Saturday, April 29, 2017

A COMING DAY



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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.”

“Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as He fights on a day of battle. On that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with Him. On that day, there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.”

“On that day, living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.”

“The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day, there will be one Lord, and His name the only name.”

“The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. But Jerusalem will be raised up high from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses, and will remain in its place. It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.”

“This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day, people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another. Judah too will fight at Jerusalem. The wealth of all the surrounding nations will be collected—great quantities of gold and silver and clothing. A similar plague will strike the horses and mules, the camels and donkeys, and all the animals in those camps.”

“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague He inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.”

“On that day, holy to the Lord will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord Almighty.”

Zechariah 14

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Our journey through the Book of Zechariah ends today but not before we find amazingly blessed news for the nation of Israel on a coming day foretold by the prophet.

First, a scene is set that would unsettle any nation as a day of the Lord was yet ahead where Jerusalem particularly would see extreme hardship come its way, a hardship where all the nations will rise up and at least have initial success against God’s holy city. We know this because the prophecy tells of the following calamities that would occur:

1. Jerusalem would be captured.

“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured.”

2. The houses within Jerusalem would be ransacked.

“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked.”

3. The women in Jerusalem would be sexually assaulted by the attackers.

“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped.”

4. The possessions within Jerusalem would be plundered, the spoils divided up among its attackers. .

“A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.”

5. Half of the city’s population would be taken into captivity.

“Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.”

It’s not a pretty picture, is it?

But as we have seen in other places within the scriptures, a period of peril is usually followed by deliverance and restoration, a walk in the valley proceeded by a mountain top experience. As we continue to look at Chapter 14, we find that this happens again with Israel, a continuation of events of the past.

Remember that an Egyptian captivity was followed by a God-powered liberation and subsequent journey to a land where the Israelites could settle down and live.

Recall that a seventy year exile to Babylon was followed by a restoral to Israel where the people of God could rebuild their nation, God’s temple, and their relationship with Him.

Now, we see where the damage and destruction caused by Israel’s enemies would end with God once again coming to their rescue. The prophecy promises as much in the following words:

“Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as He fights on a day of battle. On that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with Him.”

Just when all seemed to be lost for Jerusalem and the Israelites at large, enter the Lord God Almighty who would take up the cause of His people and wage war against their enemies, fighting as if on a “day of battle”. The great power and majesty of God’s actions beckons us back to the parting of the Red Sea where the Israelites were given a path to escape Pharaoh. Here, the Mount of Olives (only mentioned in one other place in the Old Testament in connection to David, 2 Samuel 15:30) is split in two forming a great mountain valley which His people would be able to flee through to be joined by the Lord and His holy ones. As for the enemies, their plight would be pretty gruesome:

“This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day, people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another. Judah too will fight at Jerusalem. The wealth of all the surrounding nations will be collected—great quantities of gold and silver and clothing. A similar plague will strike the horses and mules, the camels and donkeys, and all the animals in those camps.”

Can you imagine how all this had to be received by God’s people?

For they knew there would be a coming day when they would be freed from their enemies and joined together with their Lord, a day that would have been special enough because of that but as we see in the scriptures, there would be other unique qualities to that day, qualities never ever seen before which included:

1. There wouldn’t be sunlight or “cold, frosty darkness”, “no distinction between day and night”.

2.  Living water would flow from Jerusalem in summer and winter, half to the Dead Sea and the other half to the Mediterranean Sea.

Indeed, it was an amazing coming day, a day when the “Lord would be King over the whole earth”, the One and only Lord, His name being the name above all names. It would be a day when Jerusalem would be raised up, elevated to be the holy city above all cities, the home of the King of kings and Lord of lords. The word of God even tells us that even the horse bells and cooking pots would be consecrated. The elevated divine Jerusalem would never again be uninhabited nor destroyed but rather secure, protected by the one and only Lord. It also would once again become the central place of worship, drawing not just the Israelites but the “the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem” as well who would “go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles”. There would be no room again for a Canaanite (code for non-believer) to exist within the “house of the Lord Almighty”. If anyone decided they wanted to skip worshiping the Lord, whether from Egypt or any other nation, then consequences would follow as the Lord would hold back life sustaining rain. In other words, there was an incentive for bringing devotion and adoration to the one and only Lord, the Sustainer of all things.

That’s what the Israelites had to look forward to. Much better days were ahead for them on the sacred coming day of the Lord.

As we rejoice in this news for the people of Israel, perhaps it would be a good time to rejoice ourselves if we are Christians. For no matter what life brings our way, there is a future day for us as well when Jesus will return as He promised to usher all those who have placed their faith, hope, and trust in Him into eternal life. In other words, those in Christ have their futures set and that coming day is guaranteed to be the best day ever, the day when we get to live with Jesus and God the Father forever.  

Rejoice and revel in that truth today.

Tomorrow, we start to look at the last book in the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Friday, April 28, 2017

A STRICKEN SHEPHERD



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In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“Awake, sword, against My shepherd, against the man who is close to Me!”, declares the Lord Almighty.

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn My hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

Zechariah 13:7-9

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

As we have seen in the Book of Zechariah, the imagery of shepherds has played a central part in the prophecies within, both good and bad.

There have been shepherds who failed to lead God’s people in the direction He expected, guiding them into sin vice righteousness. For those shepherds, the Lord promised judgment.

On the opposite side of things, we read of a coming Good Shepherd who would come to watch over those in God’s flock, a foretelling of Jesus the Messiah who would keep the Israelites in His care.

There was only one problem with the coming arrival of the Good Shepherd, one that we have found mentioned in this book prior.

He would be rejected by the flock He came to shepherd. And not just rejected, but as we see in today’s passage from the closing verses of chapter 13, stricken as well. Look again at these words here:

“Awake, sword, against My shepherd, against the man who is close to Me!”, declares the Lord Almighty.

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn My hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”  Zechariah 13:7-9

I think it’s of utmost importance to remember this in regard to the rebuffing, snubbing, and eventual execution of Jesus:

God, His Father, ordained it.

We know this because of the prophecy we just read:

“Awake, sword, against My shepherd, against the man who is close to Me!”, declares the Lord Almighty. “Strike the shepherd!”

These were commands issued by the Lord Almighty, commands for the sword to be used to strike His Son, the Good Shepherd. We know a sword wasn’t used and so this was not a literal command in regard to the use of a particular weapon but it was a command to strike a fatal blow to Jesus, His Son, and as we know, He was struck with many blows, before and during His crucifixion. Such was the penalty mankind deserved for sin but God, out of His deep love and compassion for all His children, chose to give us His one and only Son instead, a living sacrifice to serve as the final atonement for the transgressions of all people.

What would the aftermath of the Good Shepherd being struck down?

Go back to our scripture passage for the following answer:

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn My hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

What happened after Jesus was crucified?

Look in the New Testament scriptures and you’ll find out His followers scattered:

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:1

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostles went about the business of growing the Christian church, just as Jesus had commanded but their movement was met with a lot of resistance. Jesus had promised they would be persecuted and it didn’t take long for this to happen in a big way after Stephen, one of the seven servants selected to assist the apostles in ministry, was stoned to death, an event supervised by Saul who would soon become Paul. Stephen’s execution was followed by an all out assault on Christ’s apostles who then scattered through Judea and Samaria, a fulfillment of the very prophecy we’re studying today.

Note the striking down of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would not come without consequence. The aftermath of His crucifixion would find two-thirds of the Israelites being struck down dead. The remaining one-third of the population, a remnant, would remain but they would not remain as they were before Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was stricken. No, God promised this remnant would be purified, refined and tested similar to precious metals like silver and gold. Those people, purified and restored to a place of loyal faithfulness to their Refiner, would call on the Lord, seeing Him as their Master and Maker. And in return, God would once again acknowledge them as His people.

It’s a beautiful picture of restoration and renewal but then again, that’s what God is all about, right?

After all, He resurrected the stricken Shepherd and promoted Him to Savior of the world.

Won’t you praise the Lord and give thanks for that truth today?

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

ASHAMED DENIAL



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“On that day every prophet will be ashamed of their prophetic vision. They will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive. Each will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’”

Zechariah 13:4-6

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

As we continue to study the thirteenth chapter of Zechariah, we see the prophet sharing prophecies of things to come, things that would happen on a day ahead.

In the opening verses of this chapter, Zechariah tells of a future cleansing for the Israelites, one that would wash them clean of their iniquities. We also saw a foretelling of what would happen to any false prophet who continued to spread falsehoods in the name of the Lord. You’ll recall that those prophets would end up executed by their own parents.

Well, in continuing to address the matter of these counterfeit messengers of God, we find Zechariah sharing these words which form the foundation for today’s message. Look again at these verses here:

“On that day every prophet will be ashamed of their prophetic vision. They will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive. Each will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’”  Zechariah 13:4-6

Note here that a day would come when these false prophets would be covered with shame over the bogus visions they had shared, visions which had served to mislead God’s people.

How deep would the shame be?

The scriptures tell us that they would seek to disguise themselves and even deny being a prophet in the first place.

First, the disguising as we see this statement within the passage:

“They will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive.”

Prophets were often known to wear coats of hair. In fact, as we go to the Book of 2 Kings, we find this dialogue regarding the prophet Elijah:

The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?”

They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.”

The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.” 2 Kings 1:7-8

Without seeing the prophet directly, the king identified him completely by the description of what he wore. The false prophets thought they would become invisible to the general public if they would only not dress as one would expect them to.

But this wasn’t all these shamed messengers would try to do to deceive and conceal their true identity. For the scriptures tell us they would also deny being who they really were. Look at the things they would say:

“Each will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’”

Remember that if the false prophets were identified, then they were to suffer the death penalty so there was definitely incentive for them to go undiscovered. Deniability became their tactic.

If someone asked them whether or not they were a prophet, they would reject and refute the notion, claiming to be a farmer again, even trying to convince others that they had worked the land since the days of their youth.

There was only one problem with the ruse and it involved the matter of bodily wounds noticed by others, wounds that were typically associated with self-mutilation produced during idolatrous worship practices. The scriptures speak about these practices in the following verses:

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 1 Kings 18:26-28

You may recall this story as Elijah issued a challenge to the prophets of Baal to show the power of their god while Elijah would display the power of the true God (capital “G”), the Lord God Almighty. The idolaters were doing everything they could to conjure up a response from their god, even going as far as slashing themselves with swords and spears “until their blood flowed”.

The prophets in the future time foretold by Zechariah would bear the wounds of such pagan religious customs but when questioned would lie about their origin, claiming they had come from hanging out with their friends.

In sum, whether dressing differently, bearing false identity, or falsifying evidence of their sinful worship practices, the prophets were engaged in denial forged from their shame.

Later in the New Testament, we would find a reversal in this model as we found Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, distancing himself from Jesus when the chips were down. Look at this passage:

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”

Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown Me three times.”

And he went outside and wept bitterly.  Matthew 26:69-75

Jesus had been arrested and things were in great turmoil as He was dragged before the Sanhedrin for a hearing. Peter feared inside that maybe he would be arrested and harmed as well if anyone knew his identity, if anyone found out that he was one of Jesus’ disciples.

And so three different times, when challenged as to whether he was with Jesus or not, Peter lied and denied that he even knew Him. After the third refutation, the rooster crowed, the sign Jesus said would mark Peter denying Him, a prediction that Peter vehemently denied would ever happen.

But it did and where did it leave Peter?

Ashamed.

Ashamed of Himself after denying he knew his Master and Savior.

Today, people are still choosing to try and conceal their identity from others and it cuts in two directions.

Sinners try and masquerade as being good and righteous, only allowing people to see the side of them that would garner favor. If they would only remember that nothing is hidden from the Lord who sees right through any human charade. Perhaps they would start to feel shame for their actions and choose to repent and change their ways.

On the other side of the spectrum, Christians will often conveniently hide their identities if they think it will lead to persecution or rejection. In essence, they decide to veil that they are yoked to Jesus in any way and in doing so, they show themselves no better than Peter.

And, like him, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com