Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 23: Zechariah 4 – 5; Psalm 142; Proverbs 30:21-23; Revelation 14



Overview

            Zechariah: The angel came again to Zechariah and woke him. He saw a golden lampstand with seven lamps on it. There were two olive trees beside the lampstand on either side. He asked the angel what they were. The angel told him that they were the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel which was that it wasn’t by power or might but by the Lord’s Spirit. Before Zerubbabel, a mountain will become a plain and he will put the capstone on the temple while the people shout “grace.” The word is that Zerubbabel will finish the temple. Then Zechariah will know that the Lord sent the angel. The people who thought it was too small will also rejoice when the see Zerubbabel doing this.
            The seven lamps are the eyes of the Lord as he looks everywhere. The olive trees or their branches are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord.
            Zechariah then saw a 20-foot by 15-foot scroll flying in the air. The angel told him the scroll was a curse for thieves on one side and for liars who swear falsely by the Lord’s name on the other side. It will enter and destroy their houses.
            He then saw a basket that was leaving. A lead cover was opened and a woman was in it. The angel shoved her back inside and closed it. He said she was wickedness. Two women with wings lifted the basket and flew it Shinar where it will have a house built. When it is ready, they will set the basket down.
            Psalm: David is in trouble again. He is hiding in a cave. He asks the Lord for mercy and tells the Lord all his troubles. However, he knows that when he is overwhelmed, God knows the way out. Traps are laid for him and there is no refuge. No one cares for him. So he cries to the Lord, who is his refuge and protection while he is still alive. He asks for rescue from those who are too strong for him. He wants to be set free so he can thank the Lord. When that happens, the righteous will rally to him because God is good.
            Proverbs: There are four earthshattering things: when a lowly person becomes a ruler; when a fool gets all he wants; when an unloved woman gets married; when a servant girl replaces her mistress.
            Revelation: The Lamb and the 144,000 now appear on Mount Zion. They are singing a new song that only they could learn. These 144,000 were redeemed from the earth and had never had sex. They followed the Lamb wherever he goes. They are the firstfruits from mankind for God and the Lamb. They have never lied and are blameless.
            Another angel flew above the earth and proclaimed the gospel to all who are on the earth not matter where they are. He shouted for people to fear God and glorify him because judgment was here. They are to worship him who made all things.
            Another angel followed shouting out that Babylon, the city that made all nations indulge in wickedness, has fallen.
            A third angel followed announcing that if anyone worshiped the beast and his image, or received his mark, he will suffer God’s wrath in full strength. He will live in hell fire and brimstone forever and ever. They will suffer before the holy angels and the Lamb. They will never have rest.
            The ones with faith in Jesus will persevere. A voice exclaims that all who die in the Lord from now on will be blessed. The Spirit agrees because they will have rest and the rewards for their deeds will be with them.
            One like the Son of Man came on the clouds. He had a golden crown and a sickle. An angel told him to reap the earth because it was time. The harvest was ripe. He then reaped the earth with the sickle.
            Another angel came out of the temple with a sickle. Then the angel who had authority over the fire told the angel to gather the grapes from the earth because they were ripe. That angel used his sickle, gathered the grapes, and put them in the winepress of God’s wrath. The grapes were stomped and the blood flowed several feet deep from the city for 180 miles.

What Stood Out

            Zechariah: “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts’” (Zech 4:6).
            Psalm: “I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living’” (Ps 142:5).
            Proverbs: “Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up: a slave when he becomes king …” (Prov 30:21-22).
            Revelation: “So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped” (Rev 14:16). “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Rev 14:19).

Insight

            Zechariah: It is a good thing that much of what is going on in Zechariah’s visions is explained. When he looked at the lampstand and the two olive trees, he didn’t have clue what they represented. We shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t understand either. We shouldn’t try to make something else out of them either. They are a message for Zerubbabel that is very specific. Zerubbabel will finish the temple. He doesn’t have any power or might to accomplish this without the Spirit making it possible. When we look back at the book of Ezra, it makes sense. All the enemies of the Jews were successful in stopping the work on the temple (Ezra 4). When Zerubbabel started the work again, they were going to force him to stop. They wrote a letter to Darius. This is where the Spirit takes over. Darius’ replied to the Jew’s enemies that they should do everything they could to make sure the temple gets rebuilt. He even made them pay for it (Ezra 6:1-15). That is God working where we can’t.
            When we get in a bind doing the Lord’s work, we must remember that if it is really his work, it will get done. There may be delays but he will make sure it gets done. Those delays may be because we think we are the ones who have the strength and power to make it happen. The delays may occur because it isn’t God’s timing. We need to remember that the Lord sees all that is happening. He sees what we are doing and he sees the opposition to his plan. We don’t need to panic or give up, we just need to persevere to complete what he has called us to do.
            Psalm: Some of the Psalms of lament end up wanting all sorts of disastrous things to happen to the Psalmist’s enemies. This one is a bit different. This is focused not so much on the enemies, but on David’s response to them. He sets the tone by saying he pours out his complaints to the Lord and clarifies that he isn’t complaining about the Lord, but simply telling the Lord about all his troubles. He knows that there is no real salvation in looking for help from others. His only true help comes from the Lord.
            Sometimes we are overwhelmed and need to tell the Lord how we feel. We should be careful because these can get out of hand and turn into bitterness and other sinful attitudes. David ends his plea for help by saying he wants to be able to give thanks to the Lord and this will result in glory to God. We always need to focus on the end in the same way Jesus did when he endured the cross looking to the joy of sitting down with the Father.
            Proverbs: I’m sure that that there are more than four things that cause big problems in the world. A couple of these are not earth-shattering but certainly cause some really local earthquakes. For instance, when a woman detects that her husband doesn’t love her, there is a real local problem. In today’s society, that is a sure recipe for divorce. A man who takes a household servant as a concubine is going to regret it. Just read the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. The results are still haunting Israel today with the hostility between Hagar’s descendants (Arabs) and Abraham’s (Jews).
            However, when someone who is totally unqualified to rule is suddenly promoted to that position, the whole nation suffers. I won’t mention any current cases of that happening because we don’t all agree. But, what if that were to happen? The nation would suffer for it.
            But when we look to the Lord instead of the world’s ways, these things don’t have to cause ongoing problems. With repentance and forgiveness, the first two can result in glory to the Lord. If a ruler is unfit, then we still have to pray for that person and do what we can to maintain a civilized nation. We don’t have to come apart because of it because we know heaven is our home. Not by power or might but only by the Holy Spirit will it work out.
            Revelation: This chapter ends all possibilities of anyone coming to Christ during the tribulation at the end of the tribulation with the two harvests. No one will have an excuse because the Lord is no longer going to depend on human beings to present the gospel. He will use three angels. One to tell people to worship the Lord, the second to tell everyone that wickedness has been defeated, and the third to announce the consequences of worshiping Satan. Those that heed this last warning before the earth is harvested will be blessed even if they are killed.
            There are two harvests of the earth. The first one is done by “one like a son of man” (Rev 14:14). Every where else in the chapter, angels are clearly identified so this isn’t an angel. The same phrase is used in Daniel 7:13 to describe the Messiah. It is the same phrase used to identify Jesus in Revelation 1:13. This must mean that Jesus harvests the earth. He takes all those who belong to him. Jesus referred to this in a parable of the kingdom of God where reaping happens the grain when it is ready (Mark 4:26-29). That harvest is brought into the barns (Matt 13:30). Is this first harvest the rapture?
            The second harvest is clearly done by an angel and the grapes are not stored but put into the winepress of God’s wrath. The meaning can’t be any clearer that the wicked people on earth are killed, all those who have worshiped the beast.
            Now comes the troubling part. When do these occur according to a timeline of the tribulation? Obviously, they both occur some time after the beast takes control at the middle of the tribulation. These harvests could be a preview of the end or they could be ongoing during the last part of the tribulation.
            Because Christians are not mentioned in the next chapters when the bowls of God’s wrath are poured out, it would indicate that the first harvest is finished. On the other hand, because the angel announced that Babylon has fallen, but we don’t see it until chapter 18, this is a preview of the very end of the tribulation and both harvest occur then.
            Some deny that this first harvest could be the rapture because they believe it occurred before the tribulation started. That means there are two raptures, one for the believers before the tribulation and one for believers saved during the tribulation. Some believe it is the rapture and occurs and the middle of the tribulation. Others believe it is the rapture but occurs and the end of the tribulation.
            I’ve studied this for years and I have found that it doesn’t matter which of the three theories you believe, there are very good scriptural arguments for and against each. Each position can tell you where the problems are in the other positions and never admit to a problem in its theory. Each position can explain away the problems the others pointed out in theirs. Through history, the different beliefs have grown and dwindled in popularity. Currently, more believe in the pre-tribulation rapture and I think that is mainly because it has been highlighted in fiction. Many people are swinging toward the mid or post-tribulation theories as Scripture is reexamined. Some even deny any rapture. My recommendation is to study the Bible and don’t depend on the current popular opinion until you have made a sincere effort to evaluate each theory. Believe me, this could take you years and then the next time you study it, you may change your mind.
            What is important for us right now is to know the gospel and Jesus. We need to tell others who to worship and why. The more we lead others to Christ, the fewer there will be who will go into eternal punishment described by the angel.

Application

             I don’t want to wait for angels to take over the job of telling others. I want to be able to share the gospel with people by the power of the Holy Spirit and not on my own abilities. I don’t know for sure if we’ll face the tribulation, but if we do, I’ll want to be prepared. Even if we don’t and I’m prepared, I can live this life for Jesus much better and without complaining.

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