Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Zechariah 14 – A New, Pure, and Perfect Creation

BLESSING does not come without bearing the burden a godly people are called to bear. The promise of a pure and perfect creation — where nothing unholy can exist — where the Lord Jesus, our Davidic King is worshipped in all glory and majesty — is realised only when a great cost is borne. This is something we have to be prepared to die for.
I’m not trying to radicalise anyone here. On the contrary, the faithful ones will not oppress; they’ll be the oppressed. We have to be prepared. And there’s solace in this: we are one death (Hebrews 9:27). The hardship of death is a moment. It’s nothing like an eternity.
That said, let’s hop into chapter 14 of Zechariah: the culmination of all things.
Reminiscent of Revelation, this final part of the oracle that started in 12:1 approaches apocalypse, without exhibiting all the features of that literary genre. It’s been said that apocalypse is “prophecy on steroids.” This is a quote that helps us know what apocalypse is:
“‘Apocalypse’ is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another supernatural world.”
— J.J. Collins
There is no otherworldly journey depicted nor is their angelic mediation (like we see in Zechariah’s night visions (vv. 1:7 – 6:8), so it can be said that, broadly, Zechariah 14 fits into a genre of “prophecy of salvation.”
The refrain of “on that day” harkens the reader to the hope beyond what is presently harrowing. Seven times this refrain occurs here, as it builds on those occurrences in chapters 12 and 13. It depicts Yahweh’s intervention in the realm of creation. Amazingly, though the battle of the Lord is cosmic (universal) the “epicentre” remains in Jerusalem. On such diverse poles does God in his creation persist; the “machinery” in a single-cell-organism and the ever-expanding breadth of the universe. Everything comes together in one place — Jerusalem — of all the universe — at one time in all eternity… on that day.
As opposed to earlier Zechariah, when the Lord used the nations to bring the people of God to its knees — because of covenant disobedience — the Lord battles for the people, now, against the nations — they will be his people and he will be their God.
The return of Yahweh — a post-exilic imperative — has been anticipated all the way through Zechariah. Here he comes! Jerusalem, and specifically the Mount of Olives, will feel the Lord’s earth-shaking Presence. He “splits” the mountain in two — from “towards the sunrise [eastward] to towards the sea [westward].” As far as east is to west is the Lord’s Presence.
Zechariah personalises his relationship with God in verse 5, and that’s significant for everyone who calls the Lord “my God.” (Those who utter the flippant “OMG” in this age might well be put to shame.)
The creative flow of the cosmos may well be interrupted “on that day” as it was in Joshua 10:12-14 when the sun stood still, the moon was stopped, and the Lord fought for his people. Only God could or would do this — for his purposes; an apocalyptic sign.
The heavenly bodies, during this day, are “congealing,” indicating that the radical changes to physical environment blur into a transcendent reality beyond human comprehension.
Living waters flow out of Jerusalem and they’re fresh, which is a sign of the ushering in of a new creation, given that Jerusalem’s water supply often dried up in summer.
Verse 9 is the climax every God-follower reads with glee! The Lord is one; one for all to see; won to all people who wish to see him come in his glory! The whole earth is full of his glory and the whole earth can see it. (This verse may well be out of place chronologically in the context of the chapter, given that there are “peoples who [continue to] wage war against Jerusalem” in verse 10. Much of Zechariah appears to read non-chronologically.)
Jerusalem will be “elevated” in verse 10 as it depicts temple imagery, and its foundations will be ever secure, meaning the promise of covenant blessings in Leviticus 25:18-19 and 26:5 is brought to perfection. Mentions of the geography here are incredibly detailed. A great return of Yahweh’s “holy ones” follows.
We hardly want to read what it will be like for those against Jerusalem in verses 12 through 15. Plagues with an unequivocal descriptiveness sweep over the land reminiscent of the Passover; the people of God protected by the Lord’s foreknowledge of their obedience of faith. Great confusion will take place. Many will fight who previously would not have fought. We must be prepared to look solely to the Lord.
After the cosmic battle, the survivors of the nations shall then worship Yahweh. The Lord’s justice in the new creation will not tarry. It will be swift and direct over the nations that fail to worship at God’s festival of Sukkoth (“tabernacles” or “booths”). This festival envisages the “full restoration” of the temple, and implies the “centrality” of the temple for all creation. A covenant failure brings a covenant curse for the nations, but the covenant people delight in covenant obedience.
Zechariah’s fondness for the horse completes the chapter in verses 20-21. The connection of the holiness inscribed on bells with the new creation is remarkable. Everything will have the Lord’s sign on it. Nothing unholy will remain.
There is a day coming, a day full of glory, and on that day, will be the completion of his story.
Do not worry ‘on that day’ or any day. All we need to remember is to be God’s people.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.
Reference: Petterson, A.R., Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi (Apollos Old Testament Commentary, Vol. 25) (Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, 2015).

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