God’s People, part 113: Esther

Read Esther 1-2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther‬ ‭4:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 113: Esther. We have, up to this point, spent quite a bit of time looking at the Jewish people, their leadership, their priests and their prophets who returned to Jerusalem following Cyrus’ decree that they were no longer exiled and could return home. While many certainly did return, in waves as has been stated in previous installments of this series, the reality is that many also chose NOT to leave.

Think about this for a minute. How many of you have had to move? Following moving, following settling in and creating a new home for yourselves, did you feel like uprooting once again? What’s more, many of the Jews living at the time of Cyrus had been born in Babylon/Persia and that was the only home they had ever known. Persia WAS their home, why would they wish to return?

This is the reality that we come upon in the Book of Esther, which is a narrative centered on a diaspora Jewish girl who became Queen of Persia. Before we get into the nitty gritty of this story, it is important to note that this is the ONLY book in the entire Bible that does not explicitly mention God. There is, in fact, no mention of God at all, but it can be presumed a belief of God is implicit in the story and the actions of Esther and Mordecai.

Esther was born in Persia as Hadassahm, a Jewish girl in a fairly well-off family. As a young woman, perhaps as young as 14 years old, she was taken from her home and from her cousin Mordecai (who had adopted as his own daughter when her parents died) and brought to King Ahasuerus’ palace to live in his harem as a sex slave with benefits. What were the “benefits”, you might be asking? Simply put, if she was found to be super “pleasing” to the king, she could get picked to be his queen. Yay, right?

Hold your horses, for this is not as “awesome” as it might sound. First off, a Jewish girl losing her virginity pre-marriage would have been shameful to her and her family. That act would have defiled her and forced her to break the covenant between her and God. Secondly, if she were to be picked as queen, she would not rule equally with the king. The queen’s job was to be the king’s plaything and to be an appendage of his at public functions whenever he demanded. That’s about it. Oh, wait, of course there was one other function: to bare the king a male heir.

She would be taken care of and could have whatever the king afforded her; however, it would come a very steep cost, one that Hadassah would have wished she didn’t have to pay. But she wasn’t so lucky and she went to live with the king, taking on the Persian name Esther so that the king would not know she was Jewish. She hoped that would give her a better chance to be married, which would at least give her back some of her honor.

I recently heard podcast hosts criticize Esther saying that she should not be looked up to as a role modely because of her “immoral” character. In fact, they likened her to Stormy Daniels. This, of course, has to do with the fact that she lived in a harem and had premarital sex with another man. Let me just say that this is horrendous theology. She was no more immoral than Daniel was for serving the Babylonian king. Neither of them had a choice. What’s more, implicit to the story is the fact that God (again, not explicitly mentioned in the narrative) gave her the strength and the courage to overcome her terrible circumstance and become the savior of her people.

So, back to the narrative. Esther did find favor with the king and was picked to be his king. Overtime, however, he bored with her and didn’t call her to be in his presence very frequently. During this period of isolation, her uncle contacted her and informed her of a plot by Haman, the King’s advisor, to commit genocide against the Jews. He wanted to kill them all. Though hesitant at first, Mordecai convinced Esther to do the right thing and go before the king unannounced, an act that could have gotten her killed as it was illegal to be in the king’s presence without being invited. Esther did just that and, to sum it up quickly, she was able to inform the king of the plot.

Esther, like the rest of us, was afraid to act and hesitated. Even if it was momentary, it was a moment that showed her humanity and her fear of the unknown. That makes her relateable to us as we fear to do the right thing. How many of us stay silent against wrongdoing, for fear that we might get caught up in a conflict? How many of us fear “stirring the pot” and calling the status quo into question because it could backfire in our faces? Let Esther be a reminder that we can AND SHOULD overcome such fear and trust that God is calling us for such a time as this.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Remember, “for such a time as this” we are where we are, being asked by God to do what is right.

PRAYER

Holy Lord, while you don’t put bad circumstances upon us, you do ask us and strengthen us to do what is right when those circumstances arise. Give me the strength to rise up to righteousness. Amen.

God’s People, part 112: Yeshua

Read Zechariah 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel.” (Ezra 3:2a NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

YeshuaPart 112: Yeshua. At the outset of writing the God’s People devotion series, which I started back on May 27, 2017, I have been eagerly awaiting reaching this point in the series. This is where we begin to see the Old Testament and the New Testament beginning to meet together. How so, you might wonder? I will attempt to answer that very question in this devotion.

Yeshua, as I am sure you realize by this point if you have been reading the series as of late, was the person who was chosen by God to be the high priest of the people who returned back to Jerusalem from exile. There is little that is known about him but for a few short and obscure passages in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. With that said, his significance cannot, nor should not, be underwritten.

Here is what we do know. Yeshua was of a priestly lineage and served as high priest circa 515-490 BCE, which means he served for about 25 years upon his return from exile. Yeshua was also one of the catalysts, along with Haggai, that pushed for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple (Haggai 1:1, 14) after 16 years of the project having been delayed by endless negotiations and bickering between the Jews and “the people of the land” (aka the Samaritans).

As such, it seems that Zerubbabel, Yeshua, and Haggai upset the order and ruffled the feathers who were seeking to hold the project off even longer. Once Haggai delivered the message of God to Yeshua and Zerubbabel, they sprung into action with the people and began to rebuild the Temple. As such, a divisive conflict rose up against them.

Before I continue, there are two basic schools of thought on the timing of Yeshua in relation to Zechariah’s prophecy. The first being that Yeshua was alive at the time of his great-great-grandson’s marriage to a Gentile woman (see Nehemiah 13:28), and subsequent expulsion from his priestly duties and from Jerusalem. If that was the case, then Yeshua would have been 90 years old at that time and Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 3) would have been directed toward Yeshua.

The second school of thought is that, perhaps, Yeshua was dead by that point and Zechariah’s prophecy was directed toward his grandson, Eliashib, who succeeded him as high priest, using Yeshua’s scenario with Satan as an allegory. While this is certainly possible, I am of the belief that Zechariah’s prophecy was directed toward Yeshua and that what we have in Zechariah’s prophecy is evidence of the tension that the high priest was dealing with.

In today’s Scripture, we see that Yeshua the High Priest is standing before the Lord and Satan, who is throwing accusations out at him. In other words, Satan is trying to convince God that Yeshua is not worthy. It is generally understood here that Satan is seen as the force behind the divisive opposition that rose up against Yeshua’s leadership as high priest during his push to rebuild the Temple. Zechariah went on to state that God rejected Satan’s accusations and proclaimed the following to Yeshua and the priests who were to follow him: “Listen to Me, O [Yeshua] the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of things to come. Soon I am going to bring My servant, the Branch” (Zechariah 3:8).

This, in and of itself, is an amazing Testament to what was about to happen. Clearly, Zechariah was prophesying about the coming Messiah. Still, what’s more amazing, is the high priest’s name itself. Yeshua (often spelled in the Bible as Jeshua…but I spell it phonetically as it sounds) is the name יְהוֹשֻׁוּעַ, or Joshua, which means “The LORD saves”. The Greek equivalent for Joshua is Ἰησοῦς, or Jesus. That is right, Yeshua in Greek is Jesus. Thus, in Zechariah we have Jesus the High Priest, being deemed the symbol of the Messiah Jesus who was to come and bring salvation not only to the Jews but to all the world!

This Messiah Jesus to come would also establish himself, and all who believe in him, as the true temple where people worship God (regardless of where they are) in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:21-23). How amazing is it that? Seriously. Here we have explicit Biblical evidence, written at least 3 – 4  centuries before Christ, that God was clueing people into the fact that there was an overarching plan to redeem this world through the Messiah. What’s more, there is explicit Biblical evidence that God not only revealed the plan, but even hinted at the Messiah’s name!

The question for us is, do we trust God’s plan or do we get mired in our own. Don’t get me wrong, not everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the only reason that things happen is that they do. People are not raped, beaten, abused, hurt, impoverished, homeless and/or are suffering for any reasons other than the fact that we live in a broken world, mired in sin and less-than-ideal circumstances. With that said, God has an overarching plan, despite the sin and circumstances that beset us, to redeem all of the world, us included. Do we trust that? Do we trust enough to step out of the way and to join God’s ranks in transforming this world from what it is into the Kingdom of God? Let us reflect honestly and open ourselves to the convicting of the Holy Spirit.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The Bible is very resonant. It has everything: creation, betrayal, lust, poetry, prophecy, sacrifice. All great things are in the Bible, and all great writers have drawn from it and more than people realise, whether Shakespeare, Herman Melville or Bob Dylan.” – Patti Smith

PRAYER
Lord, I place my trust in you and your Word. Amen.

Episode 32 | Caution

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-xm45v-9783b8

In this episode, Rev. Todd questions what kind of image we are presenting to the world? Do our actions live up to the image we put forth, or do they fall short in the eyes of those on the outside looking in? Tune in to this challenging episode, based on Ephesians 5:15-20.

EPISODE REFERENCES:

God’s People, part 111: Zerubbabel

Read Ezra 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when this happens, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, I will honor you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, My servant. I will make you like a signet ring on My finger, says the LORD, for I have chosen you. I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Haggai 2:23 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

ZerubbabelPart 111: Zerubbabel. By now, you are probably wondering who this “Zerubbabel” was, right? His name has come up here and there over the past several devotions, with little to no explanation as to who he was. Zerubbabel was a Jew born in Babylon during the Babylonian captivity. If the name has its origin in Hebrew, perhaps a contraction of the Hebrew word זְרוּעַ בָּבֶל (pronounced Zərua‘ Bāvel), it means “The one sown in Babylon”. Similarly, if it is Assyrian-Babylonian in origin, it means “seed of Babylon”. It could also come from the Hebrew זְרוּי בָּבֶל (pronounced Zərûy Bāvel), meaning “the winnowed of Babylon”. The latter would refer to the fact that, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the Jews were sifted through from exile in Babylon to freedom in their homeland.

Whatever the origin of his name might be, Zerubbabel was clearly born in exile in Babylon. Beyond that fact, he was also the grandson of the second to last king of Judah, Jehoiachin. This is the king, if you remember,  who was eighteen when he took the throne and who only reigned for a total three months and ten days before being dethroned and exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II. He was succeeded by his uncle, Zedekiah, who rebuffed Jeremiah’s warnings and  ultimately led all of Jerusalem down a path of destruction and exile.

Zerubbabel, quite ironically, was appointed to return lead the first wave of Jews back to their homeland by the Persian king Cyrus in the first year of his reign over Babylon. He was also appointed of governor of the Persian province of Judah. Thus, the grandson of the first king to be exiled to Babylon was appointed to be the governor of his people and to lead the first wave of his people home.

Zerubbabel was also the governor under whom the foundation for the second temple was laid. He was, if you remember, given the charge of rebuilding the Temple. With that said, he was also not successful in rebuilding that temple due to the opposition that he and the High Priest Jeshua (pronounced Yesh-oo-ah) faced. Instead of sticking with the plan, Zerubbabel became mired in endless diplomatic measures to get everyone involved on the same page. The result: NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH. The Temple was not rebuilt under his leadership and would not be rebuilt until Nehemiah, who did not make the same mistakes, took his place.

The challenge for us here is to realize how often we let the circumstances around us to pull us away from what God is asking us to do. For example, in churches we often weigh the “liability” of a ministry over and above the need for it. Are we supposed to NOT do something just because we could find ourselves liable? Is that how Jesus operated? Is that how the prophets operated? Then why do operate that way?

What’s more, we do the same thing individually. “Well,” one might muse, “I would be more involved in this or that ministry if I had more time…or money…or personal connection with those who are apart of it.” Another might allow politics or personal views to step in the way of their faithfulness to Christ. Let us be challeneged to resist such diversions and to be faithful to God’s plan to impact the world through RE-CREATION, rather than allowing the world to impact and recreate us in its own image.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Diversions from Christ’s mission are the devil’s playground, turf from which we should steer clear.

PRAYER
Lord, help us to remain focused on and faithful to you through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Episode 31 | Special Episode: A Gentle and Respectful Explanation

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-8kbee-97596b

In this special episode of Life-Giving Water Messaes Rev. Todd is joined by Rev. Sal in order to discuss questions regarding the the practices of Christianity that set Christians apart from Judaism. This discussion comes as a result of questions that a Jewish person was sincerely wondering about. Peter instructed us Christians to “always be ready to explain [our faith]. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear.” (1 Peter 3:15-16) Thus, this episode is our attempt at a gentle and respectful explanation.

EPISODE REFERENCES:

  • Proof that Dunkin’ Donuts short changes Sal on the skim milk in his coffee.

God’s People, part 110: Nehemiah

Read Nehemiah 2:1-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I was not in Jerusalem at that time, for I had returned to King Artaxerxes of Babylon in the thirty-second year of his reign, though I later asked his permission to return.” (Nehemiah 13:6 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_1170Part 110: Nehemiah. Sitting beside me I have a book by Joseph W. Daniels Jr. entitled, Walking with Nehemiah. In it, the author focuses on the different stages in Nehemiah’s work as governor. The author walks us through Nehemiah’s leadership style and the success that was a result of his ability to hold onto the vision. For those who are not familiar with the story of Nehemiah, he was a cup-bearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes. Upon hearing how the walls of Jerusalem were crumbling and the city was disarray, he petitioned the king to allow him to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls.

Indeed, the king not only gave him permission, but sent him back to Jerusalem as governor with the charge to see this project through. Thus, Nehemah arrived back in Jerusalem with the full blessing of the Persian King to rebuild the walls and refortify Jerusalem. Still, such a blessing did not go unopposed by those who did not want to see such a project happen. The same bad actors who opposed Zechariah and Zerubbabel in the rebuilding of the Temple. As has been discussed in past deovtions, the Samaritans (aka “the people of the land”) were among those who had wanted envovlement in the rebuilding of the temple and, when they weren’t given what they wanted, had undermined and stalled the rebuilding efforts.

These same opponents also tried to undermine Nehemiah in his quest to fortify and rebuild Jerusalem. Anticipating this, Nehemiah ignored them. Instead of wasting his efforts on those whe would never outmaneuver, Nehemiah focused his efforts on building up grassroots support for the rebuilding campaign. Once he did that, there was no stopping him from accomplishing it and the city was refortified.

Years following the success of the campaign, Nehemiah stepped down from his governorship and returned back to Persia. During that time away from Jerusalem, God’s people fell back into sin, and were turning away from the reforms that had led them back to being a people of God. Thus, Nehemiah returned once again to straighten things up and set God’s people back on the path to righteousness.

Nehemiah’s push for Jewish purity, which included the exclusion of intermingling with non-Jewish people (in marriage, in business, and certainly religiously), may seem odd to those of us in the 21st century who embrace diversity and multiculturalism; however, the reality is that the Jews were fighting to remain God’s people, distinct from the rest of the world. It was not about the “race” or “ethnicity” of non-Jewish people; rather, it was about the gods they worshiped and would, ultimately, invite the Jews to worship as well.

For us, there are two things we can pull from Nehemiah and the people he led. First, in terms of Nehemiah, the work of God’s people is NEVER, EVER, finished. Nehemiah went back to Susa thinking his job was done, only to have to return and continue the work on. Second, the push toward purity in order to avoid sin can lead us back into sin. Nehemiah’s push to keep the Jews within Jerusalem separate from non-Jews, eventually went on to counter God’s ultimate plan for the Jews to be a witness to the nations of the one true God. In Nehemiah’s circumstances, separation was needed as people were purchasing all sorts of items (idols included, no doubt) and they were doing so on the Sabbath, the day that Jews were supposed to rest and worship God.

Thus, the push for a return to purity was needed; however, out of this push for purity, a couple of centuries later, rose a group of Jews known as the Pharisees. This group’s very name means “separate” and they called on Jews to adhere strictly to the Torah in order to not further provoke God’s wrath. It is this group that would later go on to be challenged by Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, whose teachings reminded people of their call to be witnesses fo God to the nations. The confrontation between Jesus, the Pharisees, and other religious leaders would lead to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the ultimate catalyst in God’s redemption plan.

Let us be challenged by this. With the world becoming more divided, with our leaders and culture pushing toward more isolation and separation, we are called to be witnesses of God’s redemption plan. With countries flexing their political muscles to show superiority, we are called to witness to the radical equality we share with all humanity. Let us be challegned to never see our job as witnesses as being over. The job will never be over until that day when all humans join hand-in-hand as brothers and sisters in the divine family of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.” —Ted Kennedy

PRAYER

Lord, let me never lose sight of my role as a witness to your love and your kingdom. Amen.

Episode 30 | Evicting the Devil

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-uz7rv-9702d8

In this episodes, Rev. Todd has an honest conversation on Satan, how the devil operates, and how we go about evicting the devil from our lives.

MESSAGE REFERENCES:

God’s People, part 109: Ezra.

Read Ezra 9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand.” (Nehemiah 8:2 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

 ““”” Part 109: Ezra. What’s important to understand is that the people we have been discussing the past several devotions are connected to each other in personal relationship and/or in historical circumstance. In the case of today’s subject, Ezra was personally connected to Nehemiah. Born in Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity, Ezra had never been to Jerusalem, nor did he ever lay eyes on Solomon’s Temple before it was destroyed. In other words, Babylon was all Ezra knew.

So we can imagine the excitement, as well as the fear, that ran through Ezra as he returned back Jerusalem. What’s more, he could not have possibly realized what challenges would have been awating him in Jerusalem. It is imporant to note that Ezra was not among the first to arrive in Jerusalem, nor was he among those who dealt with the struggles of rebuilding the Temple or the wall; rather, he was a part of the second wave of Jews who returned.

It is important to note that Ezra-Nehemiah were originally one book that ended up getting split up. Though we have yet to discuss Nehemiah, by the time Ezra returned to Jerusalem Nehemiah had already built the wall and Ezra wrote, “[God] revived us so that we could rebuild the Temple of our God and repair its ruins. He has given us a protective wall in Judah and Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9). Thus Nehemiah was among the first wave to return and Ezra returned following him and his leadership on the wall construction project.

Ezra, on the other hand, played another important role in this historic moment for the people of Judah. When he returned, he noticed people were not living as God had commanded them. Some of the Jewish people who originally returned had married into non-Jewish families and were beginning to be led astray. That and the struggles of rebuilding the Temple and reclaiming Jerusalem had proven to set back progress of reestablishing God’s people in their homeland.l

Ezra, ever mindful of the cost of sin having spent his whole life up to that point in a foreign land, called the people to strictly observe the Torah and its laws. Obedience to God’s law, Ezra argued, would keep Judah from falling back into sin and into the threat of destruction. Being lax and not obeying God was not an option. He read to them the Torah and enforced the observance of the law. Ezra’s focus on strict observance of the Jewish Law would eventually become the focus of another group of Jews called the Pharisees.

As Christians, we may feel the temptation to ask how this is all relevant to us. We are not longer bound by the law, right? It is true that through Jesus we have been freed from the letter of the Law; however, in and through Jesus we begin to live into the fulfillment of the law. In other words, Jesus works the heart of the Law (LOVE) in us and calls us to put that LOVE on display toward others. Are we open to the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit? Do we remain faithful to him and the LOVE that he has called us to? Ezra, if nothing else, challenges us to reflect on our loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of God’s Law.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“By faithfulness we are collected and wound up into unity within ourselves, whereas we had been scattered abroad in multiplicity.” Saint Augustine

PRAYER

Lord, I submit myself to you. Forgive me my trespasses and give me the strength to be faithful. Amen.

God’s People, part 108: Zechariah

Read Zecharaiah 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon.” (Zechariah 9:11)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 108: Zechariah. As with all of the prophets, we really know very little about who Zechariah was. The main purpose of the prophetic writings was to warn people of the dangers of their sins and to steer people back to God. That is never an easy task. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have found out, people resist being told they are wrong; in fact, they often violently and vehemently resist it. We are seeing this unfold before our very eyes as people stand up for the justice of immigrants (and others) and the absolutely vitriolic reaction people are having to that. Don’t believe me? Here’s an experiment for you: post #blacklivesmatter or #allfamiliesmatter or #justiceforimmigrants as your Facebook status and see what reaction you get.

What we do know about about Zechariah is that he probably came from a priestly family. His father was the son of Berechiah, who was the son of Iddo. Iddo was a Levite and a priestly figure, mentioned in Ezra 8:17, and it is believed that he returned from exile with Zerubbabel. Berechiah, no doubt, would have carried those priestly duties on from his father; therefore, many scholars believe that Zechariah was a priest, in a lineage of priests, as well as a prophet.

Zechariah began his prophetical career during the second year of King Darius the Great’s reign and is the prophet that the Old Testament book of the same name is attributed to. It is in that book that we see the focus of Zechariah’s prophetic ministry and the kind of opposition he was up against.

In the first section of the book (Chapters 1-4), Zechariah lays out Israel’s history in order to present the returned exiles with a stern warning. They had, as was discussed in the last devotion, been returned to their homeland and commissioned by King Cyrus to rebuild the holy Temple. Yet, years had passed and a new king was ruling and the Temple had still not been built. This was because the the people were debating over whether or not to let the Samaritans build it, as they had offered. The debate seriously stalled the construction project.

Zechariah, therefore, was instrumental in getting the people back on track regarding the rebuilding of God’s Temple. At the same time, so was the high priest Yeshua. We will get into Yeshua’s story in more detail in a couple of weeks; however, suffice it to say that Yeshua was against stalling the rebuilding of the Temple and wanted to see it built without the help of the Samaritans. As such, he was up against a very divided people. Some of those people were in support of him and some were in support of further negotiations with Samaritans.

Zechariah denounced the opposition and firmly pronounced that God had appointed Zechariah and was on his side. Furthermore, the prophet exposed the real culprit behind the division: SATAN. Zechariah proclaimed, “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘I, the LORD, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire.’”

It is important to understand that throughout Old Testament and the New Testament, the word satan is not a name but a title. The Hebrew word, שָׂטָן(pronounced saw-tawn’) literally meant “the accuser” or “the adversary”. This role is played by different entities in different ways throughout the Old Testament (for instance, in the story about Balaam’s donkey, the Angel of the LORD stood in the road as an adversary, blocking Balaam’s way forward); however, there seems to have been a being that was an adversary to God and to God’s people.

This being, forever known as Satan, was a divider and conquerer. His role was to divide God’s people against themselves and keep them from obeying and following God. Thus, as we learn from Zechariah, Satan’s chief modus operendi division.

This is important for us to understand as God’s people in today’s time. Satan has not gone anywhere and this adversary of ours is still operating in the same way: THROUGH DIVISION. Think about that. Take a look around the United States of America and around this world. Look at social media and at our political climate.

 Most importantly, look at the church and look at our own relationships with the church, as well as with our families and friends. Let us be challenged to realize the truth behind Zechariah’s warning. Let us assess our own lives, our own attitudes and our own positions. Do we see the handy work of God, or do we see the foul play of the devil. Let us, like God, rebuke Satan and move toward peace and unity around Christ’ mission.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

In 9:9, Zechariah also prophesied that, sometime following the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, the Messiah would come riding into the holy city on a donkey and it’s colt in holy victory This prophecy was clearly fulfilled a few hundred years later by Jesus of Nazareth.

PRAYER

Lord, like you I rebuke satan’s divisive meddling in my life in your name and turn my eyes firmly upon you. Give me the strength to continue to do so and keep me on your path of righteousness. Amen.

Episode 29 | Growing Up

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-t6ver-966d80

In this episode, Rev. Todd talks about the necessity of being connected to the Body of Christ, as well as the importance of “Growing Up” in our faith.

EPISODE REFERENCES

  • Click here to view Rev. Todd’s message: Christian A & P 101
  • Click here to view Rev. Todd’s message: Christian A & P: Essentials
  • Click here to view Rev. Todd’s message: Christian A & P: Non-Essentials
  • Click here to view Rev. Todd’s message: Christian A & P: In All Things

A biweekly devotional