OT: Zechariah 6:1-7:14
Today's reading starts out with more horsemen. Zechariah and Revelation have been blurring together in their incomprehensibility, but it has begun to occur to me that there have been several motifs that Revelation has borrowed from OT prophecy. A few days ago, they both measured the Temple in some way, if I recall. And today, we have four horsemen from heaven who ride out into all the earth. It reminded me of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Not identical, but definitely similar images. I'm sure there are more similarities, but like I said, it's all jumbling together in my mind. One day, I'd like to do a real, in-depth study on biblical prophecy and hopefully make some sense of it all. Because of my skepticism of interpretations of Revelation, I think I would be more interested in looking at it from a literary angle, especially its relationship with OT prophecy. (And while I'm at it, some serious research on OT prophecy itself would be in order.)
Even though I got absolutely nothing but more confusion from chapter 6, chapter 7 struck a chord. It reminded me of Isaiah 48 (and Isaiah 1, for that matter) because it sharply criticized fasting and ceremonies that were not accompanied by justice and mercy. I found verses 5-6 to be particularly convicting: "Ask all the people of the land and the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?" Those questions hit home, b/c, as a practicing Christian for twenty years, I can attest to the fact that it is so easy to do the outward stuff in a selfish way. Since I have grown up in church, for example, it is a comfort to me to attend. That's not a bad thing in itself, but there have definitely been times where I have gone to church more for the cultural comfort of attending than to worship and glorify God. Another example is Christmas. Christmas is obviously not in the Bible, and so it is not comparable to the required feast days referenced by the prophet here. But it is similar in that it is a holiday that originated to celebrate Christ's birth (well, that was the Christian origin, at least. I think it really originated to commemorate the winter solstice, but you know what I mean). And yet, it is so easy to celebrate Christmas without giving Christ's birth a second thought. It is so easy to eat and drink for ourselves at Christmas, rather than use it as a celebration to give glory to God.
Of course, part of me thinks that there is nothing wrong with enjoying church and nothing wrong with enjoying the non-religious parts of Christmas for their own sake. For Zechariah, though, the litmus test of motives is found in how the people treat others. According to Zechariah, "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other" (7:9). I love that. I love how it stresses action and yet doesn't leave the heart out, either. Simply doing the right thing is not enough. We are supposed to have love in our hearts, as well. In I Cor. 13, Paul warns us that, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." So it is more than outward actions; it takes love. Which is manifested in outward actions.
I'm going in circles. I think the bottom line is that the message I see in passages like this one is that, while the ceremonial worship of God is good and important, it is not enough. What is even more important is how we treat other people, which should be a reflection of the love we have for them in our hearts. We need both the love and the action; one without the other is not enough.
NT: Revelation 15:1-8
It's almost time for some serious plague action: seven bowls of plagues are about to be dumped out onto the world, and then God's wrath will be completed. I don't know if this is good or bad, but there is definitely consistency between the testaments when it comes to God's wrath. I hear a lot that the OT God is angry and vengeful, and the NT God is merciful and loving, and so the message of the Bible seems inconsistent. To be fair, however, I think that God's mercy is shown in the OT, and His wrath is definitely present in the NT, in everything from the harsh pronouncements of Jesus to the abrupt deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, to pretty much the whole book of Revelation. Again, I don't know if that should be considered a good thing or a bad thing. It is good b/c the Bible does paint a consistent picture for us. But it is bad b/c God's wrath is scary, and people have a hard time understanding it.
Anyway, those are my thoughts for today. I feel like there is much more to say here, but my brain has run out of steam.
David pleads to God for relief from his enemies. I love a lot of this psalm. Verses 5-10 are all great. I think my favorite, though, is verse 8:
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul."
These sets of four are so interesting. Today's set is an ode of sorts to animals. Ants are praised b/c they are hard workers that plan for the future; coneys are praised b/c they live in crags (why that's praiseworthy, I have no idea); locusts are praised b/c they work together in an egalitarian manner; and lizards are praised b/c they can go anywhere, even in palaces.