Thursday, November 7, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Zechariah 1-2 and My Own Article on "What DId I Say?" (Part 2)

Introduction – This prophetic work originates in the same year as Haggai – two or three months after in 520 BC. Zechariah is a priest and a prophet, grandson of Iddo who was head of the priestly families returning from the exile. He is writing to encourage the returning remnant to repent and renew the relationship with Yahweh.

Zechariah 1 – “’Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Don’t be like your ancestors who would not listen or pay attention when the earlier prophets said to them, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.’” (1:3)

The translation of Yahweh Sabaoth as “Lord of Heaven’s Armies” is a more modern version of the term Lord of Hosts. Host or Heaven’s Armies are the gathering of heavenly powers – angels – the “hosts” of heaven.

Zechariah has a series of visions. The first comes to him in the night. A man “sitting on a red horse that was standing among some myrtle trees in a small valley. Behind him were riders on red, brown, and white horses” (1:8). An angel explains to him that they patrol the earth. The angel said to Zechariah, “I have returned to show mercy to Jerusalem . . . The towns of Israel will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem as his own.’” (1:17)

Then he see another vision – four animal horns. They “represent the nations that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem” (1:18). Then the Lord shows him four blacksmiths (1:20). They have come “to terrify those nations, throw them down and destroy them” (1:21). The number four represents something that is “universal.”

Zechariah 2 – The prophet looks again and sees a man with a measuring line. He is going to measure Jerusalem, to see how wide and long it is (2:2). An angel tells Zechariah that Jerusalem is to remain un-walled. Yahweh will be her wall of fire and also her glory.

Yahweh tells the people to leave the North [Babylon] and return to the holy city. “Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion; for I am coming to dwell in the middle of you . . .Many nations will join Yahweh . . .They will become his people” (2:14-16).

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism -
“What Did I Say?”
Part 2
There was also another reason why I wanted to use the Scripture “story” as my text. I had recently read a book by a man named Stanley Hauerwas—The Peaceable Kingdom—and I was taken by one of the ideas he introduced me to in that work. Hauerwas proposes in this book that Christians make moral decisions not by applying abstract principles to a situation, but by imagining themselves in the biblical narrative and making a judgment about what kind of decision or behavior seems consistent with the embedded principles of the people who are heroes in the narrative.

Hauerwas is a moral theologian who teaches at Duke University, a Methodist much influenced by the outlook and testimonies of the Reformation peace churches. His interest in what I have since learned has a name—“narrative theology”—is directed primarily at the moral sense of direction the biblical narrative can provide to the believer. His approach to the biblical narrative was somewhat different from the approach early Friends had taken—seeing the general trajectory of the Scripture story as something that recapitulated itself in the spiritual life of the seeking person. But it seemed complementary to me and somewhat simpler to understand. It did not involve interiorizing the story or seeing things in terms of ministrations. Hauerwas’s point was that the religious narrative in which our religious tradition was grounded functioned in the same way our other narratives do—our personal family narratives, for example, or our national narrative—to help us define who we are, what we stand for, and how we should behave in difficult situations.

Hauerwas’s approach to the Scripture narrative was also useful because it permitted me to be neutral with respect to questions I could not really get into with my religiously diverse group of students: Were the Scriptures inspired by God? Were the inerrant? Were they authoritative? What was the correct way to interpret this passage or that? I didn’t really need to get into any of these difficult questions. All I needed to do was familiarize them with the narrative and let them understand how Quakers saw it.

I had read the Bible on and off for years and was familiar with all that Friends had said about it being a story that replicated itself, but I have to say that I never saw how much it does present itself as a narrative until I stared teaching it. I actually remember the first day I stood up in class with the book and noticed out loud that the book begins at the beginning of time and ends at the end of time, and that it thus purports to deal with the entire history of God’s creation. It startled me that the story presented itself as so utterly comprehensive.

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