Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Zechariah 14:4-11

This passage certainly includes some grandiose language. When was or will it be fulfilled?

I sometimes feel that the Old Testament prophets sometimes touched on future, grander things while prophesying about issues that had a much more immediate fulfilment.

We even see this with Balaam. He was dealing with the then-present issue of Israel marching near his land - but in his prophecy he also seemed to grasp far grander and more future things for Israel.

But that's not to say that the part of any prophecy which was intended to deal with the present issue didn't come to pass in the present. That's an important distinction!

So what can we make of the earthquake, Mt Olives, changed landform, and the river, etc?

I don't know. It could be another example of a prophet touching on higher things in order to encourage something in the present.

But I tend to wonder whether it could instead have been symbolic of things which the prophet saw in the spirit - things which were actually fulfilled during Israel's return from captivity. 

I know the language sounds too glorious - but the Old Covenant was glorious. It's just that the New Covenant is more glorious. 

Keep in mind this was a crucial time in Israel's history. The Jews needed almost as much encouragement then as they needed when they came up out from Egypt. Therefore the prophet was inspired to use dramatic language, to assure them of God's help. 

The reason I have a problem with it being literal and future is because the wider context of the prophecy mentions Old Covenant functions seemingly as part of the same prophecy. And I can't accept that we'll be returning to shadows in the future.

For example the part later in the chapter about the bells on horses. It is followed by a mention of the house of the Lord, sacrifices, pots and Canaanites being prohibited - all of which were Old Covenant things. So I think the bells likely had relevance during Old Covenant times too.

I think it likely means that whereas before the captivity Israel had become so wicked that even their Temple activity had become loathsome to God, after their resettlement in Jerusalem the nation would again become so devoted to God that even their secular activities would have something of a worshipful God-consciousness about it. That certainly became the case for a while at least in Israel after their return from Babylon.

All of this presumably is more or less part of the same prophecy of chapter 14:4-11. So since part of it had could only have had relevance under the Old Covenant, then presumably most of the prophecy must also have come to pass under the Old Covenant. Otherwise we're returning to shadows. 

This is true of Ezekiel's vision too. He saw a grand temple, changed landforms and the river, just like Zechariah did. Ezekiel's vision all sounds feasible for a future fulfilment - until he mentions a functioning Levitical priesthood. Which of necessity puts its fulfilment right back under Old Covenant times, in my opinion - and makes it symbolic of things seen in the spirit. 

If Ezekiel's and Zechariah's visions didn't have direct relevance to Israel's return from captivity but to a future time, I would find it curious why God would bring up such an irrelevant topic at a time when what Israel most needed to hear was anything to do with their return from captivity. Their pressing need was not to know what might happen in the year 2014 or beyond.

But here's a point: even if Zechariah 14:4-11 is future, it still can't have the exact application to present-day Israel that is being claimed by some. 

For example one pastor quotes Zechariah 14:4-11 in order to assert that God will always ensure present-day Israel's military success. But verse 11 says all of this will result in Jerusalem again being inhabited - which presupposes that Jerusalem was not inhabited when these things began to take place. So that can't describe present-day Israel which is inhabited. 

Bottom line: we know Christ and His Gospel fulfilled prophecy - beyond that we don't have sure grounds for many of the assertions that are being made today.

So let's stick to the Apostolic Gospel and stay free of Judaism. 

That doesn't mean God doesn't love Jews or their land-boundaries though. He always will. 

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