Daily Reflections December 15, 2017
In the second of eight night visions, Zechariah meets some angels that make some surprising claims about Jerusalem. The prophet is writing 20 years after Cyrus has allowed the Jews that were exiled to Babylon. Few have returned to Jerusalem and those that have are discouraged. The bustling, well-fortified city was in ruins. The glory of the city had faded and one would wonder why it was worth coming back to. How could this ever be called Zion?
But God encourages them with this vision by letting them know that He would make it far greater than they could imagine. The city would be expansive, barely able to hold all the people and animals that would inhabit it. God would be its security and its glory. God himself was going to establish it as a place for his people under his care. Jerusalem would be far more magnificent than they could even imagine. This sounds wonderful for them but you might wonder what it means to us.
The story of the return home from exile is not just history – it is also often our story. God has saved us from the slavery of Egypt, provided passage into the Promised Land, and shown his great lovingkindness to us. Yet sometimes there can be a part of our old nature that we neglect to crucify. We want to have God but also our other idol on the side. So, like a loving father, God disciplines us by allowing us to be taken into a burdensome, barren place to feel once again the state without his grace. Then God often provides a relief, a chance to return to him. But when we return, often we despair because it seems like our spiritual life is cold – our prayers seem weaker, the Spirit seems muffled, our inheritance of spiritual blessings seem so distant.
How could this be called the Christian abundant life?
If this sounds familiar then Zechariah 2 is for you. Be encouraged, your world may seem small now but God promises that he will make all things new, a new heavens and a new earth. You may feel fragile and insecure but God promises that he will hold you fast and prepare a place where he will be the security and glory within. Your spiritual life and the new Jerusalem may seem like they are all not worth returning for. But it will be far more magnificent than you could ever imagine. Let this chapter remind you, read Revelation 21-22, and memorize John 6:27.
The last half of this chapter is a natural application when this reminder is heard and believed. Flee from bondage and joyfully return! Rejoice and sing for God is on the move! He will conquer the enemy and draw his people home where he will be their God. So brothers and sisters, come home and do not be discouraged. Delight in the promises of God and lift your voices in glad melodies of hope. God will restore what was lost. God will protect you. God will bring you home. He will be your God and you will be his people.
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
John 5 begins with a most interesting healing miracle. The scene takes place in Jerusalem by a pool called Bethesda. If you completed your reading in an ESV Bible you may have noticed that it was missing verse 4. Though verse 4 can be found in the footnotes of the ESV, many other translations have included it in the main body of the text. For example, the KJV reads:
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (John 5:4)
The inclusion of this verse provides some valuable background information to the paralytic’s words in verse 7. Why, then, is it not included in our ESV Bibles? The reason for this is because verse 4 is not found in our earliest and most reliable manuscripts of John. By all accounts it appears to be a later addition to provide further clarity to the story. Whether or not there was any truth to the healing properties of this pool the text does not say, but what it does make wildly clear is that Jesus is the great physician who heals with the words of his mouth.
This miracle, though interesting in and of itself, leads into a very fascinating lesson given by Jesus. The Jews were upset that Jesus had not only healed on the Sabbath, but that He had also commanded others to do what they believed was breaking it. Jesus’ response to these allegations was both short and sharp: “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” What then follows is a great wealth of teaching on Jesus’ relationship with the Father.
For our purposes, we'll focus on the three statements that begin with the words “Truly, truly”. Whenever someone begins a statement with a double assertion of truth it is a good idea to pay special attention to what is said.
1. Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing on his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (v. 19)
From this statement we learn that the best way to know the nature of the Father is to look at his Son (see also John 1:14, 18). Everything that Jesus says and does is a direct revelation of who the Father is. If we want to know what God is like we are best served by looking at God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.
2. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
How does one receive eternal life? By listening (both hearing and obeying) to the words of Jesus and believing that he was the One sent by the Father. When this is done there can be an absolute assurance of salvation, for in that moment of belief we are transferred from death to life.
3. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Our salvation is paradoxically already and not yet. Eternal life begins at the moment of belief and we are immediately made inheritors of the promises of God, and yet we still await a final resurrection when all of those promises will be consummated. Just as the words of Christ give us life now, so to in the age to come we will listen for the sound of his voice and rise to be with him forever.
Director of Youth Ministries Ryan Shevalier