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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Z is for Zechariah

Zechariah means Yahweh remembers.
     Author of the book of Zechariah, prophet and priest in the Old Testament.
      Zechariah, son of Berekiah and grandson of Iddo, the prophet
Zechariah’s ministry took place during the reign of Darius the Great.
       Zechariah’s prophecies are dated from 520-518 BC,
       Haggai was a contemporary prophet of Zechariah after the fall of Jerusalem.

Zechariah experienced visions from the Lord.   A vision is something seen that will or may come to be, according to the dictionary.  Zechariah was one of the minor prophets – Joel, Hosea, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi.  The major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel.

Zechariah’s night visions occurred all in one night –
Visions:
Horseman – 1:7-17
Horns and Craftsmen – 1:18-21
Man with a Measuring Line – 2:1-13
Joshua the High Priest – 3:1-10
Golden Lampstand – 4:1-14
Flying Scroll – 5:1-4
Woman in a Basket – 5:1-11
Four Chariots – 6:1-8
Crown and the Temple - 6:9-15

Zechariah returned to Jerusalem and was called a few months after Haggai, to prophesy. His visions are dated from 520-518 BC.  The interesting fact is that Zechariah grew up in captivity, and his grandfather was a priest and a prophet.  Picture Zechariah as a young boy being taught about the Father God of all.  Picture his excitement in returning to Jerusalem, the Holy City. Imagine his longing to make Jerusalem become as it once was.  Then comes the visions.   It wasn’t what he ate, but it was real visions.  Visions brought from the Angel of the Lord, speaking for the Lord God.  He must have been in awe.

Zechariah listened, and listened well, to the Word of the Lord given him by the Angel of the Lord.  He recorded the words.  He believed them.  He shared them.  So often I have thumbed quickly through the Bible and skipped the book of Zechariah.  As I study Zechariah, I find a wealth of information that is not only important for the Israelites returning to their homeland, but also to me and to you.

Chapter One gives this insight:   “I, the Lord, was very angry with your ancestors. Therefore, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’  Verses 2-3

The promise is clear.  When we return to God, He returns to us.  Everywhere I look in this world I see wars, death, chaos, greed and unrest.  Our God is of Peace and Love.  That is lost to us.  The faithful listen and are challenged to live ever close to God.  Is God angry with us?  The blame goes to everyone, for we are all sinful.  Zechariah was admonished by the Angel of the Lord, Shout this message for all to hear: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for Jerusalem and Mount Zion is passionate and strong. I:14.

In Chapter 9:7-9 - Shout this message for all to hear: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for Jerusalem and Mount Zion is passionate and strong.

In Chapter 12, the phrase – In That Day – is repeated over and over.  That Day is coming! Yes!   Verses 1—11 -  “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died. The sorrow and mourning in Jerusalem on that day will be like the great mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddo.

Oh, how Zechariah wondered about the message.  He grew up knowing and watching for the coming Messiah.  The how and why are not told, simply how there will be grieving.  A first born son has died?  Such sadness fills these two verses.  There is more. 

When I read these verses my heart quakes with sorrow, for I see there is a great battle coming.  How do I know if this battle of darkness against light is not with us today? We live by a highway of scurrying, hurrying travelers whisking by our house, just across the fence.  Are we like them, scurrying and whisking through our lives not heeding God’s Words? 

God chooses us, but He waits for us to choose to serve and obey Him.  The choice is a matter of life and death, lightness and darkness.  So often I remember my Grandmother’s prayer that all her family will join her in Heaven; they would choose God.  This was my Mother’s prayer as well.  Now I understand completely.  Choosing God is choosing life now, tomorrow and forever.

Zechariah’s message ends with a bad news -- good news theme.  IN THAT DAY….the first two verses cry out….and then comes what will take place.
Verses 3-5 - Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations, as he has fought in times past.   On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west. Half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south.  You will flee through this valley, for it will reach across to Azal. Yes, you will flee as you did from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all his holy ones with him.

Now that is good news!  Then the Lord my God will come, and all his holy ones with him.
Thank you, Zechariah, for blessing us with the words from the Angel of the Lord.  How blessed we are for your courage to share with us.  John writes, He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. ComeLord Jesus.  Revelation 22:20




Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

YAHWEH - I AM

Y is for Yahweh...
            Meaning & History
A name of the Hebrew God, represented in Hebrew by the tetragrammaton ("four letters") יהוה (Yod Heh Vav Heh), transliterated into Roman script Y H W H. Because it was considered blasphemous to utter the name of God it was only written and never spoken. This resulted in the original pronunciation being lost. The name may have originally been derived from the old Semitic root הוה (hawah) meaning "to be" or "to become".  http://www.behindthename.com/name/yahweh
VARIANTS: Jehovah, Yahveh, Yahweh

What is in a name? There are those who proclaim that a name has an influence on what the person may or may not become.  The meaning of a name has less impact for the choices made for the new born child.  Often a name is a ‘family’ name and used generation after generation.  An aversion to a name often comes because of the way the person lives or behaves.  In the beginning of the 19th Century, a name became the bond of man – inferring trust and truth.  Losing that name and reputation through dishonesty was the worst thing that can happen to a person.

But what of God’s name?  In the 1980’s, lining up my 6th grade students to walk down the hall to lunch, I heard one student cry out in anger, “God!”  I quickly responded, “He is listening, what did you want to say to Him?” 

Who is God?  Why is God?  Where is God?  When is God?  What is God?  There are many names for God.  At one time God’ name was not uttered because it was so sacred.  When I was a child, I heard my father pray to God, always with this salutation:  Dear Heavenly Father.  This taught me that God is in Heaven and the Father of all. Through the stories from the Old Testament I learned more about my Heavenly Father.  I learned that God is love, first of all.  And after a lifetime, I know that is a basic tenet to hold on to.  It is the reason for Creation of the world and us.  I learned that God planned a way to save the Creation of Man from the beginning through His One and Only Son, Jesus.  I learned that God answers our prayers and provides His sustenance for us.  I learned that when we choose to accept Jesus, we become a child of God.  I learned that God answers our prayers in His Way and in His Time.  I learned I can trust Him and that knowledge only comes from loving Him completely.

When I think about God and consider Him, my heart cries out in joy and thanksgiving.  Now I know why.  He is Light.  He created me – He knit my bones together in my Mother’s womb.  He is present in the clouds and in the wind.  He strides across the Heavens.  He sees me in secret, He hears my every word and every thought.  He witnesses my every action.  He gives me guidance and unconditional love and salvation through Jesus, His Son.
How can I delight my Lord and my God? 
  Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.  Psalm 37:4
  The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.  Deuteronomy 30:10
God delights in us when:
  For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17
  Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love.  Micah 7:18
  The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
 Psalm 37:23

The Lord God has many names.  Here are two….that the LORD told Moses:
Then the Lord told Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!” And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them.
Note:  Yahweh – I AM - never had a beginning, no one made God.  He always was.  The Alpha and Omega.  God will never end, he cannot go out of being.  God is absolute reality – there is no reality before him – He is all that is.  God is utterly independent, with no support to make him what He is.  Everything that is not God depends totally on God for breath and life.  The universe compared to God is nothing.  God’s language is truth, goodness, beauty and the standard of what is true.  God does what He pleases and is constant – the same yesterday, today and forever. God is worthy of all our worship and praise more than the entire universe. . http://solidjoys.desiringgod.org/en/devotionals/10-things-yahweh-means

Names of God!
Adonai – The Lord, My Great Lord – Psalm 8; Isaiah 40:3-5, Ezekiel 16:8; Habakkuk 3:19
Elohim – The All-Powerful One, Cretor – Genesis 1:1-3; Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 68 (Mark 13:19)
El Roi – The God Who Sees Me – Genesis 16:11-14; Psalm 139:7-12
El Shaddai – The All Sufficient One, The God of the Mountains, God Almighty – Genesis 17:1-3; 48:3; 49:25, Genesis 35:11; Psalm 90:2
Immanuel - God With Us – “I AM” – Isaiah 7:14; 8:8-19; (Matthew 1:23)
Jehovah  - “I AM,” The One Who is The Self-Existent One – Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:2-4; Exodus 34:507; Psalm 102
Jehovah Rapha – The Lord Who Heals – Exodus 15:25-27; Psalm 103:3; Psalm 147:3 (I Peter 2:24)
Jehovah Rohl – The Lord is My Shepherd – Psalm 23:1-3; Isaiah 53:6 (John 10:14-17l Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 6:16)
Jehovah Tsldkenu – The Lord Our Righteousness – Jeremiah 23:5,6: 33:16; Ezekiel 36:26,27 (2 Corinthians 5:21)

YHWH – “I AM,” The One Who is The Self-Existent One – Exodus 3:14; Malachi 3:6  (From Rose Publishing chart, taken from book Names of God)

Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

X is for Xerxes

X is for Xerxes, or is it Ahasuerus?
·       Son of Darius and Atossa (the daughter of Cyrus), born in 520 BC.
·      Xerxes is said to be the Ahasuerus written about in some versions of the Esther.
·      Xerxes I ruled from 486-465 BC in Persia during the height of its prosperity and power.
·      King Cyrus founded the Persian empire and was killed in Scythia.
·      His son Cambyses succeeded him.

Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants….and so the Book of Esther begins.

Some indications of the grandeur of the Persian empire are found in the fact that the feast lasted seven days in Esther 1:6-8 - There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And drinking was according to this edict: There is no compulsion.  For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired.

In the face of such opulence and power, what was King Xerxes like?  He had the power of life and death over those in his kingdom.  His every desire was catered to…as he gave orders, so was it.  His mother, Atossa, was the daughter of King Cyrus who founded the Persian Empire.  He felt a compunction to follow in his Father Darius’ footsteps.  Greece and Egypt were to be conquered.  The greed and power were the basic tenets of the Persian Empire and in Xerxes’ blood. 

What was it like to be brought up to believe that you have all power over life and death?  Is it any wonder that Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, trembled at the fear of beautiful and gentle  Esther (Hadassah) being in the temple harem?  Faithful Esther is with those who do not know God, how would she survive?  And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.  Esther 2:11.

Haman the Agagite, promoted, and all at the gate bowed down to him, except for Modecai.  Angry, Haman decided to destroy not only Mordecai but all Jews in the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus (Xerxes).  A document of the decree to do so was sent out.  Mordecai went into deep mourning as the King and Haman drank together. 

Mordecai’s words - Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  Esther 4:14

For such a time as this?  A crossroads decision of life and death would be made for the Jewish people.  A difficult choice for a young girl.  The steps that could mean instant death if she appeared before the King unbidden.  Would her faith in God be enough? How would she prepare herself to go before the King?

“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16

Strength in the Lord God is a beautiful thing to read, but to see, it becomes more wondrous.  Every day we see this same selfless love about us in our world.  Is it in us as well?  The question is:  Is God more powerful than a powerful rich King?  What can God do against such danger as a powerful ruler of Persia?

We have choices each day to worship, to choose, to praise our Lord God.  Do we choose God and His Way?  Or do we succumb to the enticements of this world, lulling our mind against our Creator? 

What difference does it make?  Just this one time, I will do what I want.  Just this one time I will give in.  Who will know?  Who will care in one hundred years?  When I am gone, I am gone.  I want my rights to do what I want when I want.  No one can tell me what to do!

Ask Artaxerxes I, who succeeded Xerxes I in the Achaemenid Empire.  Ask Nehemiah, his cup bearer. Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.  Nehemiah 2:4-6  Who is the queen?  Queen Esther, who is still working for God and His people. 

No matter what we are facing, we can take strength from this brief story of Xerxes I and Queen Esther.  Think about all the events God put into motion to make His Will happen:  Queen Vashti – banished, Advisors to Xerxes suggesting a gathering of virgins to choose a new Queen, Mordecai protecting his niece, a plot to harm Xerxes I, overheard and reported to Xerxes by Mordecai, Haman’s plans of killing Mordecai ending in his own demise, the decree that no Jews are to be killed. 

God goes to any lengths to protect His People.  When we are God’s Children, we breathe in expectation-living air.  Each day we wonder and wait and live for Him.  Are we living a ‘for such a time as this’?  Our choices do make a difference!

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:15b
 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, Deuteronomy 30:19
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. I Kings 18:21



Comments? eacombs@att.net