God Cares About Your Pots and Pans

The book of Zechariah, one of the “minor prophets”, contains many puzzling visions and predictions of the then-coming (and now coming-again) Messiah, Jesus.  Zechariah prophesied after the Babylonian exile and God’s purpose through him was to give hope to His people in the form of a glorious future under a perfect King.  The book ends with these verses:

And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar.  And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.” – Zechariah 14:20-21

While this seems a very strange ending for a book about Jesus, Zechariah’s words give us an amazing expectation of what Paradise will be like.  The phrase “Holy to the LORD” references Exodus 28:36-38, where the words were inscribed on the high priest’s turban.  The idea is that only very rarely are items recognized as set aside for only Godly use.  However, Zechariah is telling us that this was only the beginning.  When the King comes again in glory, He will establish a kingdom where even the most mundane household items will put to perfect use.  There is nothing He does not care about.

And this concept is not just about bells and pots.  While the Old Testament high priest was a sign of the way back to God, eventually the way encompasses every aspect of us.  Zechariah promises us that every bit of our lives, even those we may give no thought to – our proverbial bells and pots – are to be perfected in glory.  By caring about even these common items, God is telling us He leaves nothing undone.  Nothing will be left in us that is set apart for other “gods.”

In Paradise we will be perfected, fully set apart for His glory, and His work in us has already begun.  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

Joy in a Minor (Prophet) Key

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and other fruit of the Spirit can be hard to come by during political campaign season.  Social media and traditional news outlets are usually geared toward sharing bad news in normal times, but during campaigns the mudslinging and negative attitudes go nuclear.  Hyperbole is not supposed to be taken literally, like if I said, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse,” but in politics it seems every election is the most important ever and the other candidate or party is going to destroy everyone.  Responsible civic participation is a must in a healthy society but when it becomes apocalyptic, it may be a sign we’ve put government in a place only God should be.

Photo by Jessica Delp on Unsplash

Around 600 BC the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk was stressed out.  Ancient Israel had the law of Moses and the temple in Jerusalem.  They had God’s prophets, priests, and kings.  Habakkuk’s circumstances should have been ideal.  He saw his political, religious, and economic systems as the best possible, because they were from God Himself.  However, it had all been corrupted by sinful man, often for the benefit of the powerful.  Therefore, God told Habakkuk that He was about to do something utterly terrifying, unexpected, and unbelievable to His people:

Look among the nations, and see;
            wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
            that you would not believe if told.” – Habakkuk 1:5

God gave Habakkuk really, really bad news.  Everything around him was going to crumble, because God was going to use the horribly wicked Babylonians to judge Israel and violently take them captive into exile.  To us, this would be like God promising us that all of our worst political fears would be realized and that there was nothing we could do about it.  Naturally, Habakkuk couldn’t believe it, so he asked God to teach him and waited for an answer:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
            and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
            and what I will answer concerning my complaint.” – Hab. 2:1

In God’s reply, He tells Habakkuk that “the righteous shall live by his faith.”[1]  Not only will God ultimately judge the Babylonians, who were just tools in His hands, but His people must trust and be patient in the meantime, even exiled from the Promised Land without Israel’s institutions, which had proved useless anyway.  Habakkuk felt much better, finding peace and even joy!  He ends his book with this powerful prayer of faith and joy in Habakkuk 3:17-19:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,
             the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,
             the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
            He makes my feet like the deer’s;
            He makes me tread on my high places.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”

Habakkuk’s joy was real, although his situation was horrible.  None of this is hyperbole, so why don’t more people have the unshakable joy of Habakkuk?  For most of the world’s population, it isn’t because their circumstances are worse than his.  So, what is it about politics and the fear of losing an election that robs us of joy and peace?  Sometimes there’s no quick solution and a lot of long-term self-examination is required.

Sometimes we must also say:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
            and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
            and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”

So, over the next 4 Saturdays, I’ll be re-sharing some old posts related to reducing the political temperature.  Maybe we can even find some joy in knowing our sovereign God is real, He is in control, and He knows what He’s doing, whatever our circumstances.

[1] Habakkuk 2:4b

When We Are Faithful, All Failure is Temporary

Doctor Strange with the Time Stone

In the Marvel movie Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange uses a powerful Time Stone to watch millions of possible future outcomes and find one where the Avengers win.  The solution involves huge, almost unconscionable losses, including giving the villain, Thanos, exactly what he needs to commit genocide.  The movie was part one of two, and the second wasn’t released until a full year later.  Infinity War ends with Thanos victorious, and audiences had to wait to see if Strange’s decisions and sacrifices would work.  Would the trust the Avengers put in him be rewarded and lead to their deliverance?  It didn’t look good at the time, and it was actually a pretty grim movie.

Marvel’s story had cast Strange in the role of a prophet, except that Strange himself saw the future, and decided himself what to report back to the others, who had to trust what he said he saw, his judgement in what to share, and be willing to stick with it no matter what.  As I’ve been covering Jeremiah’s call this week, chapter 1, verses 8-10 have some interesting comparisons with Marvel’s story line.  The verses are:

“Do not be afraid of them,
            for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me,
            “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
            to pluck up and to break down,
            to destroy and to overthrow,
            to build and to plant.”

Unlike Doctor Strange, Jeremiah did not have the big picture; he could not pick and choose what to say.  God would “put…words in your mouth,” words specifically chosen from perfect and infinite knowledge to be exactly what was needed.  Strange was able to act on his plan, although the others didn’t understand and resisted.  In Jeremiah’s case, Israel did not listen to him, and God actually told Jeremiah they wouldn’t, but he prophesied anyway.  He was created for that purpose, and in the verses above he was assured to “not be afraid of them.”

While Strange promised that his plan would work, we had to wait for the sequel to see it.  God promised Jeremiah, who also told the people, that his plan would work, and that the words God gave Jeremiah would determine the fates of “nations” and “kingdoms”, who God would “pluck up” and “break down.”  But Jeremiah died waiting for the sequel.  During his lifetime, Israel was plucked up by the Babylonians and sent into exile as punishment for their rejection of God, which was also a rejection of Jeremiah.  His life was like a pretty grim movie, but his story was not finished, as we now know.

None of us consistently

give God’s word the

full authority it deserves.

In three posts about the calling of Jeremiah this week, we’ve seen examples of God’s love for people who have a different calling from us, who have imperfect faith, and who aren’t seeing immediate blessings from their efforts.  We should be compassionate when we see others are flawed in these same ways, because they are no different than Jeremiah, and also no different from us.  None of us consistently give God’s word the full authority it deserves.  It’s a shame that Jeremiah is often seen as a gloomy, annoying bearer of bad news.  In Jeremiah, God has given us an example of someone who is like all of us and a call to love others as we love ourselves.  That’s good news, but it didn’t look good at the time.

In his lifetime he may have looked like a failure, but in the years after and in eternity, his work as a prophet and also his personal experience of God has provided invaluable lessons for millions.  God knew this from the beginning because He didn’t have to wait a year to see the sequel.  He has already seen them all.  Therefore, we can trust what He sees, His judgement in what to share, and be willing to stick with it no matter what, because His story and ours does not end in this lifetime.

“It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with God.” – C. S. Lewis

(Prior posts on Jeremiah’s call are here and here)