Saturday, May 23, 2009

Humble Submission: The Highest Station in Life

The prophets of old can teach us many powerful lessons about how to live this life we’ve come to know. Scanning through the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament, I was struck by this:

“The word of the LORD Almighty came to me. 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”
–Zechariah 8:18-19 (TNIV).
Anyone who knows their Bible, and the purpose of Israel (and the Church today), will know these stand to point people to God. Israel, God’s chosen people, was not special per se, but they were chosen to herald to the world, godly (or holy) ways of living.

The prophet Zechariah sees God offering hope to a largely hopeless people as the period of exile was ending. God had restored the land to the Remnant. Now Zechariah is preaching this hope in quite a translucent, ominously-challenging way.

The not one, not two, but four fasts mentioned commemorate important times when the people had been crushed. Traditionally, these times might have attracted solemn reflection and even lament for what the forefather must have experienced under such tyranny. With Stoic countenance the people will, in this way--in their commitment to God, thank him resolutely.

Hope, in this passage, is pungent. With grace, God has ended their woes, and his salvation has come in a lasting way. The hope is so strong that the people are told to fast resolutely and gladly (not sombrely) in honour of grievous times past. And they are to do this obediently, in response to their loving God’s disciplinary acts toward their disobedient ancestors; for in this they’ve learned life-saving lessons in how to live life and how not to live it.

This reminds us, today, of the need to remember. We must remember the patterns held to account in the Old Testament; patterns of blessing and cursing, of obedience and disobedience, of humility and pride, and of fear of God and idolatry.

These patterns remain today (and always). The insightful see the times, for there are as many prophets today as any other time in history. We ought to be grateful for our history, our human history, for it points us to the way to live.

We’re to love truth and peace. This is how we’re to reap continued blessings of God. This is how we please him. And it doesn’t come without costs, not least of which is our pride. Living the appreciable life of truth and peace is a delicate, tenuous balance.

And this form of blessing is merely the start of things. As we maintain our love of truth and peace, God breaks through hearts in new ways--in his way. Ways we’d never expect. And a more universal sense of blessing is felt (see Zechariah 8:20-23).

In obedient faith toward ‘entreating’[1] God is forged a new, indomitable approach to life which ushers in God’s time of renewal and revival. Hasten the day. Bring it to pass, now, even now.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

John L. Mackay, Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi – God’s Restored People (Fearn, Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1994, 2003), p. 167-68.

Thomas E. McComiskey, “Zechariah” in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical & Expository Commentary (T.E. McComiskey ed.) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Company, 1998), p. 1154. The title of this article cites a variation of a phrase of McComiskey’s.

M. Butterworth, “Zechariah” in New Bible Commentary (D.A. Carson, R.T. France, J.A. Moyter & G.J. Wenham eds.) (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1953, 1954, 1970, 1994), p. 872-75.
[1] The value of entreating God is quite significant, theologically, to this passage. “Entreat” means “to plead with especially in order to persuade: ask urgently i.e. plead with.” "entreat." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 23 May 2009.

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