Stumped

7 03 2011

Have you ever lost your keys – and you “know” they’re in the kitchen drawer.  You rummage, take everything out, put it back tidily and still can’t find them.  You try other places – pockets, bags, the fridge – but no luck.  After all, you know they’re in the kitchen drawer.  And so you go back through the whole process again, revisiting the drawer expecting that the keys will somehow have materialised there and thus proved you right.  Sometimes you need someone else to look…but how galling if they find them!

I had the same panicked, slightly manic feeling when I read Zechariah 12:10-14 on Saturday. (One of the difficulties of using someone else’s plan is that you don’t get to choose what you read when.  You need to go with their choice and do your best.)  The Old Testament  prophets have recurring themes – they call the people back to God, they call for justice, they warn of judgement, they promise that, despite all appearances to the contrary, God is in control of history and will one day send his Messiah to save his people.

When I read from Zechariah 12, my first reaction was, “I’m stumped!  What’s the theme here? What is this about?”  I tried re-reading, I tried reading it backwards, I tried reading the chapters before and after, but no luck.  I understood the words, but the sentences???  The drawer was tidy but my keys were still lost.

Sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes, so I decided to read what someone else thought the passage meant.  I prepared myself for the “galling” feeling – “How stupid are you to have missed the obvious?” – but had to smile when I read Nick Page’s words (The Map) – “Few books of the Bible are as difficult to interpret as Zechariah. Many experts, both Christian and Jewish, have spent long hours studying the text, only to be forced to concede that they have no idea what the prophet is going on about.” 

At least I’m in good company.

So here are some “best guess” thoughts.

The people have pierced and killed a historical figure who was the Lord’s representative, and by implication have wounded the Lord himself.  This may have been someone at the time of Zechariah, or it may be a reference to the future piercing of Jesus, God’s Son, at the time of crucifixion.  They realise the gravity of what they have done and go into mourning.

The Message has the words, “I’ll pour a spirit of grace and prayer over them. They’ll then be able to recognise me as the One they so grievously wounded…”  Maybe our best hope is that God will pour out grace again…and make us able to recognise him, to find him in the mystery of life.

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