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Judgment on the Nations

A popular Christian radio station advertises itself as “positive” and “encouraging.” A majority of contemporary worship songs are upbeat. Many churches advertise themselves as “the friendly church.” None of this is necessarily bad. Visitors might hesitate to try a church that promises, “We will make you miserable!” However, for the nations that reject God, today’s prophecy is anything but encouraging.

The third major division of the book of Zechariah opens with a series of threats aimed at nations and cities that had shown hostility toward Jerusalem. Such threats may seem uncharacteristic of God to modern worshipers who have only heard upbeat preaching that promises to bless. But we should remember the promise to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3). Modern readers, especially those unfamiliar with biblical history, may be tempted to view these judgments through the lens of nationalism or ethnic prejudice. However, verse 8 makes it clear that they reflect divine justice. They focus on those who practice oppression. There is grace as well as judgment in the verses. According to verse 7, Israel’s ancient enemies, the Philistines, would eventually be incorporated into the people of God. This promise foreshadows the wonderful truth which is spelled out more explicitly in the New Testament: God’s grace of forgiveness is available to both Jew and Gentile.

The church’s desire to make everyone feel happy and comfortable is understandable. But it may also be doing a disservice to those who need to remember judgment. Judgment is consistent with its offer of grace and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.

Apply the Word

Take a few moments today to consider the heavy weight of your sin and the tremendous gift you have been given through Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf. As you thank God for this gift, consider the words of this hymn by Philip P. Bliss: “In my place condemned He stood; Sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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