Understanding Zechariah 14 – Part 1

This post marks the start of a series through Zechariah 14. I hope to show a Biblically faithful and hermeneutically coherent way to handle this passage over the next few days. So join me on this journey through an exciting passage.

Zechariah 14:1-5,

Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst.  For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.  On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

The 2nd verse of this passage put the text into a helpful perspective, God will Himself gather the nations together for battle against Jerusalem. This prophecy is repeated throughout Scripture in passages like Ezek. 38:1–23; 39:1–6; Joel 3:2; Rev. 16:12–16; 19:19; 20:8–9. But Zechariah is not merely wasted space in the pages of Holy Scripture, he has a particular perspective in his prophecy.

The nations gather and attack Jerusalem, and it seems that at first, they are successful. They capture half the city, plunder the houses, rape the women and carry away half the inhabitants. The other half of the city though seem to be spared, and the reason for that is the Lord Himself appears on the scene and catches the nations in their wicked act. God comes in full battle array.

When He touches the ground outside the walls of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives split to form a valley, a way of escape for the besieged inhabitants of Jerusalem.

This genre of Scripture is called Apocalyptic literature. It is not narrative, nor is it didactic text. Apocalyptic literature is symbolic literature. One only needs to read the understanding given to Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-vision in Daniel 2:31-45; the prophecy was entirely couched in symbolic imagery. Tomorrow I will make a post about why I believe there is good internal evidence in the immediate chapters to see this as symbolic language.

This prophecy is a message about the future people of God will be involved in a time when they are surrounded by enemies and overwhelmed by them. It uses the word Jerusalem, because as this time of God’s revelation, it is what the audience understands the people of God to be, they are Israel, the people of Jerusalem, where the temple of God is. This is an apocalyptic mention of Jerusalem, not a didactic or historical account.

Now we are not free to make Jerusalem mean anything we want, but within the text of Scripture, as God progressively reveals Himself, we are given the key to this Apocalyptic use. Hebrews 13:14 reads, ““For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come”: this is clearly pointing beyond the earthy city of David. So who is in this city? Well the New Testament church already, “have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem”. We do not belong to the old Sinai covenant “which corresponds to the present Jerusalem”; we are of the new covenant corresponding to “the Jerusalem above” who “is our mother” (Gal. 4:24–26).

James points to the prophecy of Amos and confirms that God has rebuilt and restored the ruined tabernacle of David so that the Gentiles may seek the Lord and be called by His name (Acts 15:13-18). The nations are now joining themselves to Zion, the redeemed city of God, the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ.

If James and the other apostles could confidently use this hermeneutic with Apocalyptic texts, so we and should we. This and other prophecies like it are realized by the heirs and successors of the Old Testament Zion, Jerusalem and Israel, none of this means we rewrite the prophecy or promise, or that the original audience was lied to, but rather that this prophecy is satisfied in a far fuller and proper extent.

If this Jerusalem is pointing to the church, it means that the church is the future people of God who are surrounded by enemies and seemingly overwhelmed. This picture then of an ancient city being plundered represents the church suffering terribly at the hands of her enemies, and yet there is always a remnant left.

Verse 4 mentions the return of the Lord to rescue His people and speaks of the Mount of Olives being the place of His arrival. This ought to remind us of the words in Ezekiel. The words “His Feet” mean this is a Theophany (appearance of God). It also mentions the phrase “east of Jerusalem: which would be a strange thing to mention the location of a well-known hill, unless it is meant to connect in our minds with Ezekiel’s vision, when the Lord’s glory left Jerusalem and ‘stopped above the mountain east of it’ (Ezek. 11:23).

The Lord whose visible presence with His people had left, now returns in power as prophesied in Ezekiel 43:2. But it doesn’t return to some reconstructed Jerusalem, it comes to the New Jerusalem which as I have pointed out above is the reality of these visions, it is the city that bears the name “The Lord is there” (Ezek. 48:35), a city made up of saints who have conquered as per Revelation 3:12, “Upon him I will write the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from My God), and My new name.”

Verse 4 goes further is that it pictures the Lord making an unexpected way of escape for His people. Verse 5 pictures them using it.

Now there are other details, like the earthquake and the valley leading to Azel, and if this is symbolic, should we expect Jesus to come to a hill called the Mount of Olives. After all, if Jerusalem is just an apocalyptic reference to the New Testament church, why the emphasis on geographical markers?

It seems most likely that these descriptions about earthquakes and a palace called Azel refer to the historical details of an earthquake during the reign of Uzziah[i]. The prophet is drawing on those past details and the incredible power of that event to create a picture of what it will be like when the Lord returns to defend His city. The warrant for this is in v. 5, “And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.” So the prophecy is drawing on historical facts to paint pictures of future realities and feelings. That historical event is called up to compare something of what the Lord’s coming will be like, yet it will shake the entire earth (cf. Hag. 2:6–7; Heb. 12:26–27).

If, however, this chapter refers to the literal return of Christ (i.e., the second coming) upon the mount of Olives, exactly who is it that will make that escape flight to the east when the mountain is cleft? It cannot be the wicked, for the Bible plainly teaches that they will be destroyed when the Lord returns (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Moreover, it cannot be the righteous, for they will be “caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Will the believing Jews be caught up in the air or flee through an earthquake valley? Is it unbelieving Jews that the Lord is rescuing or does he return to destroy unbelievers?

With this beautiful imagery, we must remember that the literal Mount of Olives may have a prominent role in the 2nd Coming of Christ. In both Matthew and Mark Jesus taught about the second coming while sitting on the Mount of Olives. Luke records that Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives, at which time two angels declared that Jesus would return just the same way they saw Him leave (Acts 1:1-11). We have a precedent for this kind of fulfilment in that the Messiah came out of Bethlehem and Judah symbolically since it was David’s ancestral town and Jesus is David’s seed; but Jesus was also literally born in the city of Bethlehem.

A great summary of this text from Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg goes,

It is very obvious that the whole account is figurative, and that the fundamental idea, the rescue of believers and the destruction of their enemies, is clothed in drapery borrowed from the local circumstances of Jerusalem.[ii]

 

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[i]  https://patternsofevidence.com/2019/01/20/biblical-quake-confirmed/ https://www.icr.org/article/scientific-scriptural-impact-amos-earthquake.
[ii] (EWH), Christology of the Old Testament, Volume 4, T. & T. Clark, 1858. p. 125​

WE FEAR NAUGHT BUT GOD

The following is a devotional taken from my upcoming 30-day devotional book. To pre-order your copy click here

The Recces, South Africa’s Special Forces Brigade, were an elite counter-insurgency special operations unit that specialised in long-range combat reconnaissance and unconventional airborne operations. The Recces carried out several combat operations in the Rhodesian Bush War, South African Border War and the Mozambican Civil War. In 1982 during Operation Mebos they penetrated deep into Angola, destroying the terrorist group SWAPO’s Headquarters in their wake. Two years later, during Operation Askari, they cut off all supply lines to and from SWAPO Angola. In an operation in Congo, the seventh longest sniper shot was successfully taken by a Recce at 2,125m (2,324yd). These world elite special operators have as their motto, “We fear naught but God”.

It is a wise motto to have, Proverbs 29:25 warns, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” Jesus speaking to His disciples imbibed the spirit of this motto when He said, “I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4). The type of missions Recces engaged in meant that fear would indeed be a snare to them, it would not serve them at all. The same is true for you as you go out and serve Christ. Don’t fear your spouse, children, parents, employer, employees, sickness, demons or even death. Those things can only kill the body. God is the one who you should fear. He is the destroyer of body and soul.

The good news is that the more you fear God the less you fear everything else. The more you realise the unmitigated power that formed the universe; that stops the most powerful storm with a word; that scoffs at the collective military prowess of the world; that overcomes death and disease with the smallest whisper, the less you come to fear those things. All these things chaff against the chain of the Divine Warrior Yahweh.

The fear of God however, is not a paralysing one, as John says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). One man used the fear of God as an excuse for paralysis and said, “Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow” (Luke 19:19-20). The master in the story replies, “I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest? (v22-23).

God has entrusted a deposit to you of resources, skills and gifts. Use them without fear of anything or anyone. Fear God alone and get after it.

Death or Glory

Thank you so much for visiting this page. I have just completed writing a 30-day devotional book that I’m sure you are going to enjoy.

“Death or Glory” takes some of the most awesome military mottos and pulls them through the Scriptures, imbibing them with new gravitas and deeper meaning. I find so many mottos beneficial, but I have seen them in the light of the Scriptures and it really makes for some light-and-fire meditation.

The book is about to be sent to the printers, but I wanted to give you the opportunity to pre-order a copy. The cost is R90 to have your own copy of “Death or Glory” 30-day devotional sent to you.

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OVERCOMING PROCRASTINATION: WHEN AND WHERE TO START

People want to know how to stop laziness.

They want to know how to stop procrastination.

They want to plant a seed, so they spend their time watching the wind to determine when is the best time to plant. They want to reap the benefits of creative, hard sustained work, but they spend their days studying the clouds instead of reaping (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:4).

They have an idea in their head … Maybe even a vision. But they don’t know where to start—so they ask: “Where do I start?” “When is the best time to start?”

Here is a simple answer: HERE and NOW. (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:10)

That’s it.

You want to improve? You want to get better? You want to start having devotions? You want to spend more time in prayer? You want to spend more time with your kids? You want to start reading through the Bible in a year? You want to get on a workout program or a clean diet or start a new business? You want to write a book or make a movie or build a house or a computer or an app?

Where do you start? You start right HERE.

When do you start? You start right NOW.

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. – John 9:4

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. – Proverbs 14:23

Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing. – Proverbs 20:4

You initiate action.

You GO.

Here is the reality: That idea isn’t going to execute itself. The Bible isn’t going to open itself. That book isn’t going to write itself. Those weights out in the gym—they aren’t going to move themselves. That prayer time wont happen by itself.

YOU HAVE TO DO IT.

And you have to do it now.

So stop thinking about it. Stop dreaming about it. Stop researching every aspect of it and reading all about it and debating the pros and cons of it … Stop using the ultra-spiritual cop-out of praying about it.

Start doing it.

Take that first step and Make It Happen.

GET AFTER IT.

HERE and NOW.

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This is my Christian rendition of “Discipline Equals Freedom Field manual” 2017, Willink, St Martin’s Press

WHERE DOES DISCIPLINE COME FROM?

Where does discipline come from?

This is a simple answer. This is a complex answer.

One the one hand it comes from the Holy Spirit. He undergirds natural human
abilities and directs them towards a goal more glorious than just your own ends.

He directs them to bring glory to God.

On the other hand, it comes from with YOU. It doesn’t happen passively or ‘magically’.

Either way, discipline comes from within.

Discipline is an internal force.

Sure, you can have discipline imposed on you by a person, like a drill instructor, or some self-help guru on TV, but the reality is: He won’t give you real discipline.

Because that external discipline is not strong.

It will not survive. It cannot stand on its own.

What you are looking for, what you need, is SELF-DISCIPLINE.

Self-discipline, as the very term implies, comes from the SELF.
YOU.

It comes when you make a decision to be disciplined.

When you make a decision to be better.

When you make a decision to do more, to BE more.

Stop blaming God, and the Holy Spirit for not creating it in you.

Paul says, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control,” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27) and goes on to compare himself to those disciplined athletes of the world who most often don’t have the Spirit, but are able to MAKE IT HAPPEN .

Self-discipline comes when you decide to make a mark on the world.

If you don’t think you are disciplined: It is because you haven’t decided to be disciplined. YET.

It is because you haven’t released it. YET.

You haven’t become it. YET.

So where does it come from? It comes from you.

So make the decision.

Make the commitment.

Become the discipline—embrace its cold and relentless power.

And it will make you better and stronger and smarter and faster and healthier than anything else. And most important: It will make you free.

 

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This is my Christian rendition of “Discipline Equals Freedom Field manual” 2017, Willink, St Martin’s Press

What Drives Me?

What drives me? At the end of last year, a friend asked me that.

Two things drive me.

1: I know that somewhere out there, something, someone is also preparing.

That thing or person is my enemy.

It is working, training, planning and preparing to meet me on the battlefield of life[i]. I don’t know when. I don’t know where. But I know that at some point we will meet[ii].

I want to be ready. Ready mentally. Ready physically. Ready emotionally. Ready spiritually.

2: Simply this. Those who have finished the fight.

My father, mother, and brother. Who all fought the fight. Who took the field and at great cost slew their enemies to the glory of God

But not just them. Hundreds more. Thousands more. A great cloud of witnesses. Men and women who fought and gave their lives as martyrs so that I could have a Bible and know Who God is and know true freedom[iii].

For them, I will make every day, every minute and every second count.

But mostly, for Jesus Christ who died that I might live a free life, I live to honour His and their sacrifice.

A life worthy of the price that Christ uniquely paid for me, and that they paid for me, for us.

I don’t want to let them down

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[i] 1 Peter 5:8
[ii] John 16:33
[iii] Hebrews 12:1-2

The Path of Discipline

Everyone wants a shortcut. A hack.

But the fact is you won’t find one. Shortcuts are a lie. The hack won’t hack it. The easy road won’t get you there[i]. The broad road and wide gate won’t take you to where you want to be[ii].

It won’t take you to heaven. But it also won’t make you stronger, smarter, faster, healthier, better or free.

Reaching goals, overcoming obstacles, becoming the best version of yourself, it will not happen by itself. It will not happen by accident. It won’t happen by cutting corners, taking shortcuts, or looking for the easy way.

There is no easy way

There is only hard work. Late nights. Early mornings. Practise, rehearsal, repetition, sweat, study, blood, toil, frustration, and discipline[iii].

Discipline.

There must be Discipline.

Discipline is the custodian of all good qualities[iv]. It is the driver of daily execution. The core principle to overcome laziness, lethargy, and excuses. Discipline defeats the infinite excuses that say: Not today, not now, I need a rest, I will do it tomorrow.

What is the hack? How do you become better

How do you become stronger, smarter, faster, healthier? How do you become better? How do you achieve and enjoy freedom?

There is only one way.

The way of discipline.

 

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[i] Proverbs 13:4

[ii] Matthew 7:13-14

[iii] 1 Corinthians 9:25

[iv] Proverbs 25:28

This is my Christian rendition of “Discipline Equals Freedom Field manual” 2017, Willink, St Martin’s Press

Table Talk: Episode 24 – Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical Theology of Stewardship

0:00:00 – Opening
0:05:40 – Introducing Craig Blomberg
0:10:00 – Western entertainment mentality
0:15:30 – 2 Corinthians 9:16
0:18:00 – Lack of wealth creates an awareness of need for God
0:21:00 – Seduction of wealth to sin
0:28:30 – Zephaniah and Augustine – Wealth and sex
0:31:20 – Great Commission and money expenditure
0:33:20 – Poor with heart set on wealth
0:39:30 – Serving two masters
0:44:00 – The deceitfulness of wealth choke the Word
0:46:40 – Old Covenant promises of wealth
0:55:40 – Christians in debt and giving
0:58:10 – Giving generously theme throughout Scripture
1:07:10 – Social conscience of affluent churches
1:12:40 – First-world giving to third-world
1:21:50 – Giving things besides money
1:25:15 – What is at stake in stewardship
1:30:00 – Closing
Show Notes:
Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical Theology of Stewardship (Biblical Theology for Life)
Report: Average Male 4,000% Less Effective In Fights Than They Imagine

It would make a big difference and really help us out if you could take a moment to message the station and voice your appreciation for the show. It’s this kind of feedback that keeps the show on the air. If you click here you will be taken to a link where you can drop a short message commending what you have heard, just say something along the lines of how you enjoy the show Table Talk on Friday mornings. To let me know, you can use the comment section below.

Table Talk: Episode 23 – Experimental Calvinism

It would make a big difference and really help us out if you could take a moment to message the station and voice your appreciation for the show. It’s this kind of feedback that keeps the show on the air. If you click here you will be taken to a link where you can drop a short message commending what you have heard, just say something along the lines of how you enjoy the show Table Talk on Friday mornings. To let me know, you can use the comment section below.

Table Talk: Episode 22 – From The Earth Up – “A Synoptic Portrait of Christ”

0:00:00 – Opening
0:01:03 – Welcoming Dr Darrell Bock
0:07:40 – The Synoptics particularly useful for the unbeliever
0:10:40 – How we handle the gospels unhelpfully
0:12:56 – Cultural Scripts
0:24:00 – How the Gospels came into existence
0:29:50 – The ‘missing’ gospels
0:40:00 – Jarius’ daughter and the differing accounts
0:48:58 – The healing of the paralytic
0:58:55 – Jesus own words in the gospels, are they more precious
1:00:00 – The portrait of Christ from the synoptic writers
1:07:00 – The calling of the 12 and its significance
1:12:29 – Can we speak of Jesus from the book of Revelation
1:16:20 – Son of Man
1:29:00 – Closing

Show Notes:
The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities
Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods

64507840_2426494734039425_3466224837653954560_o.jpg

It would make a big difference and really help us out if you could take a moment to message the station and voice your appreciation for the show. It’s this kind of feedback that keeps the show on the air. If you click here you will be taken to a link where you can drop a short message commending what you have heard, just say something along the lines of how you enjoy the show Table Talk on Friday mornings. To let me know, you can use the comment section below.