Devotional on Zechariah

Not acting like a bully
Zechariah 1: …Godless nations that act as if they own the whole world.
About half of this book of Zechariah contains descriptions of visions the prophet is given. In the first vision the Lord tells Zechariah that he’s angry with “godless nations that act as if they own the whole world.” Not only is the Lord angry, he’s about to do something about it. The Lord had given the mega-powers of the region authority over Israel but they went too far, crushing that tiny nation without any show of mercy. The Lord says he was angry with Israel, but now he’s very angry with these nations that acted without mercy. The vision is intended to condemn those world powers while comforting powerless Israel. I’m reminded as I read these words that I live in a nation that is a world power. We have the economic and military might to dominate others. The vision of the prophet speaks to me, not as one of the oppressed but instead, as one of the powerful. God has a history of looking out for the needs of the powerless and of holding the powerful accountable. We aren’t to go around the world flexing our muscles like a bully who always has to get his own way. The truth is that we don’t own the whole world and we had better remember who does!
Take Away: It’s God’s world and we’re accountable to him for how we live in his world.

Devotional on Obadiah

Good news for people who don’t find harp playing especially attractive
Obadiah 1: A rule that honors God’s kingdom.
The final words of Obadiah’s prophecy describe a coming golden age in which God’s people will be restored to their homeland. Beyond that, they’ll live righteously, in sync with the Lord’s purposes for them. Because of that they’ll be put in charge, ruling even over their old enemies of Edom. Their rule will not be that of a conquering nation, grinding their enemies into the ground, but a fair and just one, representative of their God who loves all human beings. I find it interesting that the Apostle Paul reflects this concept in his second letter to Timothy. Paul writes: “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” At the very beginning of the Bible I see Adam and Eve who are placed in dominion over the earth. In this passage from Obadiah, I find a promised brighter day in which God’s people rule justly, throwing off the old animosities. Then, I see Paul looking forward to the return of Christ and his righteous people ruling with him. I don’t claim to understand all that might include, but it sounds like God has more in store for his people than merely sitting on a cloud playing a harp.
Take Away: As a people of the Lord we’re to reflect his love for all human beings.

Devotional on Jeremiah

Pastoral responsibilities
Jeremiah 23: You’ve scattered my sheep…you haven’t kept your eye on them.
This passage is clergy oriented so pastor types like me need to sit up and take notice. The Lord’s displeased with the spiritual leaders of Jeremiah’s day. He pictures them as shepherds who are given the responsibility of caring for the Lord’s flock. These leaders are entrusted with the spiritual welfare of God’s flock but they’re betraying that confidence. Instead of loving the flock, leading and caring for it, they’re taking advantage of things for personal gain. In some cases they’re actually harming those they’re supposed to protect. Otherwise, they’re neglecting them or even driving them away. God’s disappointed in these leaders and is angry with them. Sometimes I think that church people are too pastor oriented, giving way too much authority to the pastor, including letting the pastor do their thinking for them (or, standing on the sidelines and cheering as the pastor works him/herself to death – but that’s a subject for another day!). Today, I’m reminded that there’s a strong biblical foundation that supports some having spiritual leadership. The Lord has wired us in such a way that we look to some as “shepherds” acting as God’s representatives. These leaders are to be servants who put the interests of those entrusted to their care before their own needs. In this passage Jeremiah reminds me that as a pastor I’ve been honored with the position of leadership, but with that position has come accountability, not just to the congregation I serve, but to the Lord, himself.
Take Away: Church leaders are to be good shepherds of the flock of the Lord.