I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with the gospel of John. Of all the four gospels, it was the one that most saturated my childhood. I have these random memories: reading it with my mom at a TCBY as part of homeschool lessons, memorizing John 3:16 and thinking about God’s love for the world while swinging on a pull-up bar on the playground. In high school, I became increasingly aware of the scholarly skepticism surrounding it, its alleged late authorship and its authenticity. The sun moved, everyone’s favorite gospel suddenly became shrouded in shadow, and for years afterward reading through it became weird for me.
We said some things about the Minor Prophets as a whole, but we didn’t say enough things about them, so today we’re going to say more things. By the end of the post, will we have said enough things? There’s only one way to find out. Let’s begin by seeing what Things to Say we can find in the Theodicy Can.
Yesterday’s chapter perplexed me, so I consulted James Burton Coffman’s commentary and managed to make some sense of the passage. Today’s chapter also perplexed me, so again I consulted Coffman. And he begins his remarks thus: “This chapter has been considered somewhat of an enigma by commentators for centuries.” Oh boy. And Coffman goes on: “We do not consider the chapter to be more than ordinarily difficult.” Oh, that’s reassuring!
Unsurprisingly, the prophecies continue. Today we’ve got a prophecy that Jesus himself identifies as about him, but before that we’ve got a prophecy about prophets.
The bulk of today’s chapter is a prophecy of judgment. At some future day, God promises, he will use Judah and Jerusalem as an instrument of his justice, inflicting on those who oppose his people the due penalty for their evil. He uses a number of analogies to paint the prophetic picture: Judah will be like a cup of wine causing inebriation, a stone too heavy to lift, a firepot setting the surrounding wood on fire. But as the chapter concludes, we come to what appears to be a Messianic prophecy.
If you read through the Bible, there are at least three major themes that you’re likely to pick up on: 1) God loves human beings. 2) God hates it when human beings are cruel to each other. 3) The Biblical region of Lebanon was well-known for its cedars, whose wood was considered among the highest quality in the ancient world.
Today we’re back at it again at the Zechariah 10. You may recall Zechariah 9’s prophecy of the Messiah approaching Jerusalem while riding on a donkey. Zechariah 10 isn’t quite so overt, and I’m not sure if you could technically say it contains any Messianic prophecies, but it does seem to be relevant to Jesus’ ministry in how it discusses sheep and shepherds.
I’m having trouble starting the day’s post again. I’m sitting here at the keyboard, Bible to the left of me opened to Zechariah 10, as I type and delete half-finished introductions. I’ve got a number of hurdles between me and a completed post, but the most salient one is a question confronting me: should I open up the Theodicy Can again?
You may or may not have gone in with some familiarity as we’ve opened up the book of Zechariah. But you likely recognize Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! …Behold, your king is coming to you…humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus Christ famously fulfilled that prophecy at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to the Last Supper and crucifixion. Of course, it’s not too difficult to acquire a donkey and ride it into Jerusalem, at least compared to the hurdles involved in arranging to be born in Bethlehem or, say, to a virgin.
It gets better.
That’s God’s message to his people as he continues his monologue from the last chapter. Remember Sharezer and his companions, asking whether to fast, and God’s response criticizing their insincerity? Whether they fast or not in the present, the future holds a time to abstain from fasting–a time to celebrate. Speaking through Zechariah, God declares, “The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace” (19). Whether people formerly fasted out of selfishness or sincerity, they’ll be swapping out fasts for feasts once God completes his work.