Saturday, November 15, 2008

Zechariah 14:12-21

One last aspect of Zechariah's hope has not been fulfilled—the willing submission of the nations to Yahweh's rule. Without this, these is no hope of permanent peace. And this is what the final passage brings. First, an apocalyptic battle is portrayed involving supernatural, flesh-rotting plague like something out of a horror Sci-Fi flick. This seems directed at the nations that immediately surround Jerusalem, removing them from the land and their attempts at acquiring what is devoted to God's people. Verses 13-14 draw attention to the collaboration of Jerusalem and Judah in contrast to the strife and turmoil within the camps of those nations. And all the other nations who joined in this apocalyptic battle will be subdued. They will pay homage in Jerusalem, owning the Feat of Booths as their own—expressing their allegiance and owning Israel's history. They stand under the covenant, it seems, for their disobedience receives the same withholding of rain that was incurred by the Israelites and that plagued the post-exilic community (cf Hagg 1:9-11). Even the land of Egypt that does not depend on rain will not be exempt, for they will be plagued if they rebel. And they will go to Jerusalem for it will finally be the city of priests. Unlike its sinful past so recurrent in Zechariah, it will be a city devoted to God such that even the most ordinary utensils will be suitable for temple sacrifices. Two final clauses are particularly poignant. That there will be no merchant means the rulers will finally care for the people, in contrast to the catastrophic mess of chapter 11. This is delightful hope. And yet... A pendent "On that day..." reminds the people that it remains, for now, only hope. They must await God's intervention, persuaded that the city of Jerusalem remains a valid locus of promise—the home of Yahweh, the covenant God.

We see a theology that will one day incorporate nations, though the role of the Jews will remain distinct. We see God reigning directly as King, though history testifies this did not extinguish hopes in a Messianic ruler. Rather, this section asserts the future lies wholly in the hands of God, and not in the political machinations of his people. "That day" remains Yahweh's day.

The great privilege of Gentiles like myself is to be incorporated into this eschatological reign—living with Christ as King and Lord, and saved from the horrifying judgment that is the fate of all who oppose God's possession of his creation. And to rejoice that God is purifying for himself a people who can dwell in his presence. But it is a day that I must wait for. Like Peter, I know that the day of judgment is coming and that any delay is only his patience (2 Pet 3). Like John, I take heart that every injustice will be righted on that day. But I remember that the only the Lamb is worthy to open the scroll by breaking the seals and unleashing eschatological judgment that will redeem his saints and bring his final justification (Revelation). Maranatha.

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