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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Zechariah 2

The last few verses of Zechariah 1 (which we did not think through in yesterday’s meditation) are fairly straightforward. “Horn” represents strength or kingdom or kingly power. The four horns that scatter Judah and Israel may not be four empires, but a way of referring to all the powers that had any hand in it (as in “from the four corners of the world” or “the four winds”). But the “craftsmen” ultimately overcome them—again, four, to correspond to the four who decimate the people of God. Historically, of course, the Persians overcame and incorporated the territory of the preceding empires into their own. The general point is clear enough and is repeated in many ways in the prophets: all nations meet divine retribution, especially those that attack God’s covenant people.

That sets the stage for Zechariah 2 and the third vision. Here Jerusalem has a divine protector: it no longer needs walls. Indeed, the great number of people and livestock belonging to the city makes walls impractical. But Jerusalem is not thereby threatened. Far from it: “ ‘I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will be its glory within’ ” (Zech. 2:5). Parts of this vision anticipate the vision of the new Jerusalem (see especially Rev. 22:1ff.).

Elements of this vision resonate with other biblical themes. (a) The Lord will plunder the nations that have been faithless and cruel. That theme crops up in every major Old Testament corpus, and it surfaces in the preceding chapter. (b) The Lord’s covenant people are “the apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8). True, to be the elect of God may mean being first in line for chastening (Amos 3:2), but it also means being loved by God from before the foundation of the earth, cherished by him, preserved by him, and finally brought into eschatological glory. (c) The missionary theme surfaces again: “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people” (Zech. 2:11). This should come as no surprise. The first announcement of the covenant with Abraham promises that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3). (d) “Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling” (Zech. 2:13). In other words, in light of the glorious revelations God has given through Zechariah, the appropriate response is quiet reverence, hushed awe. How much more should that be our response as we contemplate the fulfillment of these promises and glimpse something of the horizon of the achievement in the Gospel and its entailments!

Devotional: Revelation 6

Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, on which we have not reflected, constitute a major vision that prepares us for much of the rest of the book—including Revelation 6. Chapter 4 is to chapter 5 what a setting is to a drama. Revelation 4 depicts, in apocalyptic symbols, the throne room of Almighty God. The emphasis is on God’s awesomeness, his holiness, his transcendent and spectacular glory. Even the highest orders of angels veil their faces as they bow in worship and extol God for his holiness. In Revelation 5, the drama begins. In the right hand of God rests a scroll, which turns out to contain all his purposes for redemption and judgment. The scroll is sealed with seven seals. In the symbolism of this book, opening the seals means bringing about all of God’s purposes for redemption and judgment. If the book remains unopened, God’s purposes will remain unfulfilled. A powerful angel launches a challenge to the entire universe: Is anyone worthy to approach this awesome and frankly terrifying God, take the scroll, and open the seals—in other words, to serve as God’s agent to bring his purposes to pass? No one is found who is worthy, and in despair, John weeps. Then one of the elders tells him to stop crying. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed. John looks up through his tears, and sees—a Lamb. This is not an animal additional to the Lion. True to the mixed nature of apocalyptic metaphors, the Lion is the Lamb—and he emerges from the center of the throne. From then on in the book of Revelation, praise is offered to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.

Revelation 6 finds the Lamb opening the seals. In due course, the seventh seal introduces seven trumpets (Rev. 8), which in turn are followed by the seven bowls of God’s wrath (Rev. 16). Thus the entire drama of the book of Revelation is introduced by the vision of Revelation 4–5.

So far as Revelation 6 is concerned, I shall focus on only two points. (1) The martyrs who are “under the altar” cry out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev. 6:9–10). It is a great comfort to know that justice will be done, and will be seen to be done; it is an even greater comfort to know that God is more forbearing than Christians. (2) But when that judgment does come, there is no escaping it, no reprieve. All who have rebelled against their Maker and never been reconciled to him, whether they are slaves or among the powerful and the mighty, cry out to the mountains and the rocks to hide them “from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). But who can hide from the throne of God?

2 Chronicles 17

Jehoshaphat Reigns in Judah

17:1 Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place and strengthened himself against Israel. He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that Asa his father had captured. The LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.

In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.

10 And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat. 11 Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver for tribute, and the Arabians also brought him 7,700 rams and 7,700 goats. 12 And Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater. He built in Judah fortresses and store cities, 13 and he had large supplies in the cities of Judah. He had soldiers, mighty men of valor, in Jerusalem. 14 This was the muster of them by fathers' houses: Of Judah, the commanders of thousands: Adnah the commander, with 300,000 mighty men of valor; 15 and next to him Jehohanan the commander, with 280,000; 16 and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, a volunteer for the service of the LORD, with 200,000 mighty men of valor. 17 Of Benjamin: Eliada, a mighty man of valor, with 200,000 men armed with bow and shield; 18 and next to him Jehozabad with 180,000 armed for war. 19 These were in the service of the king, besides those whom the king had placed in the fortified cities throughout all Judah.


Revelation 6

The Seven Seals

6:1 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart1 of wheat for a denarius,2 and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers3 should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave4 and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”


[1] 6:6 Greek choinix, a dry measure equal to about a quart
[2] 6:6 A denarius was a day's wage for a laborer
[3] 6:11 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters
[4] 6:15 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface


Zechariah 2

A Vision of a Man with a Measuring Line

2:1 1 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.” And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”

Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the LORD. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the LORD. Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon. For thus said the LORD of hosts, after his glory sent me2 to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye: “Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me. 10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 12 And the LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”

13 Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.


[1] 2:1 Ch 2:5 in Hebrew
[2] 2:8 Or he sent me after glory


John 5

The Healing at the Pool on the Sabbath

5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic1 called Bethesda,2 which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.3 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews4 said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

Jesus Is Equal with God

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

The Authority of the Son

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father5 does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Witnesses to Jesus

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”


[1] 5:2 Or Hebrew
[2] 5:2 Some manuscripts Bethsaida
[3] 5:3 Some manuscripts insert, wholly or in part, waiting for the moving of the water; 4for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had
[4] 5:10 The Greek word Ioudaioi refers specifically here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, who opposed Jesus in that time; also verses 15, 16, 18
[5] 5:19 Greek he