Then the Lord will appear over them; his arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet; he will march in the storms of the south, and the Lord Almighty will shield them. They will destroy and overcome with slingstones. They will drink and roar as with wine; they will be full like a bowl used for sprinkling the corners of the altar. The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be! Grain will make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women. – Zechariah 9:14-17
The last few days “on the water” have been hard. Not because the passages have been overly perplexing or confusing, but it has felt more like “slack water”. For those who are not river rats “slack water” is a river section where the current is diminished as a result of a change in slope, river width, or interaction with another river at a confluence. It reminds me of a float on the Lower Snake River I did in a raft a number of years ago with two of my students and some colleagues.
We put in at a place called Pittsburgh Landing near Lucille, Idaho and took out near Lewiston, Idaho after a several day float through a beautiful canyon. It was an amazing float with a few exciting rapids along the way, including one that tossed one of our party into the chilly Snake River. On the last day we arrived at the slack water of the Lower Snake River. The river was still moving, but not very fast. The wind picked up in the afternoon and it was difficult to make progress downriver without pushing the raft hard by paddling. The Snake River joins the Columbia River at Lewiston, a great confluence of big rivers, and that is part of the reason for the slack water in the Lower Snake River.
I feel like I am making my way through “slack water” here in Zechariah at end of the Old testament. So I will do what we did on the Snake River, paddle away and make headway toward the confluence. I am not sure why this passage feels like slack water. It starts out pretty exciting with God showing up in a bolt of lightening, “the Lord will appear over them; his arrow will flash like lightning.” God is coming to the aid of the people of Israel. He has their back in the battle described here, “he will march in the storms of the south”. Perhaps it is descriptions like this that are part of the reason the Jewish people were looking for a military leader in the Messiah. I do not know.
Then comes the water-related part, “they will be full like a bowl used for sprinkling the corners of the altar.” I think the “they” being referred to here is the people of Israel, although it is not so clear. Whomever it is they are to be filled like a sprinkling bowl used at the altar. This concept of a “sprinkling bowl” has been around at least since Solomon was building the temple (1 Kings 7:38-45). It was not clear then, nor is it clear now, the purpose or significance of the sprinkling bowls. Back in 1 Kings I wondered if perhaps this was being used metaphorically to describe sharing God’s blessings with others.
God will show up and “save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock”. This is such an interesting word picture. How does a shepherd “save his flock”. It seems to me that an earthly shepherd spends all his time with the flock and is diligent to prevent them from being hurt, taken by predators, or simply getting lost because they have wandered off. God is saying that He desires this type of relationship with the people of Israel, and later, all those who will come to follow Him. Certainly Jesus when He came took on the role of Shepherd for all those willing to faithfully follow Him. This passage was worth the hard paddling, and I am one more passage closer to the confluence to come.
Prayer: God thank you for being our Shepherd and caring for us when we get lost.