A Hiatus from Haggai and a Zip Through Zechariah

Zechariah 1:1-11

In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, “The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Return to Me,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I may return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.” ’ But they did not listen or give heed to Me,” declares the LORD. “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? “But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers? Then they repented and said, ‘As the LORD of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us.’ ” ’ ” On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, as follows: I saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel, and white horses behind him. Then I said, “My lord, what are these?” And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, “I will show you what these are.” And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, “These are those whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.” So they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, “We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.”

We have to keep things in prescriptive especially in these trying times of our days. For some of us, these days are unlike anything else we have seen, with tyrannical governors one the one side and deaths of loved ones on the other. I probably have been impacted the least but my heart goes out to those in turbulent times. I think back to 9/11/01 and the terrorist attacks on the United States. For about 48 hours, all of America was on the edge of their seat, awaiting answer and other possible attacks. We were glued to our televisions, hoping and praying that the attacks were over. As we watched the television, we saw the grounding of all domestic and international flights. It was eerie. It certainly took it’s toll on the economy but after the towers fell, and the Pentagon survived and the White House was spared because of rebellious passengers, we breathed a small sign of relief. Still, many had their questions and many people perished in one day over evil intentions in the minds of a select few who thought that God was on their side.

While at the time I was a professing christian with my mouth but not in my deeds, many came to me and asked if this event was prophesied in the Bible. At the time I was a dogmatic dispensationalist but even that couldn’t lead me to believe that the Bible predicted these terrorist attacks. All I could say was the truth; our lives are fragile and none of us is promised a tomorrow, therefore repent while there is still time. Oddly enough, no one has really asked my opinion on the Coronavirus–but I give it, toned down for mortal consumption, nonetheless. The Coronavirus, Covid19 more specifically, is not a sign signaling the end of the world but a harken back to the fall of man. Covid19 actually proves how far we have come but also, how far we have to go. Interestingly enough, we have seen some clues as to how God views pestilence and famine. Nonetheless we have to consider the context and the Covenant.

I am one of those people who thinks that the “cure” is worse than the disease. But even if I didn’t, I still would believe that the “cure” is worse than the disease, in that; “give me liberty or give me death.” Can I really compare a handful of power-drunk governors to king George III? I absolutely do. When vaping was banned in Massachusetts l went on verbal record with anyone who would listen that this was the beginning of the end of our freedoms. Simply stated, one man should not have that kind of power. It was an executive order executed by the governor, which banned the sale of legal products, which are required by law to inform the purchaser that it is a harmful product. I don’t vape and frankly, vapers annoy me but they have the right to vape. I won’t even get started on the fact that abortions are essential business and the fact that people needing abortions is evidence of neglecting social distancing. Yet I am not making a bizzaro world argument because that horse has been beaten long after death. I want to examine how we think that we are smart with “stay at home” orders but we actually don’t know. And therefore we look like idiots in the sight of the Living God.

As I have mentioned, I believe that the “cure” is worse than the disease but I am not an epidemiologist or doctor of any kind. But that’s fine by me. Do you know who was a doctor? Harold Shipman, one of the most prolific serial killers in history. My point is that being a doctor doesn’t make one good. Not being a doctor or epidemiologist myself, I research what doctors and epidemiologists have to say about Covid19. I also research what the pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, dogmatic dispensationalist and prophecy pundits say about the Coronavirus–there is but one answer. They all say something different. And while I may be of little help and support concerning doctors of doubt and obvious autocrats, I have the keys to unlock the CAGED Scripture, which is caged by our traditions, presuppositions and preconceived notions, based on the precepts of man. The reason why I have confidence in this is because we consider the context, aspirations of the author to his audience, genre, examples and divide rightly the word of truth. Speaking of the word of truth, the Lord mentioned his words in his words to the people through Zechariah. “But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers?” I am getting way ahead of myself.

We have been haggling over Haggai and now we are zooming in on Zechariah because they were contemporaries. Yet we see some distinctions between what was recorded in Haggai and what is recorded in Zechariah. First is that Zechariah prophesied secondly, after Haggai. Second is that Zechariah is nearly 10 times longer than Haggai and  the third distinction we discern is that Zechariah saw visions. The fourth distinction is that Haggai was primarily focused on rebuilding the temple but Zechariah prophesied about a whole-hearted return to the Lord.

In essence one could say that God had two distinct persons, with two distinct messages to his Covenant people. But unlike our tyrannical governors and arguing epidemiologists, Zechariah and Haggai had harmony to their generation. I love music but particularly the dissonance which can actually be in harmonization. Unlike the dissidents in government and in prophecy pundit radio, sometimes the wrong note is exactly what the doctor ordered. The greatest example, in music, is Bach, the greatest example in the Bible is the synoptic’s, Olivet Discourse. However Haggai and Zechariah, while harmonious have a fair share of contention because they were two distinct prophets, to one distinct people with a harmonious message. In our modern, cultural climate, we have conflicting opinions, with very little harmony. This is not the case with the Lord, we simply don’t consider the greater context or see the sublime string, which comes from a culture of memorizing verses and not the sublime string.

Harmonious dissonance sounds like an oxymoron and it is, at least in our minds and understanding. Yet we see it in a juxtaposition between Haggai and Zechariah and assume, therefore, that Zechariah sees a far-distant future as opposed to Haggai, who dealt with their present. In Zechariah we have read, “I saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel, and white horses behind him. Then I said, ‘My lord, what are these?’ And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, “I will show you what these are.” And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are those whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.’ So they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.'”

Yet in Haggai we have read; “‘I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew, and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,’declares the LORD.” Therefore, in our minuscule minds, comparatively speaking to the Lord’s, we see something other than what they were intended to see. God keeps it simple so that we will understand but our imaginations run wild because of our presuppositions which allow us to rip verses out of context. Zechariah and Haggai have different messages but they are to the same people with the similar goals–repent.

In Haggai we read the the Lord smote the land and the works of their hands with wind and pestilence and hail yet the people would not return. In Zechariah we read that all the earth is peaceful and quiet. Is this juxtaposition between the two an indication of being different times to different people or is it the Lord’s way of showing us that his mind is not like our minds? It seems like it must be the former and that Zechariah is looking at the far future. But Is this what the continuing context and sublime string intended to reveal to Zechariah and the people present?

Let me attempt to explain my angle on Zechariah. I write to you, anyone willing to read, so that you will be equipped to read your Bible for all its worth, using a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method, where; context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Along the way I hope to demonstrate some of our dubious dogmas. Nevertheless, I also write for my children, for my young cousin, for all those young people to whom I have had the privilege to teach. They all thought I was a crazy old-man and they were right. What person wants to spend his Wednesday nights, Saturday nights, Sunday mornings and even some Sunday afternoons trying to teach teenagers about the Lord? Yet there I was but neither they, nor the churches were ready for me. Far from comparing myself to Zechariah and Haggai, I do see the similarities. I write to you for you to consider the context and I write for them in posterity so that when Jesus doesn’t rapture his church by 2049 (101 years, more than a generation, after Israel returned as a nation) they will start to see the dubious dogma of a pre-tribulational, pre-millenial, rapture rescue of the church, based upon an erroneous interpretation of Daniel’s 70 weeks. Nevertheless, few of them take the time to read these missives–the similarities are evident. Nevertheless, I have to go on record confessing the sins of myself and my generation. We were beyond lackadaisical in our approach to the throne of grace. My message to them is the same as Paul’s was to church in Corinth–see Israel’s mistakes and the mistakes of my generation and don’t make the same mistakes. Like, but not the same as in Zechariah and Haggai, one has to be diligent. We thought God loved us so much that he was going to rapture us at any moment, rather than following his clear-cut instructions to make disciples and subdue the earth with his words.

Similarly we see language like this in Zechariah but it is not, I repeat, not in the same manner or Covenant and it is barely relatable. This was pre-cross to people awaiting the Messiah. Nevertheless we see that the forefathers of the people present, made a mess of things. Notice; “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, ‘The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Return to Me,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘that I may return to you,’ says the LORD of hosts. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.'” But they did not listen or give heed to Me,’ declares the LORD. ‘Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?'”‘” (Why do I always pick passages with quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes?)

Whether or not I quoted correctly doesn’t cloud the message. The Lord points out that both their fathers and their fathers’ prophets are dead. But even before he points out the obvious, he declares his anger at their fathers and the fact that he sent them prophets, prophets to whom they didn’t listen. Now the Lord sent them, the new generation, prophets, named Haggai and Zechariah. The former focused on bucking up and building the temple and the latter a return to the Lord and the Law of Moses, in adherence to the prophets promises. Yet one begins with the cause of calamity and the other sees a vision where angelic patrols reveal tranquility. How does this fit into the context? We have to consider the continuing context, both historically and in the author’s aspirations to his audience. We must also examine examples to see the sublime string.

Historically, Israel, better yet, Judah, best yet, a reeling remnant returned to Jerusalem is suffering setbacks in its attempt to rebuild and restore Jerusalem’s temple and wall. However Haggai revealed to us that they had the time and opportunity to build houses for themselves. God has once again granted them relative peace on all four sides but rather than build the temple they focused on themselves. This is the calm, the stillness, the quietness and the peace of which the angelic patrol percieved in the prophetic vision. For one of those brief moments in history, the Jewish people were not at war with their neighbors. The land was quiet at this time in history but the Lord was making his presence known. Nevertheless I am getting way ahead of myself again, let’s look at some examples.

In Nehemiah we read about the restoration of the feast of booths. One doesn’t dwell in a tent if their city is under siege, they stand a post on the wall. “And they found written in the law how the LORD had commanded through Moses that the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches, and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.’ [Again, not a wartime experience] So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate, and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. And the entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. And he read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance.” Read the rest of Nehemiah for an even more in-depth account of the historical context.

As reminder, let’s look closely at some of today’s text once again. “In the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, as follows: I saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel, and white horses behind him. Then I said, “My lord, what are these?” And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, “I will show you what these are.” And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said,These are those whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.’ So they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, “We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.'”

Do we see Jesus in this scene? Jesus is the man, the one on the red horse before the others and is standing among the myrtle trees in the ravine. Those who patrol the earth, report to Jesus. As we explore examples we look for the symbolism of a red horse in Scripture. And because we live in the best of times, so far, we have the completed Scripture, in our own language, right at our fingertips.

Revelation 6 reads, “And I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, ‘Come.’ And I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him; and he went out conquering, and to conquer. And when He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come.’ And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men should slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.” In my missives about Revelation I admit that I am not clear on who it is that sits on the white horse, whether it be a false Christ or Christ himself but one thing that I know for sure is it is not the Antichrist mentioned by John in his second epistle. My mind is still cloudy because of my dogmatic dispensationalists upbringing. It was preached in my church and shoved down my throat in college but the context and examples are clear, the alleged “Antichrist” is a composite, figment of our imaginations. We lump the beast, the man of lawlessness, antichrist and even the false prophet into a composite compound of one man. As for the rider on the white horse, with a crown, I believe it to be Christ as is the rider of the red horse as well. In Revelation he promises to wage war on those who claim to be something that they are not.

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.’ “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. ‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.'”

In Zechariah, Jesus is sitting on his warhorse in a ravine, under the shade of the myrtle trees as the other horsemen report to him that the surrounding area is peaceful and quiet. Ironically it is because Jesus is sitting on his warhorse in a ravine, under the shade of myrtle trees. The question is, what does this symbolism represent? The answer is sublimely simple with one more exploration of examples from Isaiah.

“The oracle concerning the valley of vision. What is the matter with you now, that you have all gone up to the housetops? You who were full of noise, You boisterous town, you exultant city; Your slain were not slain with the sword, Nor did they die in battle. All your rulers have fled together, And have been captured without the bow; All of you who were found were taken captive together, Though they had fled far away. Therefore I say, ‘Turn your eyes away from me, Let me weep bitterly, Do not try to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.’ For the Lord GOD of hosts has a day of panic, subjugation, and confusion In the valley of vision, A breaking down of walls And a crying to the mountain. And Elam took up the quiver With the chariots, infantry, and horsemen; And Kir uncovered the shield. Then your choicest valleys were full of chariots, And the horsemen took up fixed positions at the gate. And He removed the defense of Judah. In that day you depended on the weapons of the house of the forest, And you saw that the breaches In the wall of the city of David were many; And you collected the waters of the lower pool. Then you counted the houses of Jerusalem, And you tore down houses to fortify the wall. And you made a reservoir between the two walls For the waters of the old pool. But you did not adepend on Him who made it, Nor did you take into consideration Him who planned it long ago. Therefore in that day the Lord GOD of hosts, called you to weeping, to wailing, To shaving the head, and to wearing sackcloth. Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, Killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, Eating of meat and drinking of wine: ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.’ But the LORD of hosts revealed Himself to me, ‘Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you Until you die,’ says the Lord GOD of hosts. Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, ‘Come, go to this steward, To Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household, “What right do you have here, And whom do you have here, That you have hewn a tomb for yourself here, You who hew a tomb on the height, You who carve a resting place for yourself in the rock? Behold, the LORD is about to hurl you headlong, O man. And He is about to grasp you firmly, And roll you tightly like a ball, To be cast into a vast country; There you will die, And there your splendid chariots will be, You shame of your master’s house.” And I will depose you from your office, And I will pull you down from your station. Then it will come about in that day, That I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah And I will clothe him with your tunic, And tie your sash securely about him, I will entrust him with your authority, And he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open. And I will drive him like a peg in a firm place, And he will become a throne of glory to his father’s house. So they will hang on him all the glory of his father’s house, offspring and issue, all the least of vessels, from bowls to all the jars. In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘the peg driven in a firm place will give way; it will even break off and fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken…'”

“Behold, the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface, and scatters its inhabitants. And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the LORD has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. The new wine mourns, The vine decays, All the merry-hearted sigh. The gaiety of tambourines ceases, The noise of revelers stops, The gaiety of the harp ceases. They do not drink wine with song; Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. The city of chaos is broken down; Every house is shut up so that none may enter. There is an outcry in the streets concerning the wine; All joy turns to gloom. The gaiety of the earth is banished. Desolation is left in the city, And the gate is battered to ruins. For thus it will be in the midst of the earth among the peoples, As the shaking of an olive tree, As the gleanings when the grape harvest is over.” 

I realize that this not only hardley scratches the surface but is also difficult to digest. It’s too short to see the full story and too long to see the intricacies. Isaiah prophesied about destruction and death, wars and pestilence but also promised peace and a ruler whose government would not decrease. Isaiah opens with the image of Israel beaten to a pulp, bruised all over with nothing left for the Lord to strike again. God even attempts to reason with them but we know how that ended. This is why Isaiah is one of the dead prophets along with the fathers of the people present in Haggai and Zechariah. God had Babylon wage war against Jerusalem and they carried them away into exile. And as the exiles, some 70 plus years hence, return to the land they have once again become complacent and don’t build the temple or follow the Law of Moses. But it is a time of peace and a time of rebuilding despite the hail, wind and pestilence. Jesus is sitting in the shade, in the valley, on his warhorse. We understand that Jesus has provided peace by sitting on his horse, symbolically speaking. He intends to ride the horse once again when he comes in judgment against Jerusalem, again, but he has them rebuild the temple so that he can enter into it, through the eastern gate and topple the tables of the money changers as he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, even on a foal. We will see this, Lord willing, as we zip through Zechariah.

Calamity through Covid19 is not in keeping with God’s governance but it is in keeping with the precepts of man. In the majority of the world, you have a voice and a vote. Especially in the United States we have become complacent and not diligent. My generation didn’t like the church left to us by the baby boomers. We also don’t like the church that the millenials have built. Whose fault is that, the boomers, the millenials our my own generation? We will only ever have harmony within the dissonance if the Great Commission replaces the rapture as our primary doctrine. Stay at home orders are awfully ironic to me. Think about being diligent about staying at home. But we live in the best of times, the world is at our fingertips in the comfort of our own homes. I get it, it’s not the same. Vote!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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