It is an unfortunate day for terminology. Words are too often lacking in precise meaning, yet often infused with subjective connotation. Terms go in and out of style faster than a shopaholic changes shoes. “Political correctness” is a shifting line in the sand around which people dance in trepidation.
Sadly, biblical terminology has fared little better in the current linguistic climate. Liberal theologians have had a long tradition of speaking one thing and meaning another. Only through careful study does one understand their true meaning (or lack thereof). Even in broader evangelicalism, basic concepts like “grace” and “gospel” have suffered violence. Instead of understanding “grace” as “divine enabling for faith and empowerment for sanctification”, to many it connotes a vague, swept-off-your-feet-by-Jesus feeling. Since “gospel-centered” became a buzzword, many people use it with a very unclear idea of what it really means. Those are the terms in vogue right now. Terms not in vogue include holiness, hell, discipline, and, well, basically anything that involves spiritual sweat.
The prophecy of Zechariah is seemingly a study in the true meaning of all of these terms. It concerns God’s grace toward His sinful people. Written to Israel in captivity, it is filled precious promises. Here are some of them:
- Protection: “For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye.” (2:8)
- Inheritance: “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.” (2:9)
- Unconditional choice: “And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” (2:12)
- Redemption: “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” “I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.” (3:3-4, 9)
- Presence: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord.” (2:10)
Another key verse, Zechariah 4:7, also emphasizes the presence of God’s with His people. It is noteworthy that He is accompanied by shouts of “Grace! Grace!”
As we see in Zechariah, The grace of God does not ignore sin; rather, it strongly exhorts God’s people to diligent obedience (6:15, 7:9-10, 8:1-17). Yet it does not encourage obedience as a means of receiving God’s grace, but as a response of loyalty to the King whose grace has saved them (9:16, 14:9)
Thus grace and holiness are not pitted against each other. Indeed, they are inseparably linked. God’s grace is the empowerment and motivation for His people to strive toward holiness. And the picture God paints of holiness in Zechariah is not negative or merely duty-driven. It is dazzlingly beautiful – like God Himself.
Zechariah closes by describing the second coming of Christ. Dramatically, as His feet alight on the Mount of Olives, an earthquake splits the mountain in two. “In that day . . . the Lord shall be king over all the earth (14:9).” And it is no mistake that to be found everywhere in the beauty of His kingdom, from the bells on the horses to the vessels in the temple, is the inscription, “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD.”
“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” ~ Psalm 96:9