Ezra 5

Vs. 1, “Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.” After many years of discouragement from not rebuilding the temple, God would raise up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (vs. 1-3). They would bring messages of hope and a bit of kicking them in the rear end to wake up out of their fear and complacency. Both of the prophets have books in the Old Testament that give us rich detail in how God spoke through them. Their rebuilding activity caught the attention of Tattenai an official governor of Persia (vs. 3-5). We are given some interesting insight into the letter of inquiry that was sent to the new Persian King Darius (vs. 6-17). We are left with much suspense as we await the response of King Darius!

Regarding application…God’s Has Our Back. Vs. 5, “But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received.” What could have otherwise been a huge blow of discouragement was minimized because God’s ever-watching eye was upon them! Ezra gives us insight that God both encouraged and protected them during their rebuilding process. Since the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), we the church have been in a very long but effective building process. The project is not over. God still has work to be done. Like Tattenai, there have been many who have come to discourage the church. But, we are living testimonies that God has had our back since the beginning.   Take time to consider how the Lord has specifically intervened in your life to bring hope in the midst of conflict.

Luke 1

Vs. 3, “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.”  Through meticulous eyewitnesses (vs. 2) and investigative research, Luke now compiles all this intel to present the history of Jesus and His church (vs. 1-4).  Question: Who is Theophilus?  Some biblical scholars believe Theophilus was a Gentile who converted to Christianity but was among the Jews.  Others believe Theophilus (friend of God), was a generic name that was written to many.  Luke records in detail the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah in the temple regarding the coming birth of John the Baptist (vs. 5-25).  We get a wider appreciation of how God was intricately working out the forerunner for Jesus.  But Gabriel’s work was not yet finished, for he now comes to visit young Mary (vs. 26-38).  It’s fitting that Luke the physician, who would have probably been the most suspicious of a virgin birth claim, records in detail Mary’s perspective.  We then see a twist in the story for we now realize that Gabriel’s visit to both Zechariah and Mary was all within the family (vs. 36).  After Mary was told her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant, she travels quickly to visit (vs. 39-45).  How phenomenal to be told that baby John still in his mother’s womb leaped for joy upon Mary’s visit (vs. 44)!  Certainly, Mary’s song/Magnificat (vs. 46-56) is a testament to why she was highly favored (vs. 28).  As a very young teenager, her godliness and knowledge of Scripture is an example for all of us.  We then fast-forward a bit to John the Baptist’s birth (vs. 57-66).  Zechariah and Elizabeth stun the crowd as they come to celebrate John’s circumcision with naming him “John” rather than using a name from the family line.  Remember, Gabriel gave specific instructions to name the baby John (vs. 13).  And lastly, we are given a front row seat to another song: Zechariah’s song (vs. 67-80).  Zechariah knowing that his baby boy would be preparing the way for Jesus, sings a beautiful song of faith and salvation!

Regarding application…Power of Singing.  Twice we witness the natural response to God’s goodness was to sing.  Both Mary and Zechariah can’t help but express their love for the Lord with a song.  The power of song goes back to Moses & Miriam (Exodus 15) as God delivered them from the Egyptians after the crossing of the Red Sea.  Throughout Scripture, we see how powerful songs of praise to God are.  The 150 chapters of Psalms is a testament to that!  Christian churches all over the world sings songs of praise in a response to who God is and what He has done!  I still recall Luke’s later account in Acts 16 of Paul & Silas in prison singing hymns and the prisoners listening to them.  As they worshipped, God brought upon an earthquake that shook the prison doors open!  Brothers and sisters, there is so much joy and power in singing to the Lord!  As you attend your churches this weekend, give an extra effort lifting up your voice to the Lord.

Zechariah 14

Vs. 1, “A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.”  Question: When is this day?  There are differing views from theologians regarding this.  Some point towards the End Times before the Millennial reign of Christ, others point towards a time after Zerubbabel (vs. 1-2).  It seems that this is pointing more towards Jesus as the one who stands on the Mount of Olives to fight against the nations (vs. 3-11).  The King of Kings will now assume His physical role on the earth (Vs. 9).  And those who try to defy the King will experience a plague and a great panic!  The remaining of those Gentiles that have turned to the Lord will be required to come and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (vs. 16-19).  The Feast of Tabernacles in quick summary really is a celebration of thanksgiving.

Regarding application…Thy Kingdom Come!  Vs. 9, “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”  Brothers and sisters, this is going to be a glorious time!  I believe those of us who have died before the Millennium, will meet Christ and reign during this period as well (I Thessalonians 4:17).  As I prepare to move and relocate closer to my church, I’ve found it harder to move each time.  I’ve been a vagabond of sorts over the years, but I look forward to putting my roots in my church community.  Yet, I know that one day we will have a permanent home with the Lord.  That will be a time for true rejoicing and celebration!  Come Lord Jesus!

Zechariah 13

Vs. 2, “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land.”  God will bring judgment upon those who have led people into idolatry (vs. 2-6).  Certainly, Zechariah was speaking directly to the false prophets under Persian rule, but many believe it is also pointing towards the End Times.  The deceivers cannot hide from their lies (vs. 5-6) anymore.  In the last section of our chapter (vs. 7-9), we see Zechariah refer to the Shepherd (Jesus).  Additionally, we also are given a prophecy of the sheep who scatter, some point towards the disciples after the crucifixion and others towards the End Times.

Regarding application…Refiner’s Fire.  Vs. 9, “This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.”  This reminds me of the old 80’s praise song!  But in this picture, we see the LORD purifying His people.  Refining precious metals involved intense fire and heat that would separate the dross and impurities.  Throughout the OT, we see references to this refining (Psalm 17:3, 26:2, 66:10, Jeremiah 9:7).  Question: How would we stand against the Refiner’s fire?  Each day we turn to the Lord, we allow Him to cut away more the impurities of our lives so we can reflect the glory of the LORD!

Zechariah 12

Vs. 1, “A prophecy: The word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares:…”  Another oracle/prophesy reminds us that God of all creation is at work and in control!  God’s people (Jerusalem) will be like a cup of wrath, an immovable rock, a blinding defense, and a consuming fire against the nations that go against her (vs. 2-8).  Question: Why is this so important?  Zechariah is trying to remind them that with God on their side, Jerusalem is unbeatable.  The people took for granted that Jerusalem would always be impenetrable.  But, their sin separated them from God.  That is why the city and temple were destroyed by the Babylonians.  Now as they rebuild after the exile, they need encouragement and a reminder that God’s promises will still come true.  There are several thoughts on who Zechariah is referring to (vs. 10-14) and the subsequent identity of the mourners.  However, most believe it does point ultimately to Christ, the Anointed one!

Regarding application…Source of Strength.  Vs. 5, “Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the Lord Almighty is their God.”  This reminds me of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  The summer of my 8th grade year into high school, I ran the state 10K competition.  I was quite skinny and could run like the wind back in the day.  The day of run, it was a hot and humid August day in the Mid-west.  As we ran our course, I was surprised to see water stations setup every mile.  I felt like a person running on the red carpet of fame!  It was so nice to have people holding out water for each runner as we ran by.  That day, I ran my fastest 10K and while I could have done it without the water stations, I would not have ran it much slower.  It was the water that was the source of my strength.  Likewise, we are strong because the LORD Almighty is our source!

Zechariah 11

Vs. 2, “Wail, you juniper, for the cedar has fallen; the stately trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan; the dense forest has been cut down!”  Unlike our previous chapter of hope in the coming Messiah, Zechariah wakes us up to the reality that many will reject the true Shepherd the first time He comes.  Here we see a prophecy of the nation Israel’s demise (vs. 1-3).  The imagery speaks of destruction and the pride that comes from these resources.  In the following verses (vs. 4-14), there is much debate due to the ambiguity of the Hebrew text.  This passage opens up with a Shepherd who is caring for his flock, but they are marked for slaughter (vs. 4).  The sheep represent Israel and the flock has gone through much trial being under the oppression of other nations (vs. 5).  Some scholars believe that Zechariah is pointing towards the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. (vs. 6).  We then see the Shepherd imagery of the two staffs (vs. 7), as it was customary for Shepherds to carry two staff’s for different purposes.  We do not know who the three Shepherds, some say it was just a general way of referring to the faulty leadership.  The covenant that is broken, was not a covenant with God’s people, rather one with the Gentile nations (vs. 10).  We then see the reference to thirty pieces of silver (vs. 12), as we get a symbol of Jesus’ role with Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:6-10).  Thirty pieces of silver was the price for a slave and the potter’s house (vs. 13) represents the field that was bought from the potter (Matthew 27:3-10).  The breaking of the other staff represented the temporary disunity of God’s people until the second return of Christ.  We then see a prophecy of the anti-christ (vs. 15-17).

Regarding application…Confirming Signs.  Vs. 11, “It was revoked on that day, and so the oppressed of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord.”  God’s words come true.  Much of the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled and we are still awaiting a few more!  For the believing over the generations, we have been able to see that God’s words do not fall on dear ears or eyes.  When the believers during the destruction of Jerusalem, saw the prophecies of her judgment, there was no denying the prophecies were from God.  This reminds me that we already have signs of the world that Jesus would paint for us (Matthew 24).  We know that this spiritually declining world is prophecies that are coming to fruition.  Let these signs be warnings, yet also encouragements to see that God is in control.  Question: What are we doing with the short time we have?  Things come and go in this life.  Let’s remember what is most important!  Walk with the Lord and surrender your will so His may be done!

Zechariah 10

Vs. 1, “Ask rain from the Lord at the time of the spring rain—The Lord who makes the storm clouds; And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man.”  Unlike the river Nile where the Israelites didn’t have to depend on the rains, in Israel they did.  The rains were a constant reminder of God’s provision.  This was important to delineate that it was the LORD and not other pagan god’s some of the shepherds (leaders) were encouraging His people to trust in (vs. 3).  Both Judah (Southern Kingdom) and Joseph (Northern Kingdom) will be restored (vs. 6) and the lost would be found!  The LORD will bring back everyone who has been scattered from the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles (vs. 7-12).  Question: When will this happen?  During the millennial kingdom when Jesus returns a second time (Revelations 20:1-7)!

Regarding application…God is Signaling You!  Vs. 8, “I will signal for them and gather them in.  Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before.”  More literal translations state “I will whistle…”  God is calling His people towards Him.  It’s kind of a humorous sight to picture God whistling.  I’m a dog owner and there are times when I find myself whistling to get my dog’s attention.  Certainly we are not as dumb as dogs, but there are times when we can get easily distracted.  We must perk up our ears to hear God’s signal/whistle to draw our attention back to Him.  As we begin this new week, listen and respond.  Don’t let the false ways of this world turn us away from Him!

Zechariah 9

Vs. 9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Many of us are quite familiar with the fulfillment of this prophecy as Jesus did in  fact ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 1:1-5, John 12:12-16).  As our chapter opens (vs. 1-8), most scholars believe Zechariah is pointing towards the events of Alexander the Great and how he never invaded Jerusalem, but all the surrounding nations.  But a greater king (Jesus) would enter Jerusalem (vs. 10).  Zechariah also prophesies of Jesus’ second return (vs. 10-15) and most importantly, we see King Jesus victorious (vs. 16-17)

Regarding application…Mighty to Save.  Vs. 16, “The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.”  What a picture!  Jesus the Lamb of God who saves his sheep.  Yet, He is also the mighty warrior who is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5)!  If the LORD can move mountains and calm the raging seas, how much more can He save His people?  In the midst of the unknown future, Zechariah brings hope to those who trusted in the Lord and came back to Jerusalem.  God is in control.  While there are scoffers who poke fun at the faith of Christians today (II Peter 3:3), we must now allow that to deter our faith.  Question: How will you respond to the salvation that has been given/offered today?

Zechariah 8

Vs. 2, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”  Because of Israel’s hardened hearts, we are reminded that God is a jealous God.  His people had turned to other God’s and had broken the 1st Commandment (Exodus 20).  Yet, through this chapter, we are reminded of God’s passion and love!  In the first half of our chapter (vs. 1-13), Zechariah reminds everyone that God has a wonderful future for them.  Remember, they were still struggling with the rebuilding process.  In the latter half (vs. 14-23), we see their past struggles now become their future blessings.  Certainly, these blessings must be connected to their obedience to doing good (vs. 16-17).  And lastly, Zechariah gives us a picture of the Messianic/Millennial  period (vs. 18-23)!

Regarding application…Sorrow to Joy.  Vs. 19,  “This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”  While there was only one required fasting period (Day of Atonement), fasting was used to seek and know the Lord deeper.  It still is very appropriate to fast in the church today.  However, there will be a time where we no longer will need to fast.  Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!  Question: Why not fasting?  Because Jesus will be with His people!  What a joyful day that will be!

Zechariah 7

Vs. 3, “by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”  The night visions are over and Zechariah is visited by a delegation of leaders from Bethel who are curious about their practice of fasting while in exile.  We get a surprising answer (vs. 4-7) as it seems the LORD is pointing towards the prophet Jeremiah’s warning (Jeremiah 36).  People were fasting, but not for the right reasons (vs. 5).  Jeremiah goes on to share how the Jews were reminded to be obedient in good works in the past, yet their hearts were evil.  They were so focused on the outwards acts of the Law, that they were not following the spirit of the Law (vs. 12).  They closed their hearts and their ears (vs. 11-14).  That is why they were disciplined and were taken captive in Babylon in the first place.

Regarding application…Hardened Heart.  Vs. 12a, “They made their hearts as hard as flint…”  Over 2500 years ago, the prophet Zechariah shared these Spirit inspired words…yet they still so aptly apply to us today.  How ironic that Zechariah was reminding a new generation of what God had exhorted to their older generation.  And so the cycle continues…  Brothers & sisters in Christ, that is why I follow the Word of the Spirit of God to walk daily with Him!  I would find myself nearly hopeless and lost if I had not His Word to convict and guide me.  In our Bible study this week, we were reminded of that wonderful opening in the Gospel of John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Question: How is your heart?  Are you turning to God’s Word?  Soften your heart today and know God is calling you to follow Him daily!