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Exclusively published to the Touchstone website each week, these Daily Reflections are brief commentaries on the lectionary readings contained in the St. James Daily Devotional Guide. The reflections are penned by Patrick Henry Reardon, editor of the Daily Devotional Guide and a senior editor of Touchstone. Father Reardon provides here a very brief directional clue for one of the texts each day. Long-time readers of the Daily Devotional Guide will find these reflections an additional help to their reading of Holy Scripture which they can print and keep with their Guide.

The Daily Reflections will be updated weekly.

 



Sunday, April 6

Zechariah 2: JerusalemŐs wall would not be reconstructed until the time of Nehemiah. During these prophecies of Zechariah, around 520, Jerusalem is still only a little village without walls. There is no slight irony, then, that an angel proposes to measure the length and breadth of it (verse 2). The irony itself is prophetic, because the day will come when Jerusalem will be too large to measure, "for the multitude of men and cattle therein" (verse 4). More than the earthly Jerusalem is involved here, of course. The perspective of this prophecy is turned, rather, to that Jerusalem yet to come, "when many nations shall be joined to the Lord" (verse 11). The Jerusalem where Zechariah lived had already been destroyed once, and less than six centuries later it would be destroyed again. None of the promises made to that ancient Jerusalem were completely fulfilled in its regard, because that Jerusalem was a type and prefiguration of the more ample and catholic Jerusalem to whom the pledge was made, "Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" Matthew 28:20). This is the Jerusalem where GodŐs Exodus-presence is fulfilled: "For I, says the Lord, will be unto her as a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (verse 5). This protecting presence of the Lord is the chapterŐs major theme (cf. verse 11,13). In verse 12 we have the first occurrence of the expression "Holy Land" with reference to the land of promise. The expression will later appear in the Wisdom of Solomon 12:3 and 2 Maccabees 1:7.

Monday, April 7

Zechariah 3: Chief among the priests who returned from Babylon was the high priest Jeshua, or Joshua, whose father Jehozadak had been carried away to Babylon back in 586 (1 Chronicles 6:15). JeshuaŐs name invariably appears second among the returning exiles (Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 7:7; 12:1,10,26), right after Zerubbabel, the governor appointed by the Cyrus to oversee JerusalemŐs restoration. In the prophecies of Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Jeshua are paired as the spiritual and political leaders of the people, as we shall see in Chapter 4. In the present chapter the prophet beholds the high priest Jeshua standing before God with an angel and with Satan. Satan is doing for Jeshua what he did for Job, namely, "opposing" him, saying bad things to God about him (verse 1; cf. Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). In both these cases Satan is the "accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night" (Revelation 12:10). In the case of Jeshua, SatanŐs accusation had to do with the "filthy garments" of the high priest (verse 3), which signify his unworthiness. This may refer to his personal unworthiness and/or to the unworthiness of the people that he represents at the altar. Either and both interpretations will fit the context. The question under debate is, can such a priest, so improperly vested, properly offer sacrifices to the Almighty? At this point the angel of the Lord rebuked Satan for his accusation against the priest: "The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!" (verse 2) ("The Lord rebuke you!" is the execration regularly preferred by angels who are obliged to deal with Satan; cf. Jude 9.) Jeshua may be taken to represent any and all of GodŐs servants aware of their total unworthiness as they come to worship. Their hearts are full of such sentiments as, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8), "I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof" (7:6), and "God, be merciful to me a sinner! (18:13). Satan, of course, is ever at hand on such occasions, ready even further to discourage these saints who feel guilty in their filthy garments, suggesting to their minds that they may as well give the whole thing up as useless. But what do the angels say? "Take away the filthy garments from him. . . . Let them put a clean turban on his head." We do not come before God with any cleanliness of our own. "See," the Lord says, "I remove your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes" (verses 4-5). That is to say, we approach the worship of God only in the pure grace of our redemption. "Is not this," asks our good angel, "a branch plucked from the fire?" (verse 2) In the literal context, this plucking refers to redemption from the Babylonian Captivity. In its Christian context it refers to a more radically redemptive plucking from a far more serious fire. In either case, when someone is plucked from the fire, he tends to be a bit smudged up, and his clothes are in pretty bad shape. Not to worry, the angel says, God can handle that.

Tuesday, April 8

Zechariah 4: As in other prophetic accounts (cf. Amos 7:8; 8:2), a dialogue of questions and answers accompanies this vision of Zechariah. This is apparently necessary, as the vision is complex and detailed.
The image of the lamp stand is surely related to the lamp stand in the Mosaic tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-37) and in the Solomonic temple (1 Kings 7:49). From the bas relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome, we know that the second temple also had such a lamp stand. The lamp stand of ZechariahŐs vision is not entirely identified with these, however. Being visionary, it is differently contoured. The seven lamps represent the fullness of the GodŐs providential knowledge of the world (verse 10), of which the constant worship in GodŐs temple at Jerusalem served as a sign. These lamps were nourished by the oil provided by the two ministries of the secular ruler and the priest, Zerubbabel and Jeshua (verses 10-14). We recall that both the kings and the priests of Israel were anointed with the same oil that burned in the seven-branch lamp stand (Exodus 27:20; 30:23-24; Leviticus 24:2). They are "sons of oil."
In their historical context, the efforts of these men seemed weak, but they acted by the power of GodŐs Spirit (verse 6). Consequently, no matter how tiny appear their efforts, let no one despise "the day of small things" (verse 10), which refers to their laying of the foundation for the new temple (verse 9). This foundation stone of GodŐs house (verse 7), which is mystically identical with the seven-faceted stone in 3:9, should be viewed as a Christological prophetic reference. Much of the imagery of this chapter will appear later in Revelation 11.

Wednesday, April 9

Zechariah 5: In this chapter, which also uses dialogue to interpret what is seen, there are two visions. In the first (verses 1-4), the prophet sees a flying scroll considerably larger than one would expect; indeed, it is the same size as the portico in SolomonŐs temple (1 Kings 6:3). This scroll contains the curses attendant on those who violate the terms of GodŐs covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18-20). This scroll represents a permanent warning of the dangers of infidelity.
In the second vision (verses 5-11), the prophet sees "Wickedness" portrayed as a woman carried in a basket. Unlike the very large scroll in the first vision, the present vision gives us a very small basket. It contains only an ephah, yet this woman can fit into it. She must be a pretty insignificant woman, this Wickedness, and the angelic figures contemptuously shove her down into the basked and enclose it with a leaden lid. Representing the power of Babylon, which the Bible holds in contempt, the woman and her basket are deposited in the Babylonian plain (verse 11; cf. Genesis 11:2). This is the same woman, by the way, who looks so much larger and more impressive in Revelation 17.

Thursday, April 10

Zechariah 6: This chapter contains both a vision and an oracle. In the vision (verses 1-8) the prophet sees four chariots drawn by horses, which are also four "winds" or "spirits," as it were (verse 5). He saw them earlier (1:7-11). Like the "four winds" of common parlance, these horses go in four directions: the black northbound, the white westbound, the dappled southbound, and the red eastbound. They represent GodŐs providential "patrol," as it were, of the whole universe. God is keeping an eye on things, Zechariah is reminded, even things that donŐt seem to be going very well.
Although Babylon lies east of Jerusalem, one journeys there by leaving Jerusalem in a northerly direction and then following the contour of the Fertile Crescent. (If one journeyed straight east, he would simply have to pass through the Arabian Desert, an area best avoided.) Consequently, there is a special significance in the northbound horses in this vision, for they go to Babylon, where, God assures His prophet, He has everything under control (verse 8). This vision is related, then, to the woman in the basket in the previous chapter. The "Spirit" that guides world history, including geopolitical history, is the same Spirit proclaimed to Zerubbabel in 4:6.
The oracle in this chapter (verses 9-15), like the vision of the two olive trees in 4:11-14, pertains to the LordŐs two "sons of oil," Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the priest and the governor, the religious and civil authority. Both are anointed by God and must work in common endeavor for the Lord (verse 13). The "branch" in verse 12, as in 3:8, refers to Zerubbabel, whose Akkadian name means "the branch of Babylon." He is both a foreshadowing and a forefather (Matthew 1:12-13) of the One who combines in Himself the twin dignities of King and Priest.

Friday, April 11

Zechariah 7: This chapter has two parts. In the first (verses 1-7) , the prophet addresses a specific question about fasting. Since the fall of Jerusalem and its temple in 586, the Jews had adopted special fasting seasons during the year to commemorate their national disaster. Now that the temple in Jerusalem was being rebuilt, nearly seventy years later, should they keep those fast seasons any longer? Certain villagers in the Holy Land want to know, and the prophet answers them with a specific oracle from the Lord.
The second part of this chapter (verses 8-14) is probably situated here because it refers to the earlier prophets (verse 12), whom Zechariah had just mentioned (verse 7). The prophet reminds his contemporaries that their recent defeat and scattering had been foretold by the former prophets as a result of the sins of the nation. The specific precepts that Zechariah cites (verse 9-10) seem to indicate the social prophets of two centuries earlier: Amos, Micah, and Isaiah.

Saturday, April 12

Zechariah 8: Now, seventy years after GodŐs departure from Jerusalem had left it completely vulnerable to the attack of the Babylonians, God is about to return and make it once again His holy city. Indeed, the chapter following this one will describe His return as IsraelŐs anointed King seated on the foal of an ass.
Jerusalem will once again be a "city of faith" (verse 3: Ôir haŐemeth) where God will dwell. Both sexes and all ages will dwell there securely (verses 4-5). The Lord will once again gather the scattered (verse 7) and dwell in their midst (verse 8). All of this is promised in the rebuilding of the temple (verses 9-13). The reason things have changed, says Zechariah, is that God has relented from His wrath (verses11,14), and the prophet goes on to insist on the maintenance of those social virtues (verses 16-17) of which he had spoken in the previous chapter (7:9-10). The special seasons of fastings, about which Zechariah had been consulted earlier (7:1-7), will be turned into times of joy (verses 18-19). Jerusalem will once again become a place of pilgrimage (verses 20-22), even for the gentiles (verse 23). The whole world will be converted to the God of the Jews (cf. John 4:22).
These prophecies, only imperfectly realized with respect to JerusalemŐs second temple, are properly interpreted in their Christian fulfillment in the message of the Gospel The salvation truly accomplished in Jerusalem is that fulfilled in the dramatic events of the last week of the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth.




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