December 28 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’” ~Zechariah 7:9-10

OLD TESTAMENT

The people come to the priests and ask about keeping the traditional fasts. During exile, the people observed periods of mourning to commemorate events surrounding the destruction of the temple and their homeland in 586 BCE. They did this for nearly 70 years (70 is most likely a rounded-off number) and now wondered aloud if they should keep it up during the rebuilding? God answers with a question, “…was it really for me that you fasted?” For that same span of 70 years, God sent His prophets to point out that He wasn’t their reason for fasting or mourning. He couldn’t be since all their crying didn’t amount to anything. They were not truly repentant. They just felt sorry for themselves. These were pity parties!

What God really wanted from the people was change. In so many words the Lord says, If you want to observe a fast that pleases me, give up your selfishness to do justice, show mercy, care for the poor, and keep from hurting each other! What a beautiful summary of the expectations God has for His people. He wants us to do justice, which means He wants us to treat people fairly in the home, the church, and the community. God loves it when His people pursue just laws and take up just causes. He is a fair God so He wants His people to be fair in their treatment of other image bearers.

God also wants us to love mercy. People mess up, fail, and get themselves into trouble. If they are truly sorry for what they have done, we should make every effort to give them another go at it. However, God doesn’t show mercy to stubborn people who show no remorse, and neither should we. That being said, when we have cause to show mercy, we show the glory of God, whose mercies never fail and are new every morning.

God also expects us to care for the orphan and the widow, who represent the poor of the earth in biblical literature. There are those in the world who are poor through no fault of their own. Death, abandonment, oppression, or some other evil has left them without help. God is pleased when we, like Him, do something about this. To act on behalf of those in need is “pure religion,” God says in James 1:27, but ignoring the duty brings His displeasure. Finally, we must not hurt each other. In fact, we should have no intention of hurting each other even in our hearts.

Yes, the day is coming when God will restore everything. In the meantime, we must begin, in the strength He provides, to do what is just, to love mercy, to help the poor, and to love each other. This is the kind of self-denial and service to God that He delights in.

NEW TESTAMENT

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords makes His grand entrance. Remember that Christ is fully God, but while on this earth, He laid aside all the powers and privileges of God (while remaining divine). When He returns, He will be human and He will be divine with all the powers of God. For me, John’s description of Jesus entering the world wearing a bloodstained robe evokes images of Mel Gibson in Braveheart or Russell Crowe in Gladiator. An epic entrance fit for a warrior king.

Christ will arrive with the vast armies of heaven, and upon His arrival there will be a great battle—a battle that He will win to end the war for the world. Then, He will rule the nations with an iron scepter. Throughout John’s prophecy (and the books of the prophets) God’s kingdom is envisioned as multi-national, thus the expression “King of Kings.”

When Jesus establishes His kingdom, His people will be invited to a great feast called “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” (This will most likely take place following the end of the war.) I like how author John Eldredge describes this gathering in Journey of Desire: “The wedding feast of the Lamb will be a great party. Now, you’ve got to get images of Baptist receptions entirely out of your mind. Folks mulling around in the church gym holding Styrofoam cups of punch, wondering what to do with themselves. You’ve got to picture an Italian wedding. Or better, a Jewish wedding. There is dancing. There is feasting. There is drinking. In fact, at his Last Supper our Bridegroom said he will not drink of ‘the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:18, NIV). Then he’ll pop a cork.” Our King is coming to save us and to eat with us!


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.