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“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 30: AUGUST 21
ZECHARIAH – MATTHEW 12:50
Today is a very special day in our read-through. Not only are we now officially three-quarters of the way through our Bible journey, we also turn the corner from the Old Testament to the New Testament, and we see the fruit of the labours of all the prophets in the person of Jesus.
But even more important than that (and you ask what could possibly be more important than that?!) – TODAY IS ZACHARY’S BIRTHDAY!
Zachary was named for the prophet Zechariah and is the much loved son of Brian, who sent me a note a while back to say he would be participating in the Bible read-through. Brian let me know that his son Zachary was named after the prophet and that when he, Brian, was mulling whether or not to do the read-through, God showed him that our reading of Zechariah took place exactly on Zachary’s birthday (August 21). Brian knew then and there that the read-through had his name written all over it, and decided to join in. I promised Brian we’d give Zachary a shout-out on his big day, so here it is:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ZACHARY!
I also promised Brian that we’d send some prayers Zachary’s way. We know better than to pray in public and make a show of it, so let’s quietly and in the privacy of our heart include Zachery in our prayers today, asking God to give Zachary a wonderful wonder-filled birthday full of everything and everyone that makes him happy, and to let him know that he is deeply loved by his family and by God.
ALL THE BEST TO YOU, ZACHARY, ON YOUR SPECIAL DAY!
- Zechariah is a powerhouse among prophets. Like others before him, he warns the Israelites to turn back to God or suffer the consequences of their rebellion. Zechariah prophesied during the years of the Israelites’ return to their land from Babylon, including during the rebuilding of the temple. His visions mostly concern the end-times and the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. We’ll see some elements of his visions again later in the book of Revelation.
- The prophet deeply understood that God’s promise was to those who sincerely worshiped God and that it would take the form of a spiritual realm. In one of his visions of Jerusalem, he says that God will be the wall of fire around the city and the glory in the midst of it, so that there will be no need for actual physical walls or a physical temple. This is spiritual Zion, spiritual Jerusalem, the holy mountain and the Kingdom of God – different names for the same place – that is a constant theme of the OT prophets and that finally has its fulfillment in Jesus. The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago heralded the coming of the Kingdom.
- Malachi’s book ends the Old Testament with a final warning to God’s people. But instead of heeding the warning like the Ninevites heeded Jonah’s warning, the Israelites are defiant against the accusations. They see nothing wrong in how they live their lives or worship God. They think of themselves as ‘good people’, and are resentful of being called out for their sin of hypocrisy.
- As a contrast, Malachi describes another group of people who “spoke often one to another” about God, and who sincerely worshiped in Spirit and in Truth (as Jesus later describes). These people will be rewarded with the promise of God. Malachi prophesies that God makes a clear division between those who sincerely serve him and those who only appear to serve him. You’ll want to make sure that you’re one of those who sincerely serves God, because the ultimate reward of the hypocrites is the same as that of the wicked.
- Reading the opening lines of the New Testament was to me like walking into a bright and sunny clearing after days of wandering through dark woods. I even pored over every word of the genealogy, I was so happy to have finally arrived in Jesus Land! I first read the New Testament of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on the day I was reborn. I’ve since read it so many times I’ve lost count, but each time it’s just as fresh and invigorating as it was the first day I read it. Today was no exception.
- When Jesus makes his first public appearance as the Messiah and is recognized by John the Baptist as such, I hung on to his every word. Not surprising, Jesus’ first public directives were that he and we should do all that is required of us by God, even if we don’t understand at the time.
- The first twelve chapters of Matthew’s book cover the birth of Jesus up to the early days of his ministry. He chooses his disciples, who immediately drop everything to follow him, and he lays out the foundation of his doctrine during the so-called sermon on the mount, much like Moses did at Mount Sinai. And already in the first few chapters we see Jesus going head-to-head with his real enemies (the religious powers-that-be) while preaching and teaching the Kingdom of God not only to the children of Israel who had gone astray, but also to those who were too poor to have received a formal education in scripture.
- A big feature of Jesus’ early ministry years was his miraculous healings. Nothing was beyond his healing powers, which came from God. He gave to his chosen disciples the same ability to heal. That miraculous ability is still with us today, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. No other intervention is required.
- Jesus also warned his disciples to preach and teach and heal for free. No donations button; no request for ministry support. FOR FREE. Period. Those who are truly God’s people well know and follow this directive. As for those who don’t, “by their fruits shall ye know them”, and God will deal with them in his time.
- Today’s NT reading is truly too rich to go into every detail, but the overall thrust is that the Kingdom has come in the person of Jesus, that the summation of the law and the prophets is to treat others as we want to be treated (including our enemies!), and that we should put God first in everything we do, even and especially if it involves a complete and total leap of faith.
I hope you’re as thrilled as I am to have finally come out of the OT woods and into the clearing of the New Testament. I love reading about Jesus, and even though he’s all over the OT, he takes center stage in the NT. This is what we’ve all been waiting for. This is our joy and our very great pleasure – to read Jesus’ words, which are God’s Word, straight from the source.
It’s a time for a celebration as we enter the final stretch of our 40-day journey together, and how fitting that it’s also time for a birthday party!
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.
The “Christian family” is a lie. Unlike criminal organizations such as the mafia, televangelists, and the Rothschild banking monopoly, Jesus didn’t choose relatives as his fellow labourers. He chose strangers whose sole qualifications were that they willingly chose to do God’s will, and were willing to follow him as the Messiah.
As born-agains, our real family is no longer the people we grew up with; our real family is those who do God’s will. That doesn’t mean that we should shun our relatives if they’re not born again; it just means we shouldn’t spend any more or any less time with them than we would with anyone else who doesn’t do God’s will. As born-agains, we are no longer bound by blood or culture. These are not the ties that bind us. We are bound to God spiritually as his adoptive children and to Jesus as sibling, follower, and friend. These are the primary relationships that define us, not our blood or culture.
Jesus was not a fan of family gatherings. In fact, other than for a few quick stopovers in Nazareth, he generally avoided his relatives after he started his ministry work. We need to stare that fact straight in the face. Jesus didn’t get along with his family after he “came out” as the Messiah. His mother thought he was crazy, and his brother James thought he was just playing at being a prophet. Jesus said our worst enemies will be those under our own roof, and his disbelieving family proved him right. Only after his crucifixion did his mother and brother come round and acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.
The truth about Jesus’ rocky relationship with his relatives is rarely spoken about in polite Christian circles. Ministers like to wax poetic over the ‘holy family’ and urge their parishioners to mold their families after the supposed Christian model of a strong father, a supportive mother, and polite obedient children. But this model is not based on the New Testament. Jesus said that he came to drive a sword between blood relatives and their in-laws, and to turn family members against each other. He didn’t come to draw people closer to each other; he came to draw people closer to God. He also said that if you want to please your relatives more than you want to do God’s will, then you’re not worthy of being his follower and ultimately not worthy of Heaven.
At the same time, Jesus warned us not to marry. Paul reiterated the warning, saying that spouses are usually more interested in pleasing each other than in pleasing God. They also tend to lean on each other rather than to lean on God. That’s why Jesus urged his followers not to marry, and if they were married, to leave their spouse to follow him. All his married disciples left their wives. They didn’t divorce them; they simply lived separately from them and no longer had intimate relations with them.
This is another major fact that is rarely mentioned in polite Christian circles, especially by joined-at-the-hip televangelist husband and wife duos. Jesus and his followers lived celibate, making “eunuchs” of themselves for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake.
We are expected to do the same.
That’s right, folks – no nooky. We’re to live celibate not like Catholic priests but celibate like Jesus.
Genuine celibacy comes not from our own efforts, but from God. It’s a spiritual gift that God readily gives anyone who asks for it.
The notion of a strong patriarch and a supportive matriarch surrounded by a gaggle of offspring is Old Testament. As born-agains, we follow the example that Jesus set in the New Testament by living celibate and seeing our real family as those who choose to do God’s will.