Current Gleanings from Zechariah

01 Mar

I’ve been studying Zechariah lately and really enjoying it.  Although at first glance, all the prophetic imagery can look kind of intimidating, it’s a wonderful book that gives us some amazing glances into the heart of God. (By the way, if you want to study Zechariah some time, I would definitely recommend this commentary.)

I’m in chapter four right now, and tonight I read a verse that I am very familiar with, but have obviously not given sufficient time to it yet. “For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:10).

Now, I’ve heard the first part of that verse a lot. Correction: I’ve heard something similar to the first part of that verse a lot. Generally it takes the form of, “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.” That’s a great application, and ultimately, I believe it’s the point God is making. But rarely is it ever paired with the rest of the verse — and that makes all the difference.

You have to understand a little bit of the context into which Zechariah spoke. Judah had, not too long before, been released from the Babylonian captivity. Only a small percentage of the Jews actually chose to return to Jerusalem. So this relatively small group of zealous Jews, many of them Levites, returned to the Land with the goal of rebuilding the temple. Two years later, they had experienced so much in the way of financial difficulty, pressure from their neighbors, and the ever infamous political red tape (see Ezra 4 for this), that they shelved the temple work in order to take a while to simply focus on making ends meet in the ruins of Jerusalem.

Time went by. Fourteen years, to be specific. Things didn’t get any better. In fact, things seemed to steadily get worse. Haggai describes their doleful condition: “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you cothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6).

To this group of bedraggled worshippers who had completely lost hope and lost focus, God raised up two contemporary prophetic voices, Haggai and Zechariah. Haggai got the people motivated to resume work on the temple. As shown above, he pointed out their condition, and identified the cause as their neglect of their mandate to build the house of God. The people of Judah responded with obedience, re-laying the foundation and resuming work on the temple, but things were still very, very hard, and their hearts were still heavy.

Enter Zechariah. Two months after Haggai’s first message, this prophet arose, having been given a message specifically designed to exhort and encourage the people of God in their work of rebuilding. There is much to be said about the first three chapters, which I will restrain from going into simply for the sake of space. But this brings us back to 4:10, and this wonderful verse from the Lord. “For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

The little band of people in Jerusalem were struggling with some really small beginnings. They were a small company in a small city with a small income and a small temple — a temple which was still under construction. God asked them a rhetorical question which would exhort them not to despise these small beginnings. But note that God didn’t just give them the command in a vacuum. There was a beautiful reason to see something good in this lowly state.

The seven “eyes” of God are a prophetic picture which speak of God’s omniscience, His being able to see and know everything which occurs within creation. His eyes scan through the entire earth. He is keeping tabs on every situation. The mighty world power of Persia was in His view. The warring and rising and falling of nations was all happening under His watchful eye. He was even keeping track of things happening on continents beyond the then-known world. God is infinitely big. Creation is very big. It seems that there would be a million things more important, more urgent, and more impressive than a poor, struggling group of people in Jerusalem.

Yet it was that very group that had God’s rapt attention. Not only did they have His attention, but they had His delight. He, in His all-seeing-ness, rejoiced to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah.

This is where it gets even better. The plumb line was basically a weight hanging from a string, and it was the tool used to make sure that new walls were built level. Now, I don’t know much about construction, but I do know that checking the angle of the walls is something that had better happen very early on, or you’re sunk.

So look at this: God is not merely anticipating rejoicing over the finished product. He is not rejoicing over the placing of capstone or the hammering of the final nail. He is rejoicing to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

The temple wasn’t even all there yet. It had been two short months since work even resumed on the thing. The temple — which, by the way, was a lot smaller and simpler than Solomon’s — was not much to look at, and it would be quite a while before it would be much to look at. Yet the omniscient, omnipotent God, who we might assume to have better things to do, was rejoicing about the plumb line. He was delighted that they were saying “yes” and determining to do something about it. The God of all creation was one hundred percent behind the work of the builders, and actually excited about what they were doing.

This holds just as true today. So often, despite all our nice-sounding language, we still want to approach God having something to give Him, something to show Him, or something with which to impress Him. We often feel shame over our small beginnings, our weak little areas where we have said yes to God but have not made much progress. Maybe it’s been a few weeks, maybe it’s been a few years, but we look at what we’ve got… and then we look at where we want to be… then we look at where we’ve been, and it doesn’t seem that far away… Our well-meaning, but misdirected intentions render us discouraged of our journey and embarrassed to go before God about it.

But our God is amazingly generous and kind. He is not wanting a stellar performance. He just wants us to pick up the “plumb line” and go for it. His eyes scan the entire earth looking for people who will just do that much. He’s looking for people to delight in. He’s looking for small beginnings to bless. He isn’t waiting with folded arms for us to get our act together. He’s cheering us on. He’s behind us. He’s supporting us. He’s giving us extravagant favor. His heart is for us.

And that is why we don’t have to despise the small beginnings.


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14 responses to “Current Gleanings from Zechariah

  1. Matthew

    March 1, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    really good article. it encouraged me. thanks!

  2. brianbeattie

    March 2, 2008 at 7:24 am

    That’s a good word! Thanks Amanda.

  3. Haybark

    March 4, 2008 at 3:27 am

    That was really good. Funny thing, about three or four weeks ago I had the prayer room on one morning/early afternoon and Justin Rizzo was singing through Zechariah 5 and it was really impacting me. So I printed out chapter five and six to take to work so I could meditate on it as I do my job.

    I have a couple of questions for you, if you don’t mind me jumping ahaead a little. Why is it, do you think, that the scroll contained a curse for the thief and those who sware falsly above any other sin? Do you think it could be becasue of the conditions of the hour in which the scroll released so that they would be the prominante tendancy of those who were nominal or carnal? ( I see mercy in the judgment of it to cause to bring to repentance those affected by it. Those who don’t are effectively conssumed, and cut off from the land- i.e. the inheritance of the righteous)

    Do you think that the dimensions of the scroll are hinting at things in the last part of the chapter, as a juxtaposition? Justin kept singing , “for some reason it’s the same size as the ark of the covenant.” I later ended up getting a whole line of revelation from the scroll, and the ark, Jesus and the mercy seat that covers, etc. But what really intrigued me was what I saw in the latter half of the chapter.

    I don’t want to hijack your blog with my thing here, but I want to briefly share what I’m seeing for your thoughts on it. It’s a Big picture, end of the age vision that the prophet is seeing. i really think that this is a picture of an aspect of antichrist rise to power through the monetary systems of the word, and bringing them to a unified system, hense the ephah that looked the same in the whole earth.

    In His mercy God sends out the scroll to bring about discipline in a time of econimic and political upheaval in the earth. (While His judgments are in the earth, men learn to do righteousness) But at the same time it is setting the conditions for the rise of anti-christ and his one world system. More specifically, I am seeing the ehpah as satan’s antithesis of the ark of the covenant.

    Consider this: the ark of the covenant had the the mercy seat with the cheribim streached over them, overlayed in pure gold. The ephah was covered with a talent’s weight of lead, (a heavy, opressive- even crushing weight. A base, worthless metal.) It had two women with wings like a stork bearing it. the ark contained the rod, the tablets, and the manna. The ephah had the woman in the midst of it, an idol. the ark was in the midst of the tent of meeting/tabernacle. The ephah as being taken to the land of Shinar (Babylon) to have a house built for it.

    Is not this the basis for the image of the beast that everyone will be made to bow down to, and that will be at the heart of the monetary system of the world at the time? Is not this the great harlot Babylon in the midst of the ephah, the mother of harlots that draw away the affections of the world away from the One true God?

    I’ll leave you with this; look at these three passages together: Zech. 5:5-11, Prov. 2:16-22 & Rev. 17. Be intrested to hear what you, or anyone might think.

  4. Amanda Beattie

    March 4, 2008 at 4:19 am

    Awesome questions, and I’m happy to go into it here.

    Specific offenses of stealing and lying: My favorite interpretation for this is that these two offenses represent violation of the law of God as a whole. The Ten Commandments were on two tablets, with five commandments on each. Swearing falsely (taking the Lord’s name in vain, Zech 5:4) breaks the third commandment, and stealing breaks the eighth. That would put each of these commandments dead center on their respective tablets.

    Another theory that I personally find a little bit weaker, but still bears a lot of merit, is that these laws represent the First and Second Great Commandments, to love God (violated by swearing falsely) and love your neighbor (violated by stealing). In which case, you arrive at basically the same conclusion as above, since all the law and prophets hinge on these two great commands (Matt 22:40).

    Dimensions of the Scroll: The scroll is actually 20 cubits by 10 cubits, or in English measurements, 30ft by 15ft. This was the size of the porch in Solomon’s Temple — this was where the Law was read, and this was also a place of intercession (as in the phrase, “weep between the porch and the altar”). This is also the same size as the Holy Place in Moses’ Tabernacle. The ark of the covenant was only 2.5 x 1.5 cubits. I haven’t come to any super-solid conclusions on the implications of this yet, but I would definitely like to hear your ideas.

    The Woman in the Basket/End Times: I think you’re definitely on the right track with this. I agree that this woman is a picture of the harlot Babylon. The ephah is a measure, and the lead disc is a “talent”, a measure of weight. So the basket itself is a picture of “weights and measures,” which regularly comes up in the Minor Prophets as a subject of rebuke (Hos 12:6; Mic 6:11; Amos 8:5). It speaks of commerce, and in this context, it is clearly crooked practice with money and greed. And I also agree that the woman is an idol, hence, the false worship system.

    I’m not sure how I feel about specifically calling it a counterfeit mercy seat, but it absolutely speaks of a false worship system that is from the pit of hell. I will have to take some more time and look at the contrasts you’ve drawn between the ark and the basket; I’ve never seen it from that angle before.

  5. Haybark

    March 4, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Concerning the basket, think of the term covenant in context of what we know of the events of the end times, esp. before the rise of anti-christ and his seven year covenant. (the conditions will have to be in such a way that the world has become desperate for someone to restore the prosperity and peace they once knew. I think we are walking into the times that will begin this unraveling in a significant way.) Daniel says he will give money away as a vain show of his kindness. The world’s acceptance of his covenant will be sealed with a mark on thier hand or forehead which will enable them to access the monetary system, and I believe will be used in thier “logging on” to daily worship the beast. this is how he will know who does and does not.

    Thanks for the insights on the the two commands broken. The imagery of them being in the center of the tablets is a really good one. I can hear this in that discription: “You have broken the law,” carrying the weight of the sum total of it.

    I love your thoughts on the dimentions of the scroll with the same size of Solomon’s porch, because on of the first things that came to me was; “behold both the goodness and the severity of God.” I am going to spend some more time on it tonight with this new insight aqnd get back with you and deveolp the thoughts I have a litte more.

  6. Mark

    March 4, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    These are some weighty and penetrating insights. I can’t remember the last time I sat and read something this long online and had my attention so rapt. I am really stirred to meditate on how God can have His eyes everywhere, and still delight to see the beginnings of His work take hold in our heart. I shall have to write on these things some time in the near future. I’ll give you a trackback to let you know. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Amanda Beattie

    March 5, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Haybark: Very, very interesting stuff. You’ve got me all intrigued now.

    Mark: Thanks for commenting. 🙂 One of my favorite things about God is His transcendence and imminence… He is way bigger than us, way holier than us, and yet He is deeply and personally invested in each of our lives. It blows my mind.

  8. Haybark

    March 5, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Amanda, I keep looking for what linked together the two halfs of the chapter (1-4, 5-11) in a solid way. The KJV was limited in the language it used in v.6 so I didn’t catch the discrption that other versions had as I was pondering on it. as i was looking over what we have been talking about, and looking at some other versions, this is what occured to me. I think you’ll like it. This is exciting!

    I like the traditional interpretation that you gave for the two sins, but I am still leaning towards something specific intended by the Lord becasue He repeats the idea twice of the thief and the false swarer (v.3&4). The prophetic context often messes with traditional veiws. I think they don’t really conflict too much, and you could effectively teach the fomer view without any damage whatever to the latter. But here are some thoughts:

    BTW, as i was meditating on the chapter a couple of weeks ago, I saw the roll coming into the light. Fairly clear vision of it at that. I think the Lord is indicating the initiation of some of these things. Over the years, the Lord has been building this scenario in me about what is coming upon our nation, and the world. Very briefly, it is a combination of discipline and an first fruits harvest to awaken, purge adn begin to train/prepare the bride for what is to come. Most of the church is asleep, but there is a remnant that the Lord has prepared before hand to ride the coming wave, and to gather back many that have, and will fall durring the coming shaking. This harvest will be the harvest of the harvesters that are to be dedicated to the work of the ministry (parallels the grain first reap and dedicated to the temple for the maintainance of the priests). The church’s work in between this wave we are entering, and the next will be to train them up for the greater and final wave or waves. But my focus here is what occurs to prepare the earth for the rise of anti-christ, and what the Lord is doing to accomplish it.

    Listen to what the Amplified says about v.6; “And I said, what is it? [what does it symbolize?] And he said, this that goes forth is an ephah [-sized vessel for seperate grains all collected together]. This, he continued, is the symbol of the sinners mentioned above and is the resembalance of thier iniquity throughout the whole land.”

    Paul in 2 Thess. 2 says that the anti-christ will cause deciet to prosper under his rule. Interesting don’t you think, that while the Lord is bringing discipline upon wickedness, that the anti-christ is causing it to prosper under his hand? Here is what I am seeing: As the Lord brings leanes to the earth in this intial shaking of all things that can be shaken, a curse is released upon those that steal, and those that will lie and manipulate to obatain what they need (still working on this point, not as solid here about the swaring falsly). The Lord hopes to bring repentance to those who will turn at His rebuke.

    As the severity of the times increase there will be an increasingly clear choice to be made, and this is what is at the heart of it: selfcenteredness or giving up self for abandonment to Christ. Anti-christ will allow you to keep all your selfish pursuits if you will come under his rule through covenant. He will even casue them to prosper for a time if you choose him. This chapter outlines the divine set up for the earth to choose who it will serve. It gives beforehand waht is being done to capture the affections of man to worship the beast and serve under the crushing weight of anti-christ kingdom. It is the plan of how the enemy will establish his temple of worship, and his capitol city where he will sit enthorned in Babylon. The total antithisis to Zion, the city of our Great King!

    I tell you, the battle lines are being drawn! the lines of demarcation are being clearly established in all the earth. And it is beggining in ernest RIGHT NOW. WOW!

    I have to go to work, but will be looking forwartd to hearing your thoughts on this! Thak you SO much for engaging with me in this, you have stirred and provolked me. Thanks Amanda!

  9. Haybark

    March 7, 2008 at 2:27 am

    So am I out in left field? (I can take it if you think that, i need the feedback. I don’t get many who can go here with me.) What is intresting, I remembered what my pastor teaches about the first four seals of revelation six. He says that there are four aspects of antichrist’s rise to power that are represented in the first four seals (horseman of the apocolyps). I pulled out his old notes; This is what they say:

    “The coming To Power of the antichrist”

    1. White horse– Religion- religious take over. There cannot be a one world government
    until there is a one world religion.

    2. Red horse– Political take over. No one has rthe power to wage war unless they are in political or governmental position to do so.

    3. Black horse– Economic take over. Once someone has gained political positioning they then have the power to control the economy through sanctions adn rationing.

    4. Pale (green) horse– Social take over. When someone controls the world’s Religion, politics, and it’s economics they then have the power to decide who lives or who dies.

    Just thought that was an intresting note to thow out seeing that the Zech. 6 opens with these same horsemen. I wonder what David Sliker would say to all this? Anyway, I hope it stirs some thought.

  10. Amanda Beattie

    March 7, 2008 at 9:59 am

    In response to your first question/last post, I don’t think you’re out in left field at all. I’m actually in the middle of studying Zechariah 5 right now, so I’m still formulating thoughts on all of it. But I do think part of the point of the end-time judgments is to begin to make people decide whom they will serve.

    I take a little different approach to those first four seals; it leaves us in basically the same position, though. The thing that I like about the approach below is that it figures in four key factors that are at work in the End Times: The judgment of God, the schemes of the devil, the sin of humanity, and the groaning of creation. None of the seals take place apart from the sovereign act of the Lamb, but it’s not like God is just the puppet-master in the sky making everything spin. There’s an Antichrist with demonic power. There are a bunch of fallen people with free will. There is the earth that is reeling under the impact of what’s taking place, and that leads to the sequence below…

    1) Rise of Antichrist to power
    2) World-wide war (at least in part caused by reaction to AC takeover)
    3) Economy/food supply struck (a famine which, I think, is partially as a result of the massive war)
    4) Widespread death (result of warfare, plus famine, leading to disease, starvation, wild animals who have been displaced by war and are roaming for food in the famine).

    So for what it’s worth on that front.

  11. Amanda Beattie

    March 7, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Oh, and P.S., I don’t think the horses in Zech 6 are the same as Revelation 6…

  12. Haybark

    March 8, 2008 at 10:14 am

    That’s intresting. What do you feel is the thing(s) that set them apart from those of the four seals? What indications do you have from the text that suggest this? And do you think they could legitimately be a foreshadow of the revelation horsemen?

  13. Amanda Beattie

    March 8, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Well their colors are slightly different for one. “Dappled” (Zech) is most likely spotted or splotched red and white, and “pale” (Rev) is literally a deathly pallor, and possibly a pale greenish color.

    Secondly, they’re pulling chariots in Zechariah, and they are not in Revelation.

    Thirdly, Zechariah makes it sound like there is more than one horse of each color, and there is clearly only one of each in Revelation.

    Fourthly, their missions are very different, and of a much different scope. The horses in Zechariah are sent in a particular direction to do something affecting a specific geographic area. The horsemen of Revelation each have a specific assignment which affects the entire globe.

    I think it’s possible that they are related, and perhaps they could be considered a foreshadow (I have wondered the same thing about the horses of Zech 1). But it is my opinion that they can’t be the same horses.


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