Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Zechariah 9-10 and My Own Article on "What DId I Say?" (Part 6)

Zechariah 9 – The prophet foresees doom on all the great cities of the region – Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, Sidon and the Philistine cities of Gaza and Ashdod. Those who survive will turn to the worship of Yahweh. “I will guard my Temple and protect it from invading armies” (9:8).

The people of Zion should rejoice! “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion. Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem. See now, your king comes to you; he is victorious, he is triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9).

“I will remove the battle of chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth” (9:10).

The Lord promises to repay his people for all their sorrows – two blessings for every sorrow. The image of their victory is painted in words of war and images of peace combined The Lord’s people “will shout in battle as though drunk with wine. They will be filled with blood like a bowl, drenched with blood like the corners of the altar” (9:15). This is followed with these words: “On that day the Lord their God will rescue his people, just as a shepherd rescues his sheep” (9:16).

Zechariah 10 – The Lord will restore his people. He warns them never to look to the seers of the pagan world – household gods, fortune-tellers, interpreters of dreams. They deal only in lies and worthless advice (10:2).

The Lord’s people wander “like lost sheep; they are attacked because they have no shepherd” (10:2). He speaks of his anger towards the shepherds who failed to care for the people.

But now the people are going to be restored and the arrogance and dominance of those around them will be ended. Though they have been scattered “like seeds among the nations, they will still remember me in distant lands. They and their children will survive and return again to Israel” (10:9). In a prophecy that some saw as a prognostication of Alexander the Great’s victory over them, the prophet says that the “pride of Assyria will be crushed, and the rule of Egypt will end” (10:11).

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism -
“What Did I Say?”
Part 6
I realized that the Friends’ “culminationist” way of seeing Christ—the idea that he ends history and the need for all outward religion—was something they came to because they were unwilling or unable to see that the real human history that came after him was part of the redemption story as well, the second half of the story, and that this second half might be meaningfully complex. In this they were like other Christians of their day, especially the Reformation Christians, who looked so exclusively to the biblical text and its first-century orientation. But the church had a life too; its history also mirrored or recapitulated the story of God’s first people.

Friends had always assumed that the individual believer would go through something like a recapitulation of the Old Testament story in coming to God, but it apparently had never occurred to them that the church Christ started might itself go through such a recapitulation. But why not? The church was not just a human institution, a place that contained the truth within four walls like a bank has money. It was a living organism, the assembly [ekklesia] of God’s people, Christ’s Body in the world. And if the in-gathering and shaping of the Jews as a people had taken two thousand years (and was in fact still going on), then how many millennia might it not take to gather in all the “nations” of the world formed as a people for God? How many challenges might that project involve? There would be times of faithfulness, but there might well also be times of scandal and disorder. The first people of God had known such times. Why should those gathered by Christ expect to fare better?
The story of God’s first people was in the Scriptures. I am not saying it is history as we might write it today, or that it is all perfectly written or perfectly understandable, but its general line is comprehensible and instructive. It is a story of people who were bearers of a promise from God, who brought to the world an understanding of what it is to live lives consecrated and devoted to God and to God’s purposes for man. What Christ did was to open that redemption to all; he revealed to all the depth and perfection of that redemption, but he did not end the story. He bestowed a promise on the leader of his disciples to bear that redemption forward in time. The assembly of people bearing that promise—the church—would not necessarily be any more perfect than his first people had been. They might even be so rebellious and unfaithful that God would be tempted to withdraw his promise from them, but there would always be enough of a remnant to go on. God’s work among us was not over; he might still perform great works among his people that we cannot even imagine.

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