Thursday

08 September 2016

“I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.” (v. 11)

Psalm: Psalm 127


Background

It is not immediately clear how today's passage relates to our theme of wisdom and knowledge, except in the chosen text, which talks of knowing, ie having assurance, that Zechariah's message was from God. However, as we have no indication that God re-established a dwelling among the people (ie the return of the shekinah glory to the reconstructed temple), or of many nations giving allegiance, we do not know, based on Zechariah's statement, that the Lord did send him. This is a common issue with prophecy, unless it is fulfilled/being fulfilled at the time of writing or previously.

This is not the only example of a proof statement in the Bible, and the classic text on this subject has the same message - "If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously" (Deuteronomy 18:22). This was a concern for public, prophetic utterances, whether it applies to writing prophets is another question.

Our challenge might be not to read Scripture in such a way that we have any attachment to proofs, as this is not the purpose of Scripture, though it may give us that sense. In fact a wise way of reading would be to accept that we are not going to get any proof, particularly when its message is about hope, as hope is unpredictable (literally). If we do this then we will place appropriate limits on expectation: we rightly have concerns about some kinds of extremism, because they go too far.

Where does this leave us with Zechariah (and Malachi, with that famous line that appears in The Messiah, "The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple", (Malachi 3:1))? The Day of the Lord was apocalyptic expectation (yes, apocalyptic always goes too far!), never realised, though creatively 'fulfilled' perhaps, as The Messiah suggests, in Christian readings, based again on prophetic writings, yet certainly not as expected. Fortunately we do not seek proof in Scripture, and our wise course of action is to listen to it.


To Ponder

  • How do you handle proof statements in the Bible?
  • What do you do with books like Zechariah in your reading and understanding of the Bible?


Bible notes author: Julian Bond

 

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