Sunday, November 6, 2011

Scripture Sunday: The Books of Zechariah and Malachi

In the book of Zechariah, the title character is encouraging the people of Jerusalem to rebuild their temple, after they've returned to their homeland following a 70-year captivity in Babylon. This temple-building theme has been a big deal with a few of the previous minor prophets from this time period, but Zechariah has some variations on the usual theme. Zechariah has a lot of prophetic visions in a row, and these types of visions are usually hard for a reader to piece together just by reading about them. Everything Zechariah sees is metaphorical and deals with God's plans for the nation of Israel, so when he envisions a man on a red horse standing among some myrtle trees, the book explains that this symbolizes God's angels who travel through the world, observing what goes on.

One really special thing about the angels mentioned in this book is that they truly care about what happens to God's people--one of the angels asks God when he will have mercy on Jerusalem, the city that has seen so much turmoil. God says this in reply:  "I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem" (1:16-17). So things are looking up for the nation.

Zechariah has more visions, many of them related to the future Messiah who will save Israel. More of God's judgments are mentioned in the later chapters, but they are followed by proclamations of the future glory and holiness of Jerusalem

Malachi is the very last book of the Old Testament, and it deals with the problem of corruption in Israel. God's people are offering messed-up, polluted sacrifices to him, and they know they're not supposed to do that. The inferior, damaged sacrifices they give are a reflection of their lack of love and respect for the Lord. They don't care about him enough to be truly thankful or to offer him their best, and they also complain about how burdensome it is to offer sacrifices. The book of Malachi is also interesting because it contains a prophecy that relates to John the Baptist: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." (3:1). John the Baptist is the messenger who comes before Jesus when the New Testament begins 400 years later.

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