That meant the person would be removed from the community. The thief or liar would no longer be recognized as one of God’s people but instead be treated like an unbelieving Gentile.

Verse 4 said that the scroll would “will enter the house...” of the thief or robber and “remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.” This is a visual way of describing the deterioration of the building, the physical structure that the liar or thief lived in. God’s curse would cause a person’s house to rot--not literally but it is described literally to create fear in the heart of the thief or the liar.

Like many sins, people think theft won’t hurt them unless it is detected. Likewise, we think that dishonesty in our words will only harm us if we’re actually caught lying. But, of course, God sees our sins and knows our dishonesty. This chapter suggests that maybe the consequences to our sins--even when undetected--are like termites silently but consistently eating away at the structure of our lives. God himself pronounces a curse on our sins and, when our sins are unconfessed and unforsaken, those curses “will remain in that house and destroy it completely” (v. 4c-d).

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” according to Galatians 3:13. In Christ, then, God’s curses for our sins have been borne by him. As believers, though, we still need to ongoing cleansing of sin and for the Holy Spirit to expose and remove the rot that sin brings about in our lives.

Is your life rotting away because of unconfessed sin? It could be theft or dishonesty or any number of hidden sins. Problems in your life that you’ve never connected to any particular sin might be the result of sins you’ve committed and covered up rather than confessed and forsaken. December gives us a good opportunity to inventory our lives. Find some time to think about your life and take care of any unconfessed sin, even if it happened a long time ago.

2 Chronicles 19-20, Zechariah 4

Today we’re scheduled to read 2 Chronicles 19-20 and Zechariah 4.

This devotional is about Zechariah 4.

God was moving his people back to Jerusalem in the days of Zechariah and, in this chapter, the Lord sent some encouragement to the leaders. Zerubbabel was the leader in charge of rebuilding God’s temple (v. 9) and he is the leader named in this chapter.

When the people returned to Jerusalem, they were poor. They had an immense amount of work to do rebuilding the city and the temple; but the resources they had to do that work were miniscule.

A massive job to do and few resources to use are the perfect prescription for discouragement. God sent Zechariah to Zerubbabel to remind him that he had the ultimate resource in God. How would he be able to rebuild that temple? “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (v. 6). The natural, financial, and human resources at Zerubbabel’s disposal were few but only resource he needed was spiritual, the power of almighty God.

As a result, neither Zerubbabel nor God’s people should give up or be discouraged by meager beginnings. As verse 10 says, “Who dares despise the day of small things....” Everything that exists once started as something small and modest. Every large church, for example, was once a small church; indeed, it was once merely the idea and desire of a small group of people. If God is in the project, it will not be stopped; if he is not in it, it will not ultimately succeed.

Are you ever tempted to look at your ministry or your life or something else that belongs to God and think, “This is never going to amount to anything!” Verse 10 would rebuke you: “Who dares despise the day of small things...?” Trust God that the desire to serve him matters. Your resources may be few and the beginning may be humble but God is more than powerful enough to make something great.

2 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 1

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2019 Devotionals

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Today’s Readings and Devotional

Today’s readings are 2 Chronicles 16 and Zechariah 1.

This devotional is about Zechariah 1.

When Zechariah wrote these words (v. 1) were still 18 years or so to go in Judah’s 70 year exile. The end was not yet in sight but it was closer than the beginning. God’s message to the people in the first 6 verses of this chapter can be described as follows: • Your parents and grandparents refused to repent when the prophets preached to them that the exile that we’re in was coming. Don’t be like them (v. 4). • What happened to those ancestors off yours, anyway? Oh, yeah, they died in exile just like the prophets said. The prophets themselves died too, by the way (v. 5). • What survives from those days? God’s word; that’s what (v. 6). Everything God said would happen, did happen.

The point of these first 6 verses is that God’s word through the prophets had proved to be true. His word was so clearly true that even the rebellious ancestors were forced to admit, “The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.” God’s punishment for their sins was clear proof of the truthfulness of his word.

So, “‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Don’t wait for the punishment of sin to prove the truth of God’s word. Believe that God’s word is true now and turn to him accordingly.

People in every generation have rejected and tried to discredit God’s word. They argue that there is no proof that the Bible is God’s word; it is just a human book, they think.

Leaving aside the prophecies that have already been fulfilled, God’s word is fulfilled day after day in the consequences that people experience for their sins. “The wages of sin is death” according to Romans 6:23; the fact that every sinner dies proves this word of the Lord to be true. The Bible also promises blessings for faith in and obedience to his word as well as judgment for unbelief and disobedience to his word.

You and I have the benefit of history. We can see how others who lived before us have disregarded God’s commands and sinned because the wanted to sin. What became of their lives? In every case I can think of, they proved that faithlessness and disobedience bring heartbreak and sorrow.

Receive the grace of God in the warning of these words and choose to believe that obeying God’s commands will be far better for you than disobeying them. That’s the lesson God wanted the people of Zechariah’s generation to learn from the exile. Likewise, it is the same lesson he wants us to learn, too.

2 Chronicles 24, Revelation 11, Zechariah 7, John 10

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 24, Revelation 11, Zechariah 7, John 10. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Zechariah 7.

During the 70 years that Judah was captive to Babylon, the Jewish people began a tradition of fasting in the fifth and seventh month of each year (vv. 3-4). The purpose of this fast was, on the surface at least, to beg the Lord to end the captivity, return his people to the promised land, and restore the temple. But the temple was now being rebuilt and many people were returning to Judah, so this delegation wanted to know if the fasting was still necessary.

Zechariah’s answer was long and did not conclude until chapter 8, but his entire answer challenged the questioners more than it answered the question. The Lord asked the people, “...was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?” (vv. 6-7). A fast of true repentance would have honored the Lord but a mere ritual that everyone observed as a matter of custom meant as little to the Lord as it did to the people observing the fast. Likewise, their “normal” days of eating and drinking were done without any regard for the Lord. They did not give thanks for the food he provided or enjoy it as an act of worship from grateful hearts. Both their religious observance and their daily habits were done for themselves, not as servants of God seeking to please him.

Instead, God wanted his people to live like him daily, showing justice, mercy and compassion by caring for widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor rather than using the vulnerabilities of these groups as levers to exploit them. This is the kind of worship God wants, not because he expected people to work to earn his favor but because these ethics were evidence of a truly changed heart.

Think about your daily choices--to eat or not to eat, to read God’s word and pray or not, to attend church or sleep in, to be kind and helpful to others or to ignore their needs. Does your walk with God drive the decisions you make on these (and other) things or do you choose what you will and won’t do based on your own personal motivations?

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Chronicles 22–23, Revelation 10, Zechariah 6, John 9

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 22–23, Revelation 10, Zechariah 6, John 9. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Zechariah 6.

Zechariah is one of the prophets who received the Lord’s word through highly dramatic, visual, symbolic visions. Here in chapter 6 he saw “two mountains” made of bronze (v. 1) and four chariots with horses of many colors (v. 3). These horses and chariots represented “the four spirits of heaven” going from the Lord throughout the earth (v. 5). The point of his vision was that the unrest with Babylon, which resulted in the Babylonian captivity of Judah, was over (vv. 8-10). God’s people are now returning to their covenant land and will be at rest.

In verses 10-11 Zechariah was instructed to get gold and silver from some of the exiles who had returned from Babylon and make a crown to put on the head of Joshua the high priest. Then Zechariah was to give Joshua a word from the Lord, “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’” Our translation seems to imply that Joshua is the Branch and will serve as both priest and king. However, the Hebrew indicates something else. The translation “here is” is not meant to indicate, “Here, this guy, Joshua is the Branch.” Instead, it is meant to convey something like, “Look, Joshua here symbolizes one who is called ‘The Branch.’” The one who is referred to as, “The Branch” will give life to Israel by building the temple of the Lord, receiving the majesty of the king, and being Israel’s priest as well as her king (v. 13). Verse 13 concluded by saying, “‘And there will be harmony between the two.’” After years of struggle between kings--some of whom lived to honor the Lord and many more of whom did not--the Branch would unite the kingship and priesthood of Israel in one person. This is, of course, a prophecy of Jesus. He is our king, our Lord but also our savior, the one who made atonement for us.

Israel is still waiting for this priest-king to finish his work of unifying the nation politically and religiously and, since we have been grafted into the branch by God’s grace, we wait with Israel for this fulfillment as well. As we look forward to Christmas on Sunday, we remember not only coming of Jesus our Lord and Savior but also the promises he will fulfill when God’s time for them comes.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Chronicles 18, Revelation 7, Zechariah 3, John 6

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 18, Revelation 7, Zechariah 3, John 6. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Zechariah 3.

One of the most important truths people need to grasp in order to understand our salvation is the concept of “imputation.” Imputation is a theological name for the truth that our salvation is given to us--imputed to us or credited to us--by God. God declares us to be not guilty and righteous in his sight even though we are actually guilty and unrighteous. 

Zechariah 3 gives us a clear picture to help us understand imputation. In verse 1 a man named Joshua is facing the angel of the Lord but Satan is standing next to Joshua also. Verse 1 tells us that Joshua is “the high priest.” This indicates that he represents the whole nation; that’s what the high priest does when he goes to offer the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. 

Satan stood next to Joshua “to accuse him.” He was ready to bring up every sin he’d ever committed in order to show that he was not a holy man but one who deserved God’s punishment. In verse 2, however, the Lord rebuked Satan and then said this, “Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” That statement indicates that Joshua has been saved. He was in the fire, about to be consumed for his sins, but the Lord snatched him from that judgment.

However, he was still burning because the Lord said, “Is not this man a burning stick....” So he had been rescued for the moment, but was still deserving of punishment. Verse 3 changes the imagery and notes that Joshua was “dressed in filthy clothes.” This was another way of conveying his guilt. In verse 4, the angel of the Lord decreed that his filthy clothes be exchanged for “fine garments” that the Lord would put on him. The meaning of this exchange: “I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” God imputed righteousness to him as symbolized by his rescue from the fire and the exchange of his robes.

After completing the clothing change for Joshua (v. 5) and charging him to live obediently to the Lord (vv. 6-7), the Lord explained the meaning of this vision. First, he told them that this was about things in the future: “...who are men symbolic of things to come...” (v. 8). In the future, then, the Lord promised, “I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.... and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day” (vv. 8-9).

This is what God has done for us in Christ. He rescued us from certain destruction and exchanged our guilt for his righteousness. And this is prophesied in the Old Testament because this is what God always intended. Israel never kept his laws because sinners are incapable of keeping the law of God without God’s gracious work in our lives. If you’ve come to know Jesus, “the Branch,” by faith, then no matter what you’ve done in your life or how guilty you feel, God silences the accusations of Satan against you and you stand before him perfect. This perfection came to you by imputation, when God credited to filthy sinners like you and me the perfect righteousness of Christ. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Chronicles 17, Revelation 6, Zechariah 2, John 5

Thanks for reading along with me this year. If you'd like to continue this practice in 2017, click here for details about NT17, my devotional plan for next year. You can sign up on that page; the mailing list you're on now will be discontinued on December 31 after the last 66 in 16 devotional goes out.

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 17, Revelation 6, Zechariah 2, John 5 Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Zechariah 2.

In this chapter Zechariah learned what life would be like in the future city of Jerusalem. In verse 1 he met a man who was on his way to measure Jerusalem but by verse 3 the man had been stopped by an angel because the city would be beyond measure. According to verse 4 it would be “a city without walls,” full of people and animals, guarded and illuminated by the Lord himself (v. 5). This describes Jerusalem as it will be during Christ’s earthly kingdom--the Millennium (v. 10). Although Israel, God’s covenant people, are gathered into this city (vv. 6-9), they are not the only ones who will enjoy this amazing life. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you” (v. 11). This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3b). This is why the gospel was for the Gentiles just as much as it was for the Jews. Our presence there in Jesus’ kingdom was part of God’s plan all along and it shows God’s love and grace to us regardless of who we are or where we came from. There is a bright future ahead for the human race but it will arrive through the fulfillment of Christ’s promises, not through technological breakthroughs, political planning, or military conquest. When the cares and problems of this life drag us down, a passage like this can return our gaze to God and his plan. Great things await those who trust in Jesus!

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.