Tag Archives: Zechariah

Palm Sunday Thoughts

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. It is the day on which the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus into the city riding on a donkey. They waved palm branches and laid their coats on the ground beneath His feet. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” they cried out. They believed He was the promised Messiah.

But not everyone believed or was happy about Jesus’ arrival.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:39-40 (NIV).

Palm Sunday is celebratory, but it doesn’t take long for the sentiment of the Pharisees to take hold among a larger group of people. In a mere five days the crowd will call for Jesus’ crucifixion following his joke of a trial before the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pontius Pilate. The majority of the people will turn against Him, one of His closest twelve disciples will betray Him, and the other eleven disciples will desert and disown Him.

But coming back to our Palm Sunday celebration, one has to wonder why the people were so excited about Jesus’ arrival to the city. I believe it was in large part because they had heard many things about Him that fulfilled the prophecies of the promised Messiah, only a few of which included that:

  • He was born in Bethlehem:
    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 (NIV).
  • He was born of a virgin:
    “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NIV).
  • He had healed many, giving hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind:
    “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” Isaiah 29:18 (NIV).
  • He entered the city riding on a donkey:
    “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 (NIV).

There was no Facebook, Twitter, or even Internet blogs during Biblical times, but news still spread about this man who could calm the storm, feed the hungry, and heal the sick and lame. The crowds that He drew all throughout His earthly ministry clearly indicate that news spread quite well if it was news worth hearing.

News had spread of this amazing prophet who was able to best even the Pharisees and Sadducees in a religious debate, who spent time with riff-raff and sinners, and who claimed to be able even to forgive sins without an animal sacrifice. He offered the common people freedom from servitude and burden of living under the thumb of the religious rulers of the day.

We celebrate Palm Sunday today because He makes the same offer even today. He offers freedom from the burden of legalism and forgiveness of our sins. And the truly amazing thing is that even if, in the midst of the confusion and agony of Holy Week to come, we desert or deny Him, He will redeem us.

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Giving a Gift that Is Needed

Last week I wrote about my good advice to spend time each morning reading my Bible instead of getting online on my computer first thing and checking email, Facebook, and blog comments. I have been sticking to that plan, following that advice, every morning since that first one when my computer wouldn’t go to any of those sites. It has been wonderful! I finally finished Ezekiel and have moved on to other books of the Bible.

Yesterday morning I read chapters 5 – 8 of Zechariah. I am really enjoying this minor prophet so far, but in many respect it is still not an easy read. (Much better at 6:30 a.m. with a cup of coffee than at 10:30 p.m. all bleary eyed and ready for bed).

One passage in particular challenged me to think about whether I am doing all I can to please God, or whether I am more concerned about my own comfort.

Zechariah 7:4-12 (NLT)

 4 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: 5 “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? 6And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?
7 Isn’t this the same message the Lord proclaimed through the prophets in years past when Jerusalem and the towns of Judah were bustling with people, and the Negev and the foothills of Judah were well populated?’”
 8 Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: 9 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.
 11 “Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. 12 They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.

As I read this, especially verse 6 (in bold), I wondered if we haven’t done with Christmas what the Jews did with their holy festivals while they were in exile. We focus so much on partying, on eating and drinking together, and on exchanging gifts, during this season. Do we do this just to please ourselves? Or are we doing it to glorify God?

The World Vision gift catalog has been on my mind a lot this Christmas season, and I’ve pondered giving to those in real need instead of to those who aren’t. If you aren’t familiar with World Vision or their gift catalog, let me explain what it is all about. Through the catalog, you can purchase a goat or chickens or a well for water or a yurt or any number of things for those in need around the world. And you can purchase these things in the name of a loved one and receive a gift card or small gift item that you can give to your loved one letting them know what you have given in their honor. I’ve actually done this before for my three college roommates one year, and they loved it!

Thank about it. How many people are on your Christmas list who really don’t need that sweater or tie or bottle of perfume or kitchen gadget or book that you were thinking about getting them? Wouldn’t they be better off with the warm feeling they would get from knowing they had helped someone in need? And wouldn’t that please God more because you would be showing mercy and kindness to widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor.

Imagine if we all replaced just one of the gifts we were going to buy for someone who didn’t need anything this Christmas and bought a goat for a poor family in Guatemala instead? Just one. Not your whole Christmas list, but just one gift.

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Refining Silver and Gold

The silversmith and the goldsmith start their work with impure silver and gold ore. Through the refining process they extract and mold the pure gold and silver by removing all of the impurities in the ore. This process involves fire and the close attention of the smith. The smith puts the ore in the fire to burn out some of the impurities, then takes it out and shapes it, then back in the fire. All the while he keeps a close eye on his precious metal.

The goal of the silversmith or goldsmith is to fashion a precious metal until it is pure and shines bright. He heats and works with his metal until he can see his reflection in it. One can only imagine how the silver or gold feels about this arduous process. (I know, silver and gold can’t feel, but just bear with me on this one.)

Psalm 66:10 says, “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” Just as the silversmith refines his precious metal in the fire, God refines his precious children in the adversities of life. He does this for the same purpose as the smith puts his ore in the fire – to remove any impurities and so that we will shine brightly and reflect His image. While we are in the “fire” He never takes His eyes off us, but keeps a close watch to determine when we’ve had all we can take for now. Better than the smith with his metal, God is with us in the fire as we are being refined.

God has said, “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 13:9.

Are you in the fire today? If so, do you have a better idea now how the gold and silver might feel about the refining process? It can often seem unfair and hopeless. But don’t forget that God is keeping His eye on you and using this time to make you more like Jesus so that He may see His reflection in you. Keep your focus on the goldsmith and not on the fire, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6.

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