Wall of Fire (Zechariah 2-3)

I’ve posted the lyrics to a song I wrote while preparing to preach Zechariah 2-3. I’ve finally gotten around to recording it, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. The acoustic version is just me on guitar and mandolin. The full version includes bass and drums played by my friend and colleague Larry Holder.

Wall of Fire (Acoustic)

Wall of Fire

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See

SEE,
I have taken away
Your guilt and                             filth from you.

SEE

I stand to                                       make sure that
In fine robes you’re arrayed:
SEE.

SEE,
I Myself will remove
The guilt of                                      all the land–

SEE

–in a single                                   day, gone.
My word, My love I prove:
SEE.

1-22-2015

Uzzah Redux

In Zechariah 13, the promises of future grace on Judah are coming fast and furious. The chapter begins with a fountain being opened that washes away sin and impurity–the two hindrances to approaching God that must be dealt with by sacrifice and cleansing.

Then the names of the idols will be entirely removed from the land–even the memory of them will be gone. The false prophets and the unclean spirit marshaling them will be evicted.

Then, to emphasize how complete a purification this will be, a scenario is posed where someone dares to prophesy falsely in this time:

If a man still prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will say to him: You cannot remain alive because you have spoken falsely in the name of Yahweh. When he prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will pierce him through” (Zechariah 13:3 HCSB).

The holiness of God’s people will be so pervasive that a man’s parents will execute him for taking Yahweh’s name in vain.

This makes me think of two possibly related passages: the death of Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:6) and Jesus’ teaching about not bringing peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34-38).

In 2 Samuel, the people were treating the Ark of the Covenant as a lucky charm; they thought that Yahweh would never allow those who carried His Ark to be defeated. They marched themselves out to fight against the Philistines. And were whipped six ways from Sunday, including having the Ark captured and brought into Philistine territory.

Remember, God gave very detailed commands about how the Ark was to be moved and who was allowed to carry it. Nobody touched it at all. Only the Levites were allowed to touch the poles that carried it; nobody touched it. It was the visible representation of the throne of God Himself. It was to remain within the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (and later the temple). The Philistines began breaking out in horribly disgusting and uncomfortable diseases as long as the Ark remained with them, so they did the only sensible thing they could do: they sent it back to Israel.

Once the Israelites reclaimed the Ark, they began to transport it back to its proper place. The only problem with their plan was that they were completely disregarding those commands God had given. Instead of being carried properly, David and his crew took a brand-new cart and let oxen pull the cart. The cart hits a pothole, and the Ark starts to tip over and fall off the cart. Uzzah reaches out and steadies the Ark and is immediately struck dead by Yahweh.

Not only were they being disobedient to God’s instructions, Uzzah’s actions–regardless of his conscious intent–betrayed a belief that God needed help. 2 Samuel 5 tells the story of the Ark being placed next to the statute of the Philistine god Dagon. Every morning, the Philistines found their statue lying prone before the Ark. One morning, Dagon’s head had fallen off. The God who could do that didn’t need Uzzah’s or David’s or anybody else’s help. He’s too holy for our filthy hands to steady Him, if He ever needed steadying in the first place.

The holiness of God lashed out in righteous, justified judgment against Uzzah. What we see in Zechariah 13 is that same holiness, but this time in the lives of the people themselves. Those washed in the sin-cleaning fountain (13:1) would be so zealous for the reputation and honor of Yahweh that they would stand against their own children if necessary. Which sounds a lot like Matthew 10, in which Jesus says that He comes to bring a sword that divides even within families.

The vision of Zechariah 13 portrays for us the passionate holiness of God active in the hearts of His people. They are no longer ruddy with sin, but washed white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) in the fountain He opened. They are completely transformed from self-absorbed self-lovers to glory-absorbed God-lovers. Instead of sinfully piercing the Innocent One (12:10), they’re now shown as righteously piercing the deserving guilty.

It would not surprise me in the least if King Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 10 was not explicitly alluding to Zechariah 13, which His original hearers would have picked up on. It would have been a scandalous claim, because in so doing He would be identifying Himself as the struck Shepherd and Associate of Yahweh Himself (13:7-9).

The Holy Spirit Himself lives within us to progressively create in us the very passionate holiness of Zechariah 13. Let us take every opportunity He gives us to, as John Newton’s hymn says, “love and sing and wonder” on the way.

Forget (Russell)

(Micah 7:19, Zechariah 13:1-2)

At east He stands, throws sins beyond the west;

Iniquity’s fierce conqueror is He.
Around its neck He ties a millstone fast
And shoves it in the sea.

The waves of His forgetful sea have yet
To splash and soak my guilty memory;
Forgiving, gracious tides gladly forget
What I cannot unsee.

A fountain He will open on that Day
To splash and soak my guilty memory;
Then, not even the evil names will stay
And holy I will be.

12-06-2014

Zechariah (Adagem)

(or, His Name is Jealous)

I sent My Word to you by My prophets.
AM I unfaithful like you? Am I not
JEALOUS for you? Am I not angry
FOR what the nations did to Beloved
JERUSALEM, the Promised King’s mountain?
AND will I not send Him for glory to
ZION, to save My people forever?

** Inspired by Harps Unhung, a collection of Psalms-based poetry began by a mother and finished posthumously by her daughter. Each psalm is expressed in a different poetic form. An adagem (I have learned) is a form of poetry in which a specific word in each line expresses an overall theme or emphasis of the whole poem.

Wall of Fire

Wall of Fire
Zechariah 2-3

Shout for joy and be glad, O Zion
Lift up your shame-heavy face
I will come in My power and glory
Let all the earth be amazed,
Stand silent and be amazed.

I will be a wall of fire around you
I will be the glory within
Walls can’t contain all of My blessings
When I come and enter in
When I come and enter in

Satan’s accusations are over
All your filthy clothes are gone
I have clothed you in splendid garments
And welcomed you into My home
And welcomed you into My home

I will be a wall of fire around you
I will be the glory within
Walls can’t contain all of My blessings
When I come and enter in
When I come and enter in

Shout for joy and be glad, O Zion (I will be a wall of  fire around you)
All your filthy clothes are gone (I will be the glory within)
I will come in My power and glory (Walls can’t contain all of My blessing)
And welcome you into My home (When I come and enter in)
Let all the earth be amazed. (When I come and enter in)

Unashamed

I’m working my way through memorizing the book of Zechariah (which, regardless of which Scripture you choose, is a highly recommended discipline), and I’m struck by the thread of Yahweh’s relationship to Jerusalem through the early chapters.

Then the Angel of the LORD responded, “How long, LORD of Hosts, will You withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah that You have been angry with these 70 years?” (1:12)

So the angel who was speaking with me said, “Proclaim: The LORD of Hosts says: I am extremely jealous for Jerusalem and Zion” (1:14).

The LORD will once more comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem (1:17).

He said to him, “Run and tell this young man: Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the number of people and livestock in it.” The declaration of the LORD–“I will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be the glory within it” (2:5).

For the LORD of Hosts says this: “He has sent Me for His glory against the nations who are plundering you, for anyone who touches you touches the pupil of His eye” (2:8).

“The LORD will take possession of Judah as His portion in the Holy Land, and He will once again choose Jerusalem” (2:12).

The LORD said to Satan: “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! May the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!” (3:2a).

Continue reading “Unashamed”

Both/And, Not Either/Or

For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29 HCSB).

Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
Fire goes up before Him and burns up His foes on every side.
He protects the lives of His godly ones;
He rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
Light dawns for the righteous,
gladness for the upright in heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones,
and praise His holy name. (Psalm 97:3, 10b-12 HCSB)

The declaration of the LORD: “I will be a wall of fire around [Jerusalem], and I will be the glory within it” (Zechariah 2:5 HCSB).

The Bible is full of interesting–and often difficult–tensions. Many of these tensions deal with the character of God Himself, which makes the difficulties that much more difficult. But these tensions are necessary and foundational to life and worship.

The tension in the texts above is between the realities that God is both ours AND a consuming fire.

Continue reading “Both/And, Not Either/Or”

What Are You Wearing?

Zechariah 3 records a vision given to the prophet, and it is one of the most poignant, hopeful images of grace in the Scriptures. Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of Yahweh (likely Jesus Himself here) and Satan is standing at Joshua’s right side.

Satan is in the position of accuser here, and he has plenty of material to work with. Instead of the robes designed “for beauty and for glory,” Joshua’s robes are filthy–the word signifies that they are soiled with excrement. Yahweh’s commands for purity, cleanliness, and holiness, particularly for the man serving as high priest, are clear and unequivocal. Joshua has no place standing before God like this. It is his shame, and he deserves to be consumed in wrath for it. No doubt, this is the substance of Satan’s accusations against him.

And yet, Jesus does something amazing: He orders Joshua’s filthy clothes to be removed from him and replaced with “splendid robes.” To drive the point home, He says to Joshua, “See, I have removed your guilt from you.” Satan the Accuser has lost all his ammunition; what more can he say when the trial is over? The verdict has been given, and there is no double jeopardy in the courts of Yahweh. This point is also seen in that Satan is neither seen nor heard from for the rest of the vision. Silence is golden–the marvelous silence of no condemnation.

With that context, then, reading Psalm 109 is horrifying. It is the stuff of nightmares–it is hell itself.

Set a wicked person over him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is judged, let him be found guilty,
and let his prayer be counted as sin.
Let his days be few;
let another take over his position.
Let his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.
Let his children wander as beggars;
searching for food far from their demolished homes.
Let a creditor seize all he has;
let strangers plunder what he has worked for.
Let no one show him kindness,
and let no one be gracious to his fatherless children.
Let the line of his descendants be cut off;
let their name be blotted out in the next generation.
Let his forefathers’ guilt be remembered before the LORD,
and do not let his mother’s sin be blotted out.
Let their sins always remain before the LORD,
and let Him cut off all memory of them from the earth (Psalm 109:6-16 HCSB).

The parallels with Zechariah 2-3 are striking.

Psalm 109 Zechariah 2-3
“let an accuser stand at his right hand” (109:6) “with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (3:1)
“let no one show him kindness” (109:12) “The LORD replied with kind and comforting words” (2:13)
“let no one be gracious
to his fatherless children” (109:12)
“I have graciously returned to Jerusalem” (2:16)
“Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the number of people and livestock in it” (2:4)
“let his forefathers’ guilt be remembered before the LORD” (109:14) “‘See, I have removed your guilt from you'” (3:4)
“let their sins always remain before the LORD” (109:15) “See,…I will clothe you with splendid robes” (3:4)
“I will grant you access among these who are standing here” (3:7)
 “Let a creditor seize all he has;
let strangers plunder what he has worked for” (109:11)
 “On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree” (3:10)

We also can’t ignore that Psalm 109:8 was the justification for replacing Judas as apostle. Thus, we are presented with two possible outcomes for our lives: Judas or Joshua.

Being born again means that Jesus has declared us to be unworthy of our filthy robes and worthy of His splendid robes. He has declared this to be true, and then He and the Father give the Holy Spirit to dwell within us to actually make us unworthy and worthy. Jesus does this because even though He was only worthy of splendid robes of holiness and righteousness, He takes our hateful, filthy robes of sin off of us and puts them on Himself. He wraps us in the splendid robes we had no business looking at, much less wearing.

“See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”

“Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying:

Hallelujah–because our Lord God, the Almighty has begun to reign!
Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory,
because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself.
She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.

For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. … The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen” (Revelation 19:6-8, 14 HCSB)

So, what are you wearing?