Signposts to a Savior

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. – Matthew 3:1‭-‬6

Welcome to the New Testament and the Gospel of Matthew. I have passed by the confluence into a “new river”. In the beginning of the book Matthew goes to some lengths to establish Jesus’ earthly lineage through his father Joseph back to Abraham. I think this was for the benefit of the Jewish leaders who might be more accepting of this unconventional King if his lineage could be traced to David and Abraham. Matthew also makes it clear that this baby’s true Father is God through the Holy Spirit. I think His earthly lineage is not so critical in establishing His credentials, at least from my perspective.

According to biblical scholars Matthew’s Gospel is structured and written to point out similarities and linkages between the life of Jesus (Yahweh saves in the Greek) and the history of the people of Israel. In the first two chapters Matthew is already pointing out “signposts” along the “old river” from Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2,4, Hosea 11:1, Jeremiah 31:15.  All of these signposts were pointing to a savior that was to come and save His people, the Messiah.

This brings us to today’s passage which contains a very important “signpost” from Isaiah 40:3, “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” This “signpost” was the subject of my post way back in October of 2015 and it was called “In the Hollow of His Hand“. I went back and reread that post and what struck me was one part of the post when God said through the prophet Isaiah “his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” At the time I was puzzled by this part of the passage and I am still, but at the time I wondered if what God meant was that the reward for His coming was in fact us, the ones He came to save.  This idea “swept me away” then and it still sweeps me away now.

The water reference here, the first one I have come to in the New Testament, is about the Jordan River.  John is baptizing people in the river who have confessed their sins, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. The people who came to be baptized were being washed clean by the Jordan River, and the Spirit of God, who will soon show up in the form of Jesus.

The Jordan River has always represented a crossroads of sorts for the people of Israel, a point of decision. It has also represented a barrier between where they were (wandering in the desert) and where God wanted them to be (the promised land), a river that no one could cross. It is very interesting that John is using it here to commemorate a very important decision being made by the people coming to be baptized.  They are at a very important crossroads in their lives. They are deciding the path, and Person, they will follow for years to come.

I made such a decision many years ago now when I was in college and God found me while I was looking for Him. God provided many signposts for me along the way to help me. That crossroads in my life has resulted in many adventures and a lifelong journey with God; part of which is this journey I am on exploring water references in the bible.

Prayer: God thank You for providing so many signposts to the Savior for me and others. Help us to heed their messages and seek out your Messiah every day.

 

Posted in Christianity, Discernment, Following God, God's Love for Us, Jesus, Matthew, Messiah, New Testament, Obedience, reconciliation, Redemption, Trusting God | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eddying Out at the Confluence

“He [Bilbo] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ . . .” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Well it has been a long stretch of river to reach this point and I was not sure I would ever make it when I was floating about back in Leviticus learning about mold and geckos, but I have arrived at last at at the Gospels, the Good News about a coming Messiah, the spring of Living Water Incarnate.

I began my journey exploring water-related passages in the bible June 22, 2014, just over four years ago. I am sure I have missed some passages, but I have identified and reflected on about 450 water-related passages in the Old Testament.  I have also taken time to “eddy out” about 25 times including today, and I have taken a trip down 14 rabbit trails when I felt God leading me to make a detour from my float along the river.

As I have floated through both this task and my life during this time I have been to numerous countries and I have written posts walking through forests, along beaches, and on snow-covered paths. There have been highs and lows and long periods of time off the water when I struggled to make time to continue my float. Though all of these times I have felt God’s presence, sometimes like a drenching rain that took my breath away, and other times I felt His absence like a dusty drought.

There have been many confusing passages and perplexing people which I am still puzzling over, but there is a picture that has emerged as I look back over my entire float so far in the old testament. The picture is of a loving God desperately trying to have an intimate relationship with “His people”. During much of the old testament “God’s people” was primarily the people of Israel, but there are many references and intimations that God’s love was not exclusive, and that God’s love would someday spread beyond the boundaries of Israel and the Jewish people.  As a follower of the Way of Christ I believe that time came with Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

Confluence of the Rhone and Arve Rivers in Geneva, Switzerland

As I approach the confluence of the Old and New Testaments I have reflected on what I know about where rivers meet, confluences. River confluences are interesting and dynamic places where waters from different rivers mix and become one. This mixing sometimes happens quickly and other times the waters can remain separate for some distance downstream of the confluence. At some point downstream the two streams are thoroughly mixed and it is not possible to separate them.

I am curious if this will be my experience when I pass “the confluence” between the old and new testaments. Will the “waters” remain distinct? Will I see evidence of the old testament “water” mixing into the new testament? Certainly many of the new testament writers were accomplished at navigating the sometimes turbulent and confusing waters of the old testament. I suspect there will be many times when the waters will mix, and new testament authors will reference familiar water-related from the old testament. There were certainly abundant references to a coming Messiah who would help us cross the river that no one could cross.

It seems to me that the prophets of the old testament were the equivalent of signposts along “the river” pointing towards this coming confluence. Part of their job was to tell the people that the River, and their image of God, was about to get much bigger. It would never be the same River after this merging of rivers and traditions.  The old river remained, but it was now mixed with the Living Waters of the incarnate Messiah and His teachings about how to navigate the tricky waters of this worldly existence. Many people, especially people very familiar with the old river like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, wanted to continue to run the old river rather than embrace this uncomfortable mixing that Jesus represented.

After the confluence trying to run the old river would only be impossible without a long and tortuous portage back upstream, over and over again. This is what the Sadducees and Pharisees were trying to do when Jesus arrived. They wanted to run to old familiar river rather than this scary new River that was full of uncharted water.

Running the same old river would ultimately not be satisfying because “the Guide” was on another stretch of river downstream having all sorts of adventures with those willing to follow Him.

This has certainly been true of my journey since I was “swept away” by the River, and I first began to Follow the Messiah. It has been a wild ride. God and I have had many adventures together. I expect there are many more adventures and rapids to come before my days are done. I am so thankful that I am not alone in the boat, and I have a Guide who loves me even more than I can love myself.

Prayer: God thank You for serving as my guide as I have struggled to understand how You have used water in the old testament to communicate with Your people.

Posted in Christianity, Eddying Out, Following God, God's Love for Us, Gospel, Jesus, Love for the Lost, reconciliation, Redemption, religion, Sharing the Gospel, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm, Trusting God | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Return to Me, and I Will Return to You

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 3:6‭-‬12

“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.” So said Frodo to Sam as they were sitting on a boulder having accomplished their task of delivering the ring to Mordor.  They were not sure they would survive much longer, but they were glad to be together.   This passage marks the end of my voyage with water, and God, in the Old Testament.

I am by no means comparing my task of exploring water passages in the bible with the saga of delivering a ring of power to Mordor, but I feel a similar sense of having accomplished a task that was hard and feeling a bit lost about what lies ahead. I do feel a sense that God is with me, even more so today than the day when I started this journey four years ago.  So lets run this last bit of water and see where it leads.

Go starts out with a bold statement here in Malachi, “I the Lord do not change”.  God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He does not change.  Even though He may have come across as a different God in parts of the old testament, in reality He is not different, or in the words of that sage Yoda, “No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.”  The people of Israel will soon have to “unlearn” some of the things they think they have learned throughout their history about God.  They think they have God figured out.  It turns out they do not.

God reminds the people that He has always been with them, and they have always had a hard time understanding what the Lord required of them, “Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,”.  So God is boiling down the entire old testament into a pretty simple formula for them.  Return to God and He will return to you. This is a little bit perplexing, like a celestial game of playing tag with God, but that is the way that God has structured our relationship. There is something important about the act of pursuing one another that helps to build trust and intimacy.

The people are still clearly confused about what God is talking about, they ask “How are we to return?” What does “returning” look like?  It seems to me for one to know how to return one has to acknowledge that they are not where they are supposed to be and in need of “returning”. In response to their question God seems to focus on tithes and offerings, “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this”.

I think God is talking about more than a tenth of their treasures here.  He is talking about the people giving God their leftovers and scraps when they need to give Him their first fruits.  Only then will the people experience the abundance that God has for them, “see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  God is saying to the people that if they give him what He has been asking for, returning to Him, then they will have more than they need or want. If they do this one thing “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.”

Unfortunately many were not able to do this when God came to earth in the form of Jesus.  He came to accept their “tithe” and they continued to withhold it from Him. The reassuring thing is that God does not change, and He has assured us through Jesus that restored relationship with Him is only as far away as we make it. We need only admit we are going the wrong way, “return to Him”, and He will make all things new.

Prayer: God thank you for making all things new and returning to us as we choose to return to You.

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An Altar Flooded with Tears

Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob —even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty. Another thing you do: You flood the Lord ’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord , the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. You have wearied the Lord with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord , and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?” – Malachi 2:11‭-‬17

Welcome to the last book of the old testament, Malachi.  It is hard to believe I am finally on the cusp of the confluence between the old and new testaments, it is just around the bend.  The last two books (Haggai and Zechariah) have been a discussion of how the people of Israel can “rebuild the temple” and find God.  It seems in the passage today that even though the temple is complete they are still looking for God, perhaps they are looking in the wrong places?

There are apparently still issues with idols and accepting the gods of people around them through intermarriage, “Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god”.  The core issue is that God wants all of the hearts of His people and they are still divided.

The people are apparently aware of this estrangement as they “flood the Lord ’s altar with tears.” They “weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands.”  Although the people seem to understand their is still some sort of impassable river separating them from God they do not seem to know why. They are soul sick and the tears are an outward manifestation of an inward illness of the soul.

God answers their question, “it is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit.” So I am pretty sure that God meant this metaphorically.  The “marriage” He is really referring to is the covenant that He has with the people of Israel.  They have forsaken the “wife of their youth” for a newer more attractive model.

What God is ultimately looking for is “Godly offspring.”  He wants the people to pass on an intimate relationship with Him to their children and their children’s children.  The only way this is possible if for the people to have their own intimate relationship and share their experiences with their children. You can’t share something you do not possess yourself.

The other issue that God is calling the people on is apparently calling bad things and people good when they are in fact evil.  Even more damning is that the people were speaking for God and saying that the evil deeds of these people were in fact pleasing to God.  It is always a bit dicey trying to speak for God and in this case the people clearly messed up the message pretty badly. I think that is part of the reason God will soon come Himself to settle the matter once and for all.

Prayer: God help us to walk humbly and intimately with You.  

 

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Twilight Time

A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will 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. On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord —with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord , and his name the only name. – Zechariah 14:1‭-‬9

Wow this the the last passage in Zechariah and it is a doozy. I was tempted to take the “chicken chute” and float right by this one, but sometimes there are hidden wells in unlikely places so here goes. The passage starts out with a pretty bleak picture of a coming day when Jerusalem will be attacked by “all nations” and sacked in a defiling and depressing way, “the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped.”  Not a good day for the City of David for sure. Class IV rapid warning.

Half the people will be sent into exile and the other half will be defended by God Himself.  Here is where the description and metaphors get confusing and murky.  God shows up and “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem”.  This is an intriguing geographical reference for sure as there are many scholars who think the Mount of Olives was the locations of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. A discussion or debate about whether this is true or not is outside my expertise and “pay grade” as a scholar so I will leave it of now and assume that it is at least possible that the Mount of Olives was the location. Either way Jesus did walk this region and I am sure at some point His feet did stand on the Mount of Olives.

Then the passage takes a geological turn when it says “the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.”  This is a perfect description of what geologists call a pull-apart basin.  These result from strike-slip faults like the famous San Andreas fault in California.  As the two sides of a strike-slip fault move horizontally past one another a bend in the fault can cause a section of the fault to pull apart creating a basin or low spot. This is the reason one often finds linear lakes along some faults in California.  The water is collecting in the pull apart basins.  Clearly I should have provided a geogeek warning for this passage :).

On the day that God shows up several interesting and intriguing things happen, in addition to the geological gyrations described above. “Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him”. So God will show up in force with a “heavenly host”, this sounds a lot like the arrival of a little baby that was described by angels to some shepherds near Jerusalem “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:9-12).  This declaration was followed by an even greater one by a “heavenly host” when “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14).

Wow! How did we get from women being raped to the arrival of the Messiah in a few short lines.  This passage is turbulent and funny water to be sure.  But wait…it gets even more confounding and confusing, “On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord —with no distinction between day and night.”  The picture this conjures in my head is an eerie twilight time where you cannot tell whether it is the beginning of a long night or a new day to come. Interestingly, this must have been the way the people of Israel felt in the time between the prophets and the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus.  The light had seemingly left leaving no distinction between day and night for at time.  They must have been left wondering where God went and when He would return.

God then gives a clear indication of what the end of this “twilight time” will look like, “When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem”. This passage just revealed a hidden well for sure.  The Living Water will flow out of Jerusalem, He will indeed and His name is Jesus!  The end of the “twighlight time” the people of Israel are experiencing, and will experience in the future, will end when the Light of the World arrives. Here is the way Jesus described Himself in Gospel of John:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” – John 8:12

So all those who find themselves in a “twilight time”, where they are not sure if they are approaching a glorious new day or a chilly new night can find hope in the coming living water as it will “flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.” So the new day that God is promising will flow out of Jerusalem in all directions and during all seasons. I take this to mean that at some point in the future God’s grace will extend without borders, barriers, or breaks.

This is confirmed in the last part of this perplexing passage when God says “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord , and his name the only name.”  All those who choose to be saved will be saved by the God who extends His arm to deliver us. This passage has been an amazing preview of the coming confluence for sure.  I feel like I have climbed up a mountain and seen where the rivers meet and it is a beautiful site for sure.

Prayer: God thank You for providing this amazing picture of Your coming glory and grace.

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A Fountain will be Opened

“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land. And if anyone still prophesies, their father and mother, to whom they were born, will say to them, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord ’s name.’ Then their own parents will stab the one who prophesies. “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of their prophetic vision. They will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive. Each will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth. ’ If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body ?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’ “Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the Lord Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares the Lord , “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’ ” – Zechariah 13:1‭-‬9

The subject of today’s passage is “a fountain”.  This fountain will be opened to the people of “inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity”.  In modern usage the word fountain can mean several things. It can be a display of water that is purely for artistic or aesthetic purposes.  I recently saw a news story about a sky scraper in China that actually created a 350-foot waterfall out of the side of the building.  Pretty impressive feat of engineering but I wonder about the long-term practicality and energy cost of constantly lifting all that water to keep it running. I do not think this is the type of fountain God is referring to here.

Fountains were also common throughout the Roman empire as a means to distribute water to the people in a town or village. The water source for these fountains was commonly a mountain stream which could be some distance from the town and required complicated aqueducts to convey the water by gravity into the town from the mountains. In Haiti where I do a lot of work with groundwater it is common practice to capture the flow of a natural spring and convey it to a town or village via pipes then distribute it using fountains or spigots.  These types of fountains are closer to the meaning here, but again not quite right.

I think the “fountain” God is speaking about here is clearly something different than a physical appliance used to convey water to people.  He is describing “a Fountain” that can actually cleanse the people from their sin and impurity.  The only “Fountain” I know about that has made this claim is Jesus.  Interestingly, God says when he provides this fountain He will also “remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land”.  So there is a sense that the long parade of prophets will come to an end and something more permanent will replace them.

The passage then takes a turn into some confusing metaphorical language about wounds and friends, “What are these wounds on your body ?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.”  It is not at all clear what this would have meant to the people reading this passage.  It makes me wonder about a certain young man from Galilee who was given wounds by people who should have been His friends, the Jewish people.

My confusion continues as God says “Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!”.  Again this could easily describe Jesus who was referred to as a shepherd and was indeed very close to the Father, God.  I am perplexed by this passage and how the people of Israel would have read and interpreted it.  Perhaps after I have passed “the confluence”, as I float through the New Testament in the coming weeks and months, it will become more clear

The “reflections of Him” continue as God says ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”.  This is certainly what happened to the disciples of Jesus after He was crucified at the hands of His “friends”. From my understanding of God’s plan the scattering was a feature not a flaw of His plan for spreading the Good News far and wide beyond the bounds of Israel and Galilee.  The people that survived this scattering and remained faithful had God at their backs, “They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’ ”.  This is reassuring as one who is a product of this scattering process myself.

The mystery of Christ, His sacrifice, and resurrection is something that I am not sure we will fully understand within the context of our earthly bodies. I have decided that although it is hard to understand why this sacrifice was required I am willing to accept the hand of grace God extends without complete understanding.

Prayer: Thank You God for coming to cleanse us for our sin and impurities.  It is hard to understand why this required such a costly sacrifice on Your part, but I am willing to accept Your Grace without complete understanding.

Posted in Christianity, Covenant, Discernment, Discipleship, Faith, Following God, Forgiveness, Free Will, God's Love for Us, Gospel, Jesus, Love for the Lost, Obedience, reconciliation, Redemption, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm, Trusting God, Zechariah | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sea of Trouble

From Charles and Mary Lamb, Tales from Shakespeare (Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company, 1901)

I will signal for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before. Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will survive, and they will return. I will bring them back from Egypt and gather them from Assyria. I will bring them to Gilead and Lebanon, and there will not be room enough for them. They will pass through the sea of trouble; the surging sea will be subdued and all the depths of the Nile will dry up. Assyria’s pride will be brought down and Egypt’s scepter will pass away. I will strengthen them in the Lord and in his name they will live securely,” declares the Lord . – Zechariah 10:8‭-‬12

The subject of today’s passage is redemption, not as common a topic in the old testament as the new testament for sure.  Although there are many allusions and metaphors to the idea that God will extend His arm to snatch us from the fire and help us get across a river that no one can cross. In the case of today’s passage God seems to be focusing on the people of Israel who will return to Israel from afar, “Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me.”

Though this seems to be referring to a return of exiles and wanderers, the “big tent” view of this passage would be that the “them” in this passage really includes anyone who “lives in His name”.  Basically anyone who acknowledges and remembers who God is and what He requires of them. This would include all modern-day God followers like myself.  So if we look at the passage in this light let us see where it leads.

The passage begins with “I will signal them and gather them in”.  God has been trying all sorts of things to “signal” the people of Israel.  He has shown up in clouds, wheels and rushing watersbushes, hidden wells, and of abundant springs of Living Water. Despite all this signalling the people still seems to wonder where God is at and where they can find Him.  Perhaps they are looking in the wrong places.

It seems God knows how hard it is to “return to Him”, “They will pass through the sea of trouble; the surging sea will be subdued and all the depths of the Nile will dry up.”  What does God mean by a “Sea of Trouble”.  When I first read this line I immediately thought of the lines from Hamlet that for some reason I have memorized:

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?”  – William Shakespeare

So Shakespeare’s solution to a “sea of troubles” is to take up arms, fight them, and end them.  God has a different plan. With God’s help all those who call on Him can pass through the “sea of trouble” unharmed.  This is a really amazing and reassuring thing for God to say.  For me it means no matter how desperate and depressing this land of Oblivion gets God will win in the end. If we are with Him He will carry us through whatever sea of trouble we encounter.

There is even a sense that God will be with us through surging seas like those encountered by Job and Jonah.  There is something about the ocean that is very much like the wild side of God that can be almost to big to fathom and when we are in a ship subject to this sort of sea it can be a very scary place. Although I have not reached the confluence of the new testament yet I am reminded of the times that Jesus “subdued the surging seas” and the impact this must have had on His Jewish disciples that were so familiar with passages like this one.

The last water reference in this tricky bit of water is “all the depths of the Nile will dry up”.  Now to understand the magnitude of this statement one has to realize that the Nile was the life for these desert people.  Egypt and many other great civilizations revered the Nile as a god and I think this is the sense God is referring to it here.  All the mighty God-replacements we hold dear in our lives will be “dried up” and we can choose to seek out the One River as our Water Source or we can remain very thirsty.

Prayer: God You promise to redeem us and help us pass through this sea of troubles. Help us look to You to satisfy our thirsty souls.

Posted in Christianity, Covenant, Discernment, Discipleship, Following God, God's Love for Us, Love for the Lost, Obedience, reconciliation, Redemption, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm, Trusting God, Zechariah | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment