Showing posts with label Old Testament. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Old Testament. Show all posts

Monday, December 23, 2013

Malachi 4

The final chapter of Prophet Malachi sets the distinction between those who follow the LORD, and those who don't. The 'day' referred here is the 'day of the LORD' - a time of judgement for the wicked and that of blessing for the righteous.

Those who revere LORD will experience unimaginable joy and go out fully energized like those well-fed calves.
Malachi 4:2 But for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.
3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.
The key to escape judgement and enjoy blessings of LORD's Kingdom is to obey the law of Prophet Moses.

Prophet Elijah will be sent before the day of the LORD to serve as a warning. He will reconcile the turn the hearts of the fathers with that of the children.

Those who refuse to repent and reconcile will be dealt with the LORD. He will come and unleash His total destruction with frightening severity.

My Thoughts
The final words of the LORD closes with a blessed promise, to all those who fear and honor Him.

A frightening warning, for those who decide not to listen to Him, concludes the Old Testament. 

Malachi 3

In response to the grumbling against ungodly men and women prospering, LORD says,
Malachi 3:1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the LORD you are seeking will come to His temple; the Messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
The nation is warned to prepare and meet the 'God of Justice'. Coming of the Messiah is predicted wonderfully in those first few verses.

One of the most important theological statements in the Bible is narrated next. The LORD says, "I the LORD, do not change."

LORD feels like He is being robbed when people withhold their tithes and offerings. He promises that faithfulness in giving, brings divine blessings.

Next, the people have spoken arrogantly that the proud and wicked prosper, and therefore it is useless to serve LORD. He will address this in the next chapter.

A book of remembrance is written for those who fear the LORD – they will remain as Lord’s treasured possession. The distinction between the righteous and the wicked will soon be visible.

Malachi 2

This chapter brings additional warnings to the priests. LORD will curse the wicked priesthood, and its descendants. The good example of Levi, with whom a covenant was made, is cited. There is a woeful failure to live up to Levi’s good precedent. LORD instructed Levi's descendants - those set apart especially to serve Him - to teach His people what is Truth. Instead of turning people away from wrong, the priests are leading people straight into it. By doing so, the priests have broken their covenant promise with the LORD.

The priests have caused many to stumble. They have not followed LORD's ways and have shown partiality in matters of law.

The priests offend LORD by marrying foreign wives. They come and weep at the altar, shed tears and ask, "Why does the LORD no longer look accept my offerings?" It is because they have been unfaithful to their wife.

Older men are hating and divorcing their older wife, and accepting younger foreign wives. Such men are committing violence towards those older women, whom they are supposed to protect.

Some grumble about those wicked prospering, than the godly.

Malachi 1

Malachi means 'My Messenger' and this book was written during a time when it was hard for people to hold on to hope. People are doubting the words of the Prophets and thinking LORD has forgotten them. The attitude of worship is casual, and LORD's standards have been lowered. 

This book also aims at correcting the lax religious and social behavior - particularly that of the priests. Prophet Malachi, in this book deals with a key issue - LORD's love for Israel, and Israel's heartbreaking response to LORD's love. 

LORD says that he loved Jacob, and hated Easu, which is why Edom has been laid waste. 

LORD indeed loved Israel and chose them to be His covenant people. However, Israel broke the covenant by dishonoring and showing contempt. Their priests sacrificed defiled and blemished animals, including blind, lame, or stolen animals, which are condemned. 

LORD felt as though He is being cheated at the hands of the priests - even while He loves them wholeheartedly. 
Malachi 1:14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the LORD. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and My Name is to be feared among the nations.

Zechariah 14

The final chapter portrays the final war between nations and Jerusalem, and it's outcome. The day of the LORD - the day of LORD's judgement is approaching. Half the city will be taken in captivity, but the remnant shall not be cut off. The LORD Himself will appear with His angels and fight against those nations. The whole earth shall become His Kingdom, and everyone will worship Him.

It will be a day of frosty darkness, known only to the LORD. The Mount of Olives will be split in two, allowing escape. Living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, which will be safely inhabited. The enemies of Jerusalem and their livestock will be stricken with plague.

All nations shall come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Plague and no rain will be the punishment for those who do not attend.

The LORD will come, deliver His people, and establish a righteous kingdom characterized by peace, blessing and righteousness. ‘HOLY TO THE LORD’ will be engraved on the bells of the horses. Every pot in Jerusalem will become holy to LORD Almighty.

Additional Info:
The Book of Revelation - particularly chapters 21 and 22 resonate the same message. 

Zechariah 13

A fountain will be opened to cleanse sin and impurity. LORD will no longer tolerate idolatry and false prophets.
Zechariah 13:3 And if anyone still prophesies, their father and mother, to whom they were born, will say to them, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the LORD’s name.’ Then their own parents will stab the one who prophesies.
Every false prophet will be ashamed of his prophetic vision, and the man accused of being a false prophet will insist that those scars on his body are not the self-inflicted wounds - often associated with idol worshipers, rather merely the result of a brawl in his friend’s house.

Prophet Zechariah then narrates a short poem - 'Strike the Shepherd'.

The theme of this poem is about LORD summoning sword to strike those shepherds and scatter the people. They are tested, smitten, refined, and saved.

Zechariah 12

Other nations will attack Jerusalem, but it will protected by the LORD. He will keep a watchful eye over Judah, and give victory to her fighting forces. LORD will shield those who live in Jerusalem.

The feeble among them shall become be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of LORD going before them. All nations that attack Jerusalem shall be destroyed.

The spirit of grace and supplication will be poured on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Israel will mourn for a man they killed.
Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 

Zechariah 11

The first three verses are an ironic lament for the fall of Lebanon and Bashan.

The story of Two Shepherds is narrated next.

Prophet Zechariah is told to feel a flock of sheep for slaughter, as the LORD does with his people, particularly those who are rich and complacent.

The people, however prefer exploitation, to the care of a genuine shepherd.

The LORD then sends a worthless leader - precisely what they seem to want. He then woes such a foolish shepherd.
Zechariah 11:17 “Woe to the worthless shepherd,
    who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!
    May his arm be completely withered,
    his right eye totally blinded!”

My Thoughts
There are several wonderful words of wisdom in this tale of Two Shepherds - those rich do not want a good shepherd. They preferred, and have asked for a foolish shepherd instead - one who will not care for the lost, seek the young, heal the injured, feed healthy, BUT will eat the meat of the choice sheep. 

Rejection of the Good Shepherd, and acceptance of a foolish Shepherd was true thousands of years ago, and is so true as daylight even today!

As a shepherd, one could make only two possible grades on the shepherding test - zero or 100. 

Zechariah 10

LORD, not the pagan god, is the One who makes the fields green and earth a fertile place. In the absence of a true leader, LORD's people wander like lost sheep and become easy prey to those fortune tellers and dream interpretebrs.

LORD's anger burns against those shepherds, and He will care for His flock, and come to their rescue.
Zechariah 10:3 My anger burns against the shepherds,
    and I will punish the leaders;
for the LORD Almighty will care
    for His flock, the people of Judah,
    and make them like a proud horse in battle.
Everyone from Judah and Jerusalem will be brought home. Israel will be gathered into the land from across the earth.

My Thoughts
In the absence of a true committed spiritual leaders, people are led astray. 

Zechariah 9

In chapter 9 and 10, Zechariah describes the coming of two kings - Alexander the Great, and a King of Kings and Lord of Lords - the Messiah.

The first part of the prophecy relates to burden against the cities of Lebanon, and the Philistines. This was fulfilled by the conquests of Alexander the Great. LORD promised the Jewish people to protect them during Alexander's invasion - LORD Himself will stand watch over His people.

The next prophecy is about a lowly King riding on a donkey who shall come into Jerusalem. He shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and to ends of earth. The blood of the covenant will set prisoners free from the waterless pit. Restoration is promised.

LORD will appear and save the people as a shepherd saves his flock. Grain shall make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women.

Zechariah 8

The LORD repeatedly says He is zealous for Zion with great zeal. The LORD will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem will thrive and be a safe place for old and young alike.

More people will return from the east and the west. People are encouraged to complete the building of the temple.

Out of His great love, comes a heartwarming message of transformation. Judah was a curse, but it shall become a blessing. The LORD is determined to bless them just how He was determined to punish them in the past. He wants everyone to act righteously.
Zechariah 8:16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts;
17 do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD.
Feasting is now more appropriate than the appointed fasting times. Many will go towards Jerusalem to seek the LORD.

My Thoughts
What LORD asks us to do in Zechariah 8:16-17 is exactly what we wished to have, when we were children. 

Zechariah 7

Chapters 7 and 8 should be read together, and they complete the first part of Zechariah's book.

On Dec 7, 518 BC, few men came to the temple to inquire about fasting. They wanted to know whether they should weep and fast to commemorate the destruction of the first temple.

Prophet Zechariah does not give a straight answer. The LORD rebuked rebukes the practice of fasting for being perfunctory, and challenged their motive. He asked them whether they really did fasting for Him, the past 70 years.
Zechariah 7:6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?
It is the purpose of fasting that really matters. Justice, mercy and compassion are more important. The people did not listen to the LORD, and that was the reason they were scattered.

Zechariah 6

Vision # 8: Four Chariots
In his last vision, Prophet Zechariah had a vision of four chariots coming between two mountains of bronze. This was related to the first vision he saw. They were the four Spirits of Heaven going before the LORD, to the four corners of earth. Those Spirits going towards the north country were giving rest to the northern country.

A Crown for Joshua
Using the gold and silver taken from the exiles who arrived from Babylon, a crown was made. The crown was set on the head of high priest - Joshua. The branch - a messianic title, shall build (a future) temple of the LORD. He will rule the world. The crown will be a memorial in the temple.

Zechariah 5

Vision # 6: The Flying Scroll
Zechariah has a vision of a flying scroll, about nine meters coming from the LORD, that represented His law. On it are written curses against thieves and perjurers.
Zechariah 5:4 The LORD Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.’
Vision # 7: The Woman in a Basket
Wickedness is personified as a woman sitting in a basket. An angel thrusts down the woman, and places a lead covering over the top of the basket. Two winged women were taking the basket towards Babylon, to build a house for it. 

Zechariah 4

Vision # 5: Lamps and Olive Trees
Zechariah had a vision of a lampstand, next to which there were two olive trees that supplied the seven lamps with oil through seven pipes. Zerubbabel is told that he will accomplish the work of rebuilding the temple. Everything will be accomplished with the help of LORD’s Spirit.

The lamp-stand represents the Temple of the faithful Jewish worshipers, and the two olive trees represent those two anointed ones - the king and the priest, who stand beside the LORD, to shine His light.

My Thoughts
During this season, we can see this lamp - one that represents the power of the Holy Spirit, being lit all around us. 

Zechariah 3

Vision # 4: The High Priest Re-robed
In this vision, Joshua the high priest is standing before the LORD. Satan is also standing before the LORD, leveling his charges against them, and opposing Joshua. The LORD rebukes Satan. Joshua’s filthy and sin-stained garments are removed, and he is given clean garments - including a turban. Joshua is told that if he walks in the LORD’s ways, he will judge His house. The Lord says he is bringing forth his servant, the branch. A stone is laid before Joshua which has seven eyes. The iniquity of the land will be removed, and everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree.

Zechariah 2

Vision # 3: The Measuring Line
Zechariah has a vision of a man with a measuring line, who has come to measure Jerusalem for rebuilding. The walls have been broken down, and set on fire in 587 BC. The LORD will serve as a protection - a wall of fire around Jerusalem, and be the glory in her midst.

Vision # 4: Exiles Called Home
In this vision, Zechariah narrates a poetry, where LORD is calling exiles to return from the north. Those who touch LORD's people are touching the apple of His eye. He wants them to 'sing for joy'. When LORD dwells in the midst of His people, many nations will be drawn towards Him.

Zechariah 1

In October 520 BC, LORD spoke to Zechariah and ordered the people to return to Him, and not to follow the example of their fathers.

In chapters 1 - 6, eight (8) visions are recorded. Each of them is meant to be seen as a whole.

Vision # 1: The Four Riders
On Feb 15, 519 BC, Zechariah saw four horsemen patrolling the world on LORD's behalf - just like those mounted patrols. One of them was on a red horse among myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown, and white horses. During their patrol, they found the earth was at peace. However, God was angry at those nations at ease, because they assisted in Judah’s and Jerusalem’s suffering. The Lord’s house will be built in Jerusalem, towns will prosper and Zion will be comforted.

Vision # 2: The Four Horns
Zechariah has a vision of four horns, symbolizing those four nations that scattered LORD’s people completely. Four indicated completeness - the four corners of earth. Craftsmen were coming to terrify them, and cast them out.

Haggai 2

Once they undertook the project, the people and leaders are told to follow the LORD courageously. LORD's power will ensure their protection and success of the building project.
Haggai 2:9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”
Haggai quizzed the priests due to their lack of commitment, and told them it had prevented blessings.

He asked them two matters - "Will food touched by a garment that carries holy meat be made likewise holy?"

The answer was, "No."

"If a dead body touches any of these, will be render them impure?"

The answer was, "Yes."

Haggai pointed out that Holiness is not contagious, while impurity is. Similarly, living in the holy land and offering sacrifices did not make one holy, as long as they were unclean by neglecting the LORD. Due to people's refusal to build the temple, a recent drought was pointed out as it's consequence.

LORD saw their change of heart and promised a harvest of blessing to come. The LORD spoke to Zerubbabel and he will be made LORD’s signet ring.

Haggai 1

In the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came via Prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel (governor of Jerusalem) and Joshua (the high priest).

The LORD complained that the people kept saying it was not yet time to rebuild the LORD's temple, which they had stared about sixteen (16) years ago. The LORD criticized the procrastination and lack of progress as they showed little interest in finishing this task.

Individuals have their houses in working order, but the LORD's house is not. They are asked to go up to the mountains and bring wood. Prophet Haggai pointed out that many of his nation's ills are due to their lack of commitment to the LORD. He recommended they immediately repent their lack of commitment and obey LORD.

The people act upon LORD's words which Prophet Haggai spoke.