Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Lord Protects - Zechariah 2

The Old Testament prophetic visions often start with an everyday object which is used to convey a much bigger message. So chapter 2 starts with a simple measuring stick. With a slightly bizarre in-vision conversation Zechariah is told the stick is to measure the city of Jerusalem. Then the point unfolds - Jerusalem will be transformed, not just to a super-size city like we have today but to something very very special.

Remember that prophecy can sometimes look back (as we saw last time), sometimes comment on the current events, and sometimes look forward, even far forward. This chapter does the latter, looking even beyond our time too.

Rev 21:22 - 25 has a similar vision, a wonderful city with the glory of the Lord being its light (no night time!). Note no temple, the Lord Himself is the temple. We can view Zech 2 and Rev 21 running as linked or parallel visions.

For Zechariah there is no city wall. Instead God puts a ring of fire around the city. Fire can represent the glory of God, the power of God, the Spirit of God, as well as the cleansing of God. Imagine your own home with no need for a garden fence, because you have a ring of God's glory surrounding you! For the returners from exile, seeing the decrepit walls of Jerusalem on their return this vision must have brought great comfort. v6-9 effectively says 'come home, I the Lord will protect you'. This is a clear message that The Lord Protects His own people, those on His business.

Indeed this is the experience of Christians down the ages, even today. Whether it is in Baghdad, former communist Eastern Europe, China, or a multitude of other troubled locations, Christians discover that God is supernaturally on their side. V8 more literally says 'whoever attacks God's people pokes God in the eye'. Remember Saul when knocked off his horse on a Christian-persecuting mission heard Jesus say 'why are you persecuting me'.

Yet God has even more favour. v10 says 'Be glad, I will live among you', in other words God with us. Back in Exodus, during the desert trek, God said (Ex 25:8) 'make a sanctuary, I will dwell among them'. God's desire has always been to dwell among His people. Interestingly what do we read every Christmas in John's gospel? Jn 1:14 'The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us', or more literally 'God pitched His tent among us'.

So the words for Zechariah not only look forward, they also connect back to God's intentions.  They act like a time machine, instantly crossing backwards and forwards through time and into different ages ... connecting the same thread of the purpose of God to be among His people.

And more! V11 has many nations joining with the Lord. His purpose is not just for the few, but so that others may join. The city of God, complete with God's protecting presence, becomes a place of invitation for others to come.

So as with our key question, what might God be saying to us? Remember that we live in the timeframe for the vision to become a reality, with the plan to reach others worked out through us. Firstly this will require us to make ourselves available to others, bridging that cultural gap so that people might start to grasp the possibilities of the Kingdom. 'Imagine' is an example of us trying to do that. Secondly it will require radical change in people's spirit. For the latter we should pray for spiritual change, praying the vision into reality today

Both will mean sticking our neck out, which of course is not easy and will incur opposition. But remember v8-9, and v5 the wall of fire. God is in the business of restoring, and for those going about that business the Lord protects.

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