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Spoiled for choice

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9. 9-10

The latter part of Zechariah's prophecy consists of two oracles. In the first, Zechariah describes God's judgment over the nations surrounding Israel and Judah, along with a resurgence in his own people's economic and military prowess. The language and imagery are overwhelmingly martial and aggressive, yet right in middle appears the above reference to God's own intervention in the person of Israel's Messiah, whose irenic nature stands in sharp contrast to the contextual violence and retribution.

Unfortunately, Zechariah foresees that Israel and Judah's recovery will be short-lived. Their undoing will be their ultimate rejection of God's chosen and anointed Messiah, Jesus. They will reject the Good Shepherd for inferior substitutes who will lead them to disaster - as happened several centuries later in the Jewish revolt of AD 70. In a symbolic gesture of warning Zechariah takes two staffs which, on God's instruction, he calls Favour and Union, and he breaks them. When people fall out of favour with God, they then fall out with each other. Thus weakened, they become vulnerable to their enemies, like broken staffs.

God's people be warned! Zechariah's prophecy speaks into all situations where communities of faith, wittingly or otherwise, start marching to a drum which is not God's. Ambition and aggression replace humility and compassion and soon the rifts appear. When that happens the days of that faith community are numbered because it has become powerless and defenceless. That is why, on this Sanctuary Sunday we are reminded that we are all spiritual refugees. We need a Saviour more than we need a life-coach.



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