Posts Tagged With: Affliction

Zechariah Devotional, Part 3: An End Promised

This section of the prophetic book of Zechariah begins a series of word-pictures, painting pictures to show what God has planned for His people.

Zechariah 1:18-21

“18 Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.

19 And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.

20 And the Lord shewed me four carpenters.

21 Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.”


The horn in Scripture is a sign of strength, of power, especially of the military variety.  The people of Judah and Israel had been oppressed by wicked nations.  The Assyrians had invaded, packing off most of the northern tribe to faraway lands.  The Babylonian invasion had led to the exile of Jews in Babylon (in modern-day Iraq) for 70 years.  Now the Persian empire, which had since conquered Babylon, was in control.  They were still governing Judah, even as the Jews were restored to the promise land.  There would be more invasions to come as the Macedonians would later arrive, bringing with them the Greek language and culture.  These conquerors (all of them) were quite cruel and barbaric in the way that they treated the people whom they conquered.  The usual choice for cities under their siege was to be entirely annihilated or to surrender to a life of hard slavery to their conquerors.

In this word-picture, God was sending a message to the people of Judah that although they have been sorely afflicted, and that there is even more to come, yet those who come against her will be themselves taken out of the picture by God.  The One who sent the conquering armies would also send deliverers to take away their cruelty.  It is a message of hope, to endure affliction in hope by the promise of future deliverance.

There are times when God uses what seem to be the most cruel and painful events in the lives of His people for some good purpose.  It may be to teach them to depend on Him, to test their faith, or to bring them to repentance by making sin bitter to them when they get to taste the fruit of it.  But in any of these differing purposes, God is working all things for the good of those who love Him.  As Christians, there are times that we have to submit to God’s will by enduring terrible hardships, whether emotional, physical, financial, social, or political.  But in all of this we can be assured that God’s anger against His beloved children will find its limit.  His purpose is not to kill, but to discipline; not to injure, but to heal.  What He has given you to bear will come to an end in His timing.  Although for those who are on the road to destruction, this life is the best it gets, yet, for those who have been adopted in Christ by grace, this life is the worst it will ever be.  There will come a day when our great and loving heavenly Father will wipe away every tear from our eyes, when pain and sorrow will be no more, forever.  In the meantime He has given us afflictions to endure to get us ready.

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Godly Priorities Following Affliction: Zechariah Devotional, part 1

12385605-jerusalem--february-20-jews-pray-at-the-wailing-wall-february-20-2012-in-jerusalem-il-the-wall-is-thZechariah was a prophet of the LORD from a prominent family of the line of priests, who had returned from exile in Babylon with Zerubbabel, the king of Judah.  What joy they must have experienced on their homecoming trip!  “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2  In 538* BC the Persian emperor Cyrus had allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland, after he had conquered Babylon, and the people of God was in a state of limited freedom and inferiority, subject to the Persian Emperor.   But by now, around 520 BC the Jewish people felt deeply disappointed that God’s promises had not fully come to pass.  Before the exile, such prophets as Jeremiah and Isaiah had foretold of a glorious period of freedom and blessing after the exile.  God would send His people away in bondage to Babylon to chasten them for their unfaithfulness and their worship of other gods.  But when they returned seventy years later, the kingdom would be restored like never before, and a glorious period would usher in when Judah would be reunited with the northern tribes of Israel, and the nations would be subdued beneath the reign of one from the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham, flowing unto the Lord’s temple to worship there.  And, although, Judah had been restored to his ancestral homeland, and Zerubabbel, of the line of David, had been crowned king, much was yet lacking.  For Judea was a province within the Persian Empire, not a sovereign kingdom.  His king was not much more than an appointed, vassal, governor serving the interest of Persia.

The Jewish people had built the foundation of the temple, but they had slacked off on the building project, focusing attention instead on their own private and family lives, and neglecting the Lord’s house.  Where was the faithful obedience that had been promised?  Where was the promised freedom, and victory over the nations?  In response to the troublesome circumstances in which they found themselves, the Jewish people took the easy road by becoming self-centered instead of being God-centered.  How easy it is for us to begin to look inward after a long period of affliction, when the wrongs don’t seem to be made right, and God is not answering our prayers as quickly as we would prefer?  But God’s message to His people through Zechariah is to take heart, be patient, and finish rebuilding the temple, because the Lord has not forgotten His people.  He will save and bless them once more, and fulfill everything that He has promised.  Their part is to be faithful and obedient to the mission that He has set before them, to build His house.

Many of us have experienced affliction in our Christian lives by losing loved ones or suffering physical ailments.  Many have been hurt or wounded emotionally by hurtful people or circumstances.  Others have slid into dismay at the state of the godless contemporary culture that surrounds us.  So many have begun to look inward, to focus on themselves, and their private and family lives, wealth, and possessions because there doesn’t seem to be much else you can count on.  It’s easy for those who have suffered or been hurt or distressed to give up on prayer and on taking part in public worship among God’s people.  When things seem to be going so wrong, what good has it done?  Where is the blessing?  What happened to the promises?  But God’s message to us is the same as it was to His people long ago.  “Return to me, and I will return to you.”  Zechariah 1:3  Though you have suffered, yet be patient, and you will see showers of spiritual blessing as you’ve never known it before.  God is not through with His people yet, so let us, brothers and sisters, double down on efforts to support, love, cherish, and build His house, the fellowship of the redeemed that meets in the local church, made up of the people whom God has called out of the world into her blessed fellowship.  Let us be built together as stones in the temple walls.  This is that glorious city which God has promised to make happy forever.  Let Him be our God and we His people, and let this reality be expressed in effort and commitment toward our shared life together.


*The ESV Study Bible, Online Edition was used as a reference.

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