By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Zechariah 10:1-12
1 Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, who gives showers of rain to you, the vegetation in the field to everyone. 2For the teraphim utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; the dreamers tell false dreams, and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they suffer for lack of a shepherd. 3My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his proud war horse. 4Out of them shall come the cornerstone, out of them the tent peg, out of them the battle bow, out of them every commander.
5 Together they shall be like warriors in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight, for the Lord is with them, and they shall put to shame the riders on horses. 6I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them; for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them. 7Then the people of Ephraim shall become like warriors, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and rejoice, their hearts shall exult in the Lord. 8I will signal for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as numerous as they were before. 9Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and they shall rear their children and return. 10I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria; I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, until there is no room for them. 11They shall pass through the sea of distress, and the waves of the sea shall be struck down, and all the depths of the Nile dried up. The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart. 12I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall walk in his name, says the Lord.
A tension felt throughout scripture is that God sometimes seems to be the God of all, and other times the God of a chosen people, giving them blessing and security at the expense of other tribes and nations. How do we reconcile these themes?
Zechariah describes the people of Judah beaten down by foreign oppression in part because of their “lack of a shepherd.” Poor or absent leaders have led the people into ruin, accompanied by religious idolaters who have offered false comforts and dishonest prophecies. In response, “the Lord Almighty will care for his flock,” giving them victory in battle that will result in putting “the enemy horseman to shame.”
God restores them because he has compassion on them, because he is their God and so will answer for them. Yet isn’t the one true God concerned with all people? In one sense, yes, because Zechariah opens his prophecy grounded in the picture of the God of all: God almighty is the one who “gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.” All gifts come from the same hand. Yet God advocates for his people, and makes in them a historical record that in the relation of oppressed and oppressor, God is not impartial: he delivers those who have been scattered and defends those who have been beaten in war.
God does not relate to each community in the same way, but according to both their national deeds and his divine promises. Assyria’s pride will be brought down, and Egypt’s power will fade so that the nations they intimidate will find peace and security. Yet there is a clear tone of judgment even for the people of Judah; they are to turn away from idolatry and false leaders, and trust in the Lord their God who is the Good Shepherd. God is always both judge and savior.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Santiago (Chile), the Rt. Rev. Hector (Tito) Zavala
Diocese of Santiago (Philippines), the Rt. Rev. Frenzel Ray P. Piluden
Diocese of Florida, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard