Refined or Destroyed

Zechariah 11-14

zechariah 13

Tuesday, April 25

The book of Zechariah brings a message of hope to the Israelites but also a dose of reality. The final chapters focus on two key elements: the coming Messiah and the Kingdom of God. Zechariah prophesies of a hope and salvation of the coming Messiah (Jesus, shepherd) but also of his rejection by the Israelites. He prophesies of a coming Kingdom where God will rule, but also the tribulation that will unfold for those that don’t believe.

 

Zechariah 13:7-9 says 7 “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 upon the little ones.

8 In the whole land,” declares the Lord,

“two-thirds will be struck down and perish;

yet one-third will be left in it.

9 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.’”

 

Powerful words from a powerful God.

Here are the three things I took from Zechariah 11 – 14:

  1. God has a plan – some of which has already unfolded (Jesus’s first coming and the Israelites rejecting him).
  2. His plan is still playing out and yet to unfold (Jesus’s second coming and the Kingdom established)
  3. You and I have a role in His plan. Part of that role is to accept and believe in God’s plan with the faith to live it out. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Zechariah makes it clear that God has the plan.  It’s your choice to be a part of it or not. To be refined by fire or destroyed by fire is up to you. In the end I say, the Lord is my God.

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Zechariah_13:9)

To Fast or Not to Fast?

Zechariah 7-10

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Monday, April 24

Do you fast? I’ve done it once, a 30 hour famine…it was rough…of course the promise of pancakes afterward helped! 😉

Zechariah Chapter 7 dives into the question, to fast or not to fast?. “Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?” The Israelites question whether or not they should continue to fast and grieve over the destruction of Solomon’s temple since the new temple was being built. God makes it clear that in this case fasting is essentially pointless. The Israelites chose to fast out of their own grief and sadness, they created that tradition not God. God quickly reminds them that there are more important, better ways to honor God than continuing their fasting.

The Israelites were following the tradition and rules of fasting that they created,  but not really doing anything for their relationship with God. In the next couple verses God lays out some simple truths: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.” Zechariah 7:9-10

 

Plain and simple. These are things God desires for us to do, to be. This reminds me of when Jesus was questioned about what the greatest commandments in the Bible are. Matthew 22:37 Jesus answers, ”Jesus declares, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

 

How great it is to have a God that desires more from us than our earthly traditions. He is a God that wants us to love and serve him by loving and serving others. Jesus’ very message.

 

To Fast or Not to Fast… do you have the answer?
Elleigh Dylewski

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/zechariah/7/9-10)

Return to Me and I Will Return to You

 

Zechariah 1-6

zechariah 1

Sunday, April 23

 

Zechariah 1-6 is comprised of a series of 9 visions which can be difficult to understand, but if you read them from start to finish you begin to understand the big picture message.

 

The book starts us off with post exiled Israelites who are called to return to God and rebuild the temple!

 

Side note: I found it especially cool that these first 6 chapters, which are mostly about rebuilding the temple begin by encouraging the people to first rebuild their relationship with God. Zechariah 1:3  Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Think about that in your life…Where’s your relationship with God? Do you have one? Do you need to return to Him?

 

Dream 1: This dream talks about four horsemen on patrol for God. They report that the land is at peace. God is upset the land is at peace because his people were hurt and he wants justice.

Application: God can’t stand when evil people are at rest while those he loves are being persecuted.

 

Dream 2: This dream displays 4 horns that crushed the Israelites. Then it switches to 4 horns that will crush those who crushed the Jews.

Application: God provides due justice to those who do evil against his people! If you chose to follow Jesus, God will provide you a haven in the Kingdom.

 

Dream 3: This dream depicts a man measuring  Jerusalem to make sure it will hold all the people. God promises to be Jerusalem’s walls. He promises to protect them against attack.  

Application: We are called to build the Kingdom by believing in Jesus Christ and sharing that good news with others! Are you afraid to share your faith? Your belief in Jesus? Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Don’t let your fear get in the way of living a devoted life for God.

 

Dream 4: Joshua the high priest (a major leader) is standing before God with dirty clothes. God replaces his clothes with new CLEAN ones.

Application: We have salvation through Christ!  Our sins can be made new through belief in him! 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 

Dream 5:  A lamp with 7 flames is fed oil by a spigot attached to two olive trees. One olive tree is Zerubbabel the current king of Jerusalem and the other is Joshua the high priest. These two leaders will unite to rebuild the temple and all of Jerusalem. God makes a special note that Zerubbabel will use his spirit to rebuild the temple.

Application: God sends people to help us do what seems like impossible feats, he also sends his Spirit, the power of God. This allows us to accomplish his will in ways we wouldn’t otherwise think possible. The Spirit allows us to rely on God versus our own strength.  

Dream 6: This dream has a flying scroll that is going throughout a newly rebuilt Jerusalem cleansing it of the liars and thieves. The scroll is purifying Jerusalem of those not obeying the covenant.

Application: God will purify those within the church that are not truly devoted to God and living according to his way. How you live today affects how you live later…the Kingdom of God.

 

Dream 7: A women in a basket, representing all wickedness, is being flown back to Babylon where it first came from. God does a final purification.

Application: God will do a final purification of wickedness in our lives and the church. One day we will all stand before the Lord

 

Dream 8: Four horsemen go out to survey the land. They find it is at peace. God’s Spirit is at rest knowing the temple will be rebuilt, the enemies are punished and Jerusalem is purified and ready for the temple.

Application: One day God will welcome us into his kingdom. We have to choose now to live that way! 🙂

 

Dream 9: God anoints Joshua with a crown as if for a king. He promises that one day a King-Priest will rise up and rule Jerusalem.

Application: This king-Priest is Jesus who lived, died and rose again. Jesus brings us salvation, hope, faith, peace and a place in God’s Kingdom!  

 

All of the above dreams are providing us with the big picture. First, rebuilding the temple, second the return of Jesus and third the Kingdom of God. After reading these passages I realized that God really does have a plan and he wants us to faithfully do his will, using his Spirit as our strength.

 

Just as the Israelites were called to return to God and rebuild his temple, we are called to return to God, accept Jesus as our savior, and prepare ourselves for the Kingdom. So I encourage you today to take that first step and Return your life to God.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

Elleigh is an energetic, lively person who is married to a really cool guy, she hopes that after three years of marriage some of his coolness has rubbed off on her! Together they enjoy spending time with the youth, teaching, discipling and encouraging them as they grow their faith. She says her energy comes from eating too much chocolate and the joy she found in accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

Some People Lift You Up – Others Bring You Down

Ezra 5-7

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Tuesday, December 6

Some people really make your day, others – well they can really make your day worse.  With so much discouragement for the Jews in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem God decided to send several prophets to encourage the people in finishing work on the temple.  The prophets  Haggai and Zechariah were especially influential in bringing God’s encouragement to the workers rebuilding the temple.  A governor named Tattenai from beyond the river tried to put a stop to the rebuilding process by asking who had given them permission to rebuild the temple.    He wanted a detailed, official report from King Darius of who had truly funded this rebuilding project,  why this temple was being rebuilt and any details that might cast a negative light on the Jews rebuilding of their city.  King Darius looked into the matter and discovered that king Cyrus had indeed been moved by God to let the Jews rebuild the temple and their city with part of the bill being paid by the Babylonian empire.  Darius was so moved by the reading of the documents that he decreed that anyone who opposed the rebuilding project should be put to death and their home destroyed.  So the Jews were able to complete the rebuilding of God’s temple in Jerusalem with the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah.

The city was beginning to take shape, and this is where Ezra whom the book is named after  comes onto the scene.  He was a priest and scribe in Babylon who had favor with the Babylonian king after Darius which was king Artaxerxes.  Ezra was decreed by the King to go to Jerusalem and select men who would be rulers over the city and set up the civil government of the city, appointing magistrates and judges for the people.  But King Artaxerxes didn’t send them empty handed.  He sent them with many gifts to embellish the temple and many measures of wheat, wine, oil, and salt that would be needed.  He even gave authorization to use the royal treasury money for whatever else they needed to ensure that proper temple worship could be accomplished.  This greatly encouraged Ezra and the people of God in Jerusalem.

Thinking about the many players in this account of the rebuilding of the temple it seems to me that there are those who are determined to bring the people encouragement and those who are determined to bring the people discouragement.  Are there people like that in your life too?  You may have noticed that there are some people who lift up your spirit, and some people who bring your spirit low.  Notice how God knew the discouraging people who brought the people down, and would send someone like Haggai or Ezra along to lift the people’s spirits up again?  Does God do this for us too?  Has he ever sent someone to encourage you and lift up your spirit when you were discouraged?  Maybe He has used you to help lift up the spirits of someone else just like he used Zechariah,  Haggai and Ezra.  They brought an encouraging word to the people.  Will you let God help you to be an encourager to someone else this week?   Key thought:  Ask God to help you be a person who lifts others up rather than a person who brings others down.

-Merry Peterson

A Good Start … (2 Kings 12-14)

Wednesday, November 8

joash

Today’s chapters can get a bit confusing with so many kings coming and going – some from Judah and some from Israel and some from the neighboring lands – most of them evil and lots of them having a name starting with J.  Confusing!  It can be helpful to look up a chart of the kings of the divided kingdom, such as:

allkingsofisrael

It also can be helpful to compare the accounts of the Kings, with those of the Chronicles as they overlap in telling  the stories of the kings of Israel and Judah.

Joash has a tough but protected start in life  The young baby is hidden away in the temple for 6 years to avoid being murdered by his own grandma, the ruling Queen Athaliah.  When Joash is 7 years old Jehoida the priest determines the time is right to bring him out of hiding, kill Athaliah and set up Joash as king.  2 Kings 12:2 says “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoida the priest instructed him.”  Joash did a lot of good, including collecting money to repair the temple.  However, to get the total picture of Joash, (unlike the chart above) we must look ahead to 2 Chronicles 24:17-25 which shows that after the death of Jehoida Joash began listening to the officials of Judah. They stopped worshiping God and turned to the false god Asherah instead.  They ignored the prophets of God who brought warnings.   Zechariah, the son of Jehoida who had protected and mentored the young king, told the people, “Why do you disobey the Lord’s command?  You will not prosper.  Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.” (2 Chronicles 24:20)   Rather than repenting, King Joash ordered Zechariah to be stoned.  He no longer strived to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord; in fact, he appears to be working hard to do the opposite.

Perhaps you, like Joash, have had a protected start in life.  Hopefully Godly people (parents, SS teachers, youth leaders, pastors) have been there to mentor you, guide you, instruct you and protect you when dangers raged outside.  And if you are reading this there is a very good chance that like young Joash you are seeking to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.  Well done!  That is a great start!  But as we see with Joash, a great start does not guarantee a strong finish.  Beware of who you listen to.  Beware of unGodly advice and anyone who urges you to do or believe what is not pleasing to God.  Keep Godly advisors and mentors in your life.  Studying God’s Word today is a great way to prevent the beginning of the slippery slope in your life tomorrow.

Praying for Your Strong Finish – and Mine,

Marcia Railton

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