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Reflections on Zechariah (5): concluding thoughts

1) Zechariah is a really difficult book, and most of the time I feel like I am just stumbling along, even when using a commentary. (When I don’t use a commentary, I usually feel totally lost.) Reading this book in the way I have done it (English Bible only, one commentary help, 5-10 verses at a time) has kind of been like sprinting at full speed through a museum: you get a sense of where things are, and you get a sense that there are beautiful things present – but you are also (poignantly) aware that you are not seeing the vast majority of what is there to see.

2) As you move through the book there is a clear shift of focus from the local to the global, from present to the future/eschatological, and from the human to the divine. The further you get, the larger God and God’s activity in the world loom. A metaphor for reading the second half of the book, especially chapters 8-10: climbing a steep mountain. It’s rough terrain, so you stumble along, and most of the time you can’t really see where you are, or whether you are even making progress. Then suddenly, you reach the climax in chapter 14 and you are left with this massive, global vision of God as King of all the earth, ruling from the temple in Jerusalem, purifying his people, gathering the nations. How did we get up here? I don’t know, but the view is breathtaking.

3) I am struck by the strong presence of the Spirit of Christ throughout the book (though I admit it is often an enigmatic presence). For example, consider the presence of the word “me” in the following verse:

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly, as one weeps over a firstborn” (12:10, ESV).

The first person speaker in this text – the one who is pouring out this spirit of grace and supplication – is, in context, the LORD. Mark Boda (my commentator): “throughout 12:1-9 first person speech is consistently attributed to Yahweh (see 12:1), and thus it appears that Yahweh is the ‘me’ of 12:10.” This verse must have been endlessly puzzling to devout Jewish readers during the centuries prior to Christ! Not only is the LORD himself pierced (how does that happen?), but then a moment later the LORD who is pierced is differentiated from the LORD who is speaking, as the pronoun switches to the third person: from “me” to “him.” Who is this pierced divine figure? Is he the same as “my shepherd … the man who stands next to me” (13:7)? Is he the same as the righteous king of 9:9? Cf. also 2:10-12, 14:3-4.

There is a tension in the Old Testament that finds resolution in the person of Jesus Christ and the revelation of God’s Triune nature.

“The prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (I Peter 1:10-11).

Concluding thought: what are the areas of tension in Christian theology in our era, for which we await future resolution, as the readers of this text lived in tension and awaited further revelation? Something to chew on…

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